On unexpected survival

The roof of the building where I work is a nesting site for seagulls. Sometimes when we look up at the ceiling, we see their triangular feet slap across the skylights like ghosts making a trail of footprints. We can hear them squawking and rustling about up there – really noisy sometimes!

A few weeks ago, someone discovered that a nestling had fallen from the rooftop, down into the empty lot behind the building. It was sheltering beside the bins, while Mama Seagull and several other adults circled and swooped down in anxious vigil, keeping watch over it.

I wish I’d thought to take photos of it back then. At that point it was still fluffy and small, perhaps two-thirds the size it is now, and we wondered how long it would last out there before a cat or a fox got hold of it.

Instead it has remarkably survived its ordeal so far. It has been growing larger and stronger, down there in its tarmac exile. Recently it molted the fluff and is now wearing a sleek coat of proper interim feathers.

We’ve all of us been tossing down bits of food to it – rice cakes and fruit from our lunches, or sandwiches and sausage rolls left over from the catering on days when our trainers are running a course. Normally when you drop food near adult seagulls they will land on it immediately and fight between themselves for a bite. In this case the adults are refraining from their customary grabbing, leaving everything to the stranded chick and no doubt bringing it their own offerings as well.

So now it is starting to stretch its wings and test their power. Soon enough it will be able to fly, and to move on from its temporary refuge.

What I’ve found most interesting about this little saga, played out from the vantage point of an upstairs office window, is the concern and aid we have been showering onto one hapless bird. It has easily become an office mascot, a focal-point reminding us of the world beyond our banks of flourescent lights and our LCD screens. Down there on the paved-over ground, beside the plastic bins, there is a survivor who will soon be strong enough to fly away.