Monday, 3 August 2009

Beautiful Birds in Belfast

Birds everywhere! Big ones, little ones, noisy ones, stalking ones, more stalking ones - just swarms of them circling Belfast and noming up the mess they find. Anything edible looking which has found itself on the floor and that is anywhere near a beak-sized snack is set upon. Whether it’s a putrid gloop of chunky sick only hours free of its stomach confines, or whether it’s a fresh sandwich making its first and last appearance on the streets as white trash, it’s all fair game. Others Birds it seems have found it more their liking to hang in a metal bird’s flight path - in the haven of Victoria Park. Sensible birds those ones. Its hard-paved loving bird brains that I’ve been keeping my eye on though, which is a shame because those I found at Victoria Park a couple of weeks back seemed to be having fun. One likely looking character was playing hide and seek with his Geesey looking friends but I don’t think he’d thought it through too well...

As you probably read a few posts ago, I was having run ins with Pigeons and losing my numerous games of dare with them... yes they do know they’re playing because they let on with a victory dance where they nod their heads back and forth, crick their neck until they’re slightly leaning into the light and blink at you with a glint in their eye! So as you can probably tell, our street occupying feathery friends aren’t really my cup of tea when it comes to creatures of the animal kingdom... they manage to plop in those well before I get to drink them and in all honesty that’s not the cup of tea I would like to drink!

The sight that I never really noticed until today was that like buses going up and down Royal Avenue, the Seagulls do exactly the same! They follow the road at about a height ¾ of the buildings either side of their flight path and make circuits around the streets scouring their corridors for the glimpse of a meal below. There doesn’t appear to be a pecking order as each Seagull seems to be on its own route but with little flapping it seems the streets of central Belfast are almost perfectly set up for Seagull scavenging. The tall sides drive the wind one way and they ride any thermal they can hitch onto saving their energy as they are guided by the layout of the road below. Equidistant between the pavements, keeping an eye out for any spare carbohydrates crusting the floor. Some of those seagulls really are a bit more selective than their smaller Pigeon rivals but they all swoop for the best easy pickings and should that get in the way of a human that’s only a secondary concern for many.

Today I had a close encounter on the way home with one of the largest Seagulls I’ve come across or at least it seemed quite huge close up. With its wings spread and feet geared for landing, it was aiming for its evening snack when it happened to catch on that I was in its way and it was about to to crash land on my head rather than its intended target that was some way behind me. The gull, beautiful, sleek and imperious in its motion and presence at such unexpected close quarters almost won me over into thinking joining Bill Oddie in a hut to twitch wouldn’t be so bad. It was quite an odd moment, I’ve had owls, bats, birds of prey swoop over my head in the past at shows, on the moors of Yorkshire and the likes but just a plain old seagull doing an impression of a terradactyl about to hit a wall but pulling out and hovering for a few seconds in front of my eyes was a fine sight. I did manage to say hello to it as it was on its way back up to the sky so it wasn’t entirely a one way encounter. It was just a shame that it so unexpected and over so quickly I didn’t have time to pull out my camera. I did capture a snap of one of its friends perched high waiting its turn at the lights though.

Alas, it was just after food and so no doubt with a chip held high in the air it’s an experience we can all have many times over if its not making it a little bit forced just to meet a seagull . It does seem these birds are addicted to fast food though and like gangs being encouraged by the lure of drugs money, the means to an ends of 'class A' bird food is along the lines of; once you and your buddies get your beak on it, you do what you have to, to ensure it’s your species that keeps it. That was the scene that played out before our eyes near the Dublin Road movie house the other week, before we went to see Bruno.

A small flock of Piegons were head to head with a colony of Seagulls. The prize – Pizza.

The pigeons held no sense of caution and would follow the food where ever it was being dragged to, even if it was in the way of oncoming traffic that wasn’t going to stop for them. As usual the pigeons won their game of dare and got a few pecks in, banging their little faces into the cheese over and over and over again. However, when confronted with even numbers of opposing birds, the Seagulls pushed them out of the way and the smaller pigeons avoided confrontation. The Gulls were not going to let this slice of luck pass by and ended up squabbling between their selves and not making much headway with getting anything down. A display of cunning to nab it, leave all your friends hungry shortly before being chased out of town and being made to drop anything you had, then come crawling back to the pack, seemed their preferred tactics. This though was just panning out to be a never ending futile endeavour , a repetative game of ‘pass the pizza’. Not far out of sight this was being played out under the gaze of the pigeons who had in the meantime gathered their backup. This was fine untouched pizza and if the gulls were going to get it they were going to have to earn the right to it. The pigeons made their move, 2 to one they now had the mass in their favour and there was a free for all that ensued... as suddenly as they’d all jumped the stuffed crust they were scurrying and leaping from the scene... a giant ape, one not looking where he was going, lifted his foot up for the next stretch forward and came down in the middle of the cheesy treasure. I could have sworn some of those birds took a double take at him with a “whaaaa, mr... nooooo!”, the disappointment was compounded even further by a clever little gull dived down with shock and awe on his side. Swooping the remainder of the pizza, that wasn’t embedded into the pavement, up into the air and far away from all but his birdy friends with the same idea. No doubt for the unsavoury incident to be repeated elsewhere.

It's a mad urban kingdom out there, so I offer this one word of advice for those heading into Belfast...



  1. Firstly I must say that those pictures are spectacular.
    Once I came a cross a HUGE DUCK! The biggest duck I HAVE EVER SEEN. It was moving straight towards me, had big spread wings and make such loud sound..

    This is my first time on your blog :)
    You write great!

    Keep it up,

  2. When I saw the heading of this post, I thought you must have passed me in the street... But then I read a little more and realised you meant the feathered variety...! Good post - and excellent photos. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for the really kind comments :)

    Lol Ingrid, sounds like a fun run-in with that duck. As for pictures, compared to your's mine are tame. The hornet and butterfly pics on your blog; put my snaps to shame!

    Will try my best Edith. As with yesterday and today though, time just gets away from me. After work and other commitments are out of the way, it starts to leave very little time for blogging. I see on your own blog you tend to post every 3 days or so - do you ever find it hard to keep to a regular timing for publishing new posts?



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