Of gull chicks and moons and tides

Over the past week or so, all the seagull chicks have hatched.

One such nest is on our roof, in the snug valley between the roof and the chimney, and we occasionally see two grey balls of fluff padding about on the forty five degree slope, sometimes tentatively extending their stubby wings while a proud and protective parent watches on.

There is now and then a changing of the guard as one parent swoops back, and it is nice to imagine that they soar high enough above our roof to glimpse the sea and head out to collect fresh fish for their young, but the reality is probably somewhat more prosaic, likely involving the humble worm, or a rummage in nearby bins.

A short stroll from our house on the same day we discovered the new tenants revealed another nest in a similar situation, and then another, and then another. Soon it became unusual to see a house with that kind of roof/chimney construction without a nest or new chicks waddling about.

I believe all of our ‘seagulls’ are herring gulls, but ten minutes spent with a bird book only served to confuse me even further.

When I had occasionally seen these seagulls collecting sticks and other detritus for nesting material, I had (again, romantically) assumed that they were collecting convenient material in the suburbs but building nests in more natural rocky outcrops beyond my sight. Nope: they were nesting much closer to home than I had realised, and we now sleep knowing that a growing family of gulls also dozes a few metres above our own bed.

The parade of new birds is everywhere: sparrows (newly re-christened spuggies thanks to a recent Country Diary column), robins, blue tits and even crows have been spotted nearby with youngsters in tow.

I’ve observed various species in more advanced states of their growth, usually a while after fledging, and with the confidence to fly around investigating the feeding zones deemed worthy of their parents, but still in that sweet spot of frantically fluttering their wings and crying to be fed despite being very capable of doing so themselves.

As I had hoped, my awareness of the moon and the tides grows more solid as time rolls on – we just passed the six month mark in our new house and location.

A new moon and a full moon are nice in and of themselves, but the knowledge that their presence has such an impact on the tides – the strongest pull is at these ends of the cycle – has made me look forward to those days when the sine wave representation on our poster of the local tidal range is at its sharpest.

It is still something of a novelty to me that the highest high tides coincide with the lowest lows. There cannot be one without the other as the large saucer of water that is the English Channel rocks back and forth over a six hour period.

When exploring the vast stretches of beach which reveal themselves only at the lowest tides, it is never not amazing to me that only a few hours before or after, the waves will be some six metres above this point.

It feels as though these extreme highs and lows should happen at opposite ends of a number of days or weeks, not mere hours.

A fan of these extremes, I find myself more compelled to explore the coast at those times of high tide and low; seeing a much more shallow set of tides represented on the tidal chart means I am less excited to go down and see it. But the moons at these times of neap tides are, in turn, gorgeous – from thin slivers to good chunky moon-shaped crescents.

And so it is that I’ve come to enjoy both sections of these cycles of the moon and the tide.