27 November 2017

Winter Wildlife Watch: What happens to the seaside through Winter!

As an island, the UK is extremely lucky in the fact that the seaside and the stunning British coastline is never too far away. For many of us, there isn’t much that can surpass a trip to the coast –preferably on warms summer days. While the seaside can be enjoyed at any time of year, it is not just us humans who prefer the coastline in the summer. Many animals particularly birds, natural gravitate inland through the winter months.

Seagulls

Being in Leicestershire, Brinvale is nestled right in the centre of the UK, meaning the coastline is a relative distance away. Despite this, we are still able to see the effects of the change that the seaside experiences over the winter months.  This is because, although the nearest coastline is over 60 miles from our, each winter we are inundated with ‘typical’ seaside types of wildlife.

From around late September, wildlife that is usually found by the coastline, namely seagulls in their various varieties, flock inland as far as the midlands to spend their winter. To mark the occasion, we investigate a little more about this fascinating phenomenon.

One of the things we find most interesting is actually how seagulls know when and where to travel to find substantial food sources over the winter.  A relatively straightforward answer is simply that “Seagulls are extremely adaptable, quick thinking and bold”. They have learned of the benefits of venturing inland for winter over the years and now incorporate this systematically into their routine. This is certainly aided by the fact that they are social creatures who flock as a large group allowing this seasonal change of habitat to continue and in fact to grow.

As the quick intelligent creatures that they are, they have learnt to recognise various signs and changes within their environment and use these as recognisable indicators for inland migration. An obvious example is that when the seaside becomes less populated by tourists, there is instantly less food around due to littering and waste, meaning that their food supply is drastically altered.  As a result of this, seagulls are thereby forced to alter their feeding habits and start to begin to go in search for alternate food sources. Fortunately seagulls are able to fly at great heights and can cover vast distances, often getting swept along on the wind. The RSPB recently reported a case where a seagull was discovered 923 miles away from where it was tagged. With this ability to be travel so far and combined with their sharp vision, seagulls have a great advantage when it comes to searching for food.   They are able to spot food sources from many miles away but the reason that they often come inland and are attracted to farm sites in particular is believed to be because of the surge of lapwings to these sites. When Seagulls spot flocks of lapwings feasting in and amongst farm land, they are drawn to these areas as they know that they are likely to discover food here, more often than not, robbing lapwings of any food they find.  While this is unfortunate for the lapwing, this makes for a very effective feeding regime for feeding seagulls over the winter.

Once seagulls have begun to gravitate away from the coast, they simply continue in their search for food over the winter months and seek it out wherever it is available. Some seagulls remain in rural regions feeding on aqua life and plants by rivers and in wetlands but the vast majority are actually found in cities and other urban areas. There are estimated to be around 100,000 pairs of breeding urban gulls across the UK. These gulls predominantly reside on rooftops around town and cities where they are safe away from predators and have access to a much larger food supply.  Cities are inundated with litter and excess waste, as are nearby refuge site, meaning urban seagulls have a much better chance of survival than that of their rural counterparts.

However, no matter if these fascinating creatures are urban or rural; they are highly sociable animals that flock together, which has numerous benefits to all areas of survival, particularly finding food.  When hunting, seagulls “exert a strong influence on one another” (Grahame Madge, RSPB) and are able to work effectively and forcefully as a group, often pushing other flocks of birds away and thereby increasing the rate of food for themselves.  “Most gulls gather... into sizeable flocks of up to 100 birds”  “travel in company” (R. A. O. Hickling) and then break away from the flock to as much as 10 miles away in order to ensure their individual feeding needs are met. This interesting feeding method seems to provide seagulls with the best and most effective way of feeding proficiently. Love them or hate them, see them as wildlife or pests, they truly are unique, interesting and intelligent creatures who are no longer just an icon of the British shoreline but an icon across the whole of Britain.  

Category: News
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posted by Brinvale