• David Callahan

Gull explosion!

I have a photo-led piece in this month's Birdwatch magazine on a strange urban nest-site of one of the world's rarest gulls, taken on my trip to New Zealand in November 2019. This reminded me of the last photo-led piece I had published, which was in the 'Big Picture' section December 2014 issue, after I had accompanied the North Thames Gull Group on a ringing session the previous winter.

The session was dramatic with its explosive cannon netting, grotesquely picturesque in its situation right on the top of the mound of decades of rubbish dumped on Rainham landfill site and very illuminating in understanding which species of gull occur there and in what numbers. Of most interest where the Mediterranean and Yellow-billed Gulls, but the Black-headed Gulls were predictably the most numerous.

One particular memory stands out that can't be detected in the resulting photos: despite the fact that the surrounding suburbs and farmland were swathed in frost and sludge, the dump was clear. This was because of the amount of heat generated by the decomposing garbage, heat which could be felt underfoot the whole time I was up there, despite wearing thick walking boots ...


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