Jun 7, 2009

Romance for lunch

The pair sat side by side on the railing, gray backs facing in one direction, gleeming white chests in the other, yellow beaks moving as they surveyed their surroundings, shoulder to shoulder. Tenderly they'd nudge each other. Sometimes they'd open their beaks up wide, extending their necks, and call together. Then they'd shake their tail feathers and settle down again, still close.

A week later, one was scratching some twigs together on the terrace floor, twigs brought by her partner. The fledgling nest was situated at the foot of a temporary fire escape staircase, erected temporarily while our office building is being renovated. The female would sit on the pile, and get up and adjust a twig or three, sometimes tucking a tuft of grass in. After a week of testing and adding to the nest, we spotted a grayish egg.

The lack of human activity on the terrace itself may be why the gulls chose it as a site for their nest. Three eggs are in it now, and incubation is 24-28 days. We will probably not get to see the baby gulls wander around since our cafeteria is also being renovated and will close mid-June and not open till the fall.

But for now, those of us who sit next to the large windows overlooking the terrace, watch momma lay quietly on her eggs, her beak often tucked under a wing. Her partner sits around a lot on the terrace railing and keeps her company or wanders off to eat. I can't tell gulls apart, but assume that, like oystercatchers, the male and female take turns incubating.

A little bit of drama happened the other day when a pair of magpies took a walk on the terrace only 10 feet away from the nesting bird. Immediately, the nesting gull stretched its neck, eyes not leaving the black and white predators. Crows and magpies will happily eat gull eggs and babies. The magpie pair left the terrace and flew to the parking lot by the office building next door. The gull partner came out of nowhere, swooping down from the sky, buzzing the magpies. Then the partner took up watch from atop a lamp post. After a while, drama over, the bird on the eggs was once again resting, with beak under wing.

We won't know the fate of the eggs or any subsequent chicks. We won't have access to the windows while the cafeteria is closed for renovation. The gulls won't be there when we return to our window seats this fall. But right now, as we sit down with our trays of food and drink, ready to chat about anything under the sun with co-workers, we take a look out the window, at the gull couple that happens to live there this summer, and appreciate the glimpse they give us into their life.

2 comments:

alice said...

That's pretty cool. I wish you could convince the company to put a web cam out there, so you can see the brood through fledging.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Our PR dep't did do a feature last year on the youngsters that hatched then on the 4th floor roof. They did so risking their safety because the parental units hate paparazzi. So yeah, why not a webcam? I think I'll suggest this for next year. We could get advice from the oystercatcher guys. :-)