great black-backed gulls
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

The seagulls know the truth of it
And scream it overhead
~ David Gray
♫ (Nos Da Cariad) ♫
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Growing up visiting the beaches of Cape Cod I never paid close attention to seagulls, taking them very much for granted. But in 2011, after reading the book, A Time for Everything, by Karl O. Knausgård, I’ve been drawn to these interesting sea birds. However, it wasn’t until April of last year (2012) that I noticed that there are different kinds of seagulls, when I saw a pair of black-headed gulls perched on a dock at Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia.

Now I’m pretty sure the gulls we commonly have on our beach here in Connecticut are ring-billed gulls. One day last August (2012), Tim & I were having a light supper sitting at a picnic table on the grass at our beach. We were chatting away and I was watching a gull behind him, who was loitering on the grass, hoping for a handout. (We never give them anything, however, because our food is not good for them.) Slowly it dawned on me that this was the biggest gull I had ever laid eyes on! And yet he had the speckled coloring of an immature one.

Thankfully I had my camera, but when Tim turned around to see what I was so excited about the gull took off. He came back, however, and began strutting along the sidewalk as if he owned the place.
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Eventually he walked up onto the rocks and posed for me.
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

In the pictures above and below I was trying to capture this huge baby standing as close to an adult “regular” gull as I could, to illustrate the difference in size. There were two of these large gulls present that day, but this was the one that came closer to us.
8.19.12 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Ten days after this gull encounter at the beach we had to take Tim to the hospital in the middle of the night. At dawn I came home to shower and then return to the hospital. As I started driving down Bank Street in New London there was a seagull in the middle of the street, feasting on some roadkill. He didn’t move out of the way of my car until it was almost too late. When he did take off he didn’t fly away, though. He kept flying just a few feet in front of my car, flying very low, all the way down Bank Street to Parade Plaza.

If seagull shows up it means it’s time to clean up your home environment and let go of and recycle as much as you possibly can. … Spend a significant amount of time at the seashore meditating, allowing the rhythms of the waves and the wind to be your guiding pulse.
~ Dr. Steven D. Farmer
(Animal Spirit Guides)

It wasn’t until late September, when we took a day trip to Block Island, that we got a clue about the identity of these giant seagulls. Our tour guide asked us if we had ever seen a great black-backed gull, the largest of all gulls. Apparently they are showing up on Block Island, too!

After Tim came home from the hospital, but before we went to Block Island, son Nate came up from Georgia to help “clean out our home environment” after Tim’s hospital stay. While he was here we took him to the beach one evening, all excited about showing him the big seagulls. But they weren’t there that night. However, we sat with him there for hours, soaking up the healing power of the sea and talking about the wonders of the universe – a memory I will treasure forever. The following sketch reminds me of some of our conversations, Mr. Logic and Ms. Wonder, chatting with their son…

image: Sketchnotes: Natalie Batalha on Exoplanets & Love

Since Nate left to go back home we have spotted the great black-backed gulls at the beach again many times, even after Hurricane Sandy and Blizzard Charlotte, so it looks like the two of them are planning to stick around for a while. And my sister has reported seeing them there a couple of times, too, when she’s gone to the beach to eat a peaceful lunch in her car. Beverly thought I had to be exaggerating until she saw them for herself!

20 thoughts on “great black-backed gulls”

    1. Thanks ever so much, Laurie! It was a stroke of luck having the camera along for the thrill of discovery. 🙂

  1. Aren’t they wonderful ! We have them here too. I didn’t realize just how big they were until I saw your comparative photo of the two different gulls.

    1. They are wonderful, Sybil! I found a range map online and apparently Connecticut and Nova Scotia are part of their natural habitat – it’s strange that we’ve never seen them before here on the shoreline and on Block Island. Maybe more of them are coming down south in recent years, returning to their old stomping grounds. 🙂

  2. Oh, lovely photos! Such interesting birds, and very handsome, though not everyone in our house shares this opinion 🙂 I’ve always enjoyed watching the gulls and love their graceful flight patterns, especially over water. We don’t have these big fellows on our west coast, at least not that I’m aware of.

    Smiling at Mr. Logic and Ms. Wonder and the sketch. And the healing powers of the universe. Wishing you and Tim a Happy Weekend 🙂

    1. Thank you, Colleen! Wishing you and your husband a wonderful weekend, too! 🙂

      Tim doesn’t think much of seagulls, either, but I’m totally captivated. 🙂 I do love watching and listening to them – a haunting melancholy which stirs up a sense of yearning in me. The range map I found online locates these black-backs on the shores of the North Atlantic, from the east coast of North America through Greenland and over to northern Europe. Maybe someday I will come to see what kinds of seagulls you have out there on the west coast!

      It’s pretty cool having a son with balanced doses of Logic and Wonder in his personality! 🙂

  3. What a timely post! I am sending this link to my daughter. We just had a conversation this week about the different kinds of seagulls. She is going to an ornithology class sometime next month and has a list of all the birds she’s seen in 2013 so far. She listed one as a “seagull” but I told her there were many kinds of gulls. Thank you for sharing this, Barbara.

    1. You’re welcome, Kathy. This must be why it took me five months to get around to posting about my seagull discovery – the universe wanted me to wait so you could send the link to your daughter at the right time! An ornithology class is beginning to sound very interesting to me – bird-watching, which my parents loved, always seemed tedious to me when I was a child. But, I’m beginning to see how and why it brought them so much pleasure. I hope Kiah enjoys her class!

    1. Thank you, Sheryl! I can’t even remember which lens happened to be on the camera that day, but I’m happy it worked so well – it’s hit or miss photographing living creatures…

    1. Jane, maybe you can surprise the seagull and start cleaning up your home environment before it shows up! 🙂

  4. Sincere complements on your photos of the seagulls!
    I’m with you Barbara. If I’d been seeing so many seagulls I also would’ve looked up their meaning. What a lovely message ie “to clean up and meditate” 🙂

    1. Thank you, Rosie! We’re still working on cleaning up our home environment – there is just so much stuff around here – sometimes it seems like no matter how much we throw out or give away more stuff comes out of hiding to take its place. 🙂 I still cannot fathom how we collect it all…

  5. Wonderful photos, Barbara! I have always enjoyed watching seagulls, whether by and on the bodies or water, or inland. I don’t believe I have ever seen a black-backed gull, though, so this was all fascinating! And really enjoyed ‘exploring’ the sketchnotes, too. XO

    1. Thank you, Diane! I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen an adult great black-backed gull – yet – so I will be bringing the camera to the beach every time I go down there and will continue to hope these guys plan on sticking around long enough to reach maturity! Stay tuned for more pictures, I hope! *hugs*

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