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Seagull Shenanigans

By HELEN S. COMBA | Jul 11, 2018
Courtesy of: Helen S. Comba This is the crabbing bridge in Harvey Cedars where the author found the seagull. Its leg had been caught in fishing line that had become trapped between two planks. In this picture, taken at a different time, the author is on the left, looking at her cell phone.

A small bridge, wedged between the picturesque boat slips of Harvey Cedars Marina and Harvest Cove, a tranquil lagoon, is known more for crabbing than bird watching. On any given day, the bridge bursts with excitement as vacationers, young and old, catch their first crabs. But on this particular day, the bridge was empty except for one solitary seagull.

This lonely bird seemed preoccupied with the watery view below the iron railings on the bridge until I arrived. Alert eyes turned my way as it began what appeared to be a non-eventful journey upward only to be jerked back down toward the railing. A yellow fishing line wrapped around its leg was the culprit. Furtive eyes looked in my direction. Was I supposed to help?

Threaded around the shank of a screw, the fishing line had become trapped between two wooden planks. Despite my efforts to pull it loose, the line refused to yield. If this was a game of tug-of-war, I was about to lose to the screw. Behind me, the gull squawked in outrage as if to say, “Get out of here! I don’t want your help!”

While it seemed to make sense to pull the line off the seagull’s leg, I had to get the bird under control. Shaking my head in frustration, I moved on to Plan B, render the bird flightless. Moving within inches of the seagull, I took a deep breath while I wrapped my left arm around its wings. Then I grabbed the tethered leg with my right hand, assuming all would go well.

Unexpectedly, the gull’s head swung around and bit down on my wrist. A wave of fear washed over me as it swiveled its eyes as if to challenge me. All I could think was I didn’t know seagulls could do that!  Expecting pain, my heart thumped loudly in my ears and skin prickled on my arms. But I was fine. Relieved, I began to exhale. “You are a stupid seagull,” I yelled angrily. “I am trying to help you!”

Fortunately, one of my neighbors, Maureen, came along. As I explained the dilemma to her, she hopped off her bike, shouting, “Hold the gull still for me.” That I could do. I watched patiently as she confidently grabbed the fishing line close to the seagull’s foot. With a quick twist, she wound the line tightly around both of her wrists. She knew what she was doing. Using a strong downward motion, Maureen executed the final move as she snapped the line in two on the metal guardrail.

To this day my eyes immediately veer toward the railing of the bridge as soon as I turn the corner at the light. Angling upward, I search the sky for a bird with a bit of yellow fishing line wrapped around its leg. I’ve never seen it, of course. In fact, a family of swans now occupies Harvest Cove and all of my bird watching attention is focused on them.

I often think of that moment as a turning point in my appreciation of the natural world in Harvey Cedars. This lagoon, the beaches of LBI and beautiful Sunset Park belong to the seagulls as much as to us. We need to be mindful of fishing line, plastic bags or whatever it is we carry out into this world we share with our feathered friends. After all, the shenanigans of one seagull were really human shenanigans, too.

Helen S. Comba of Westfield, N.J., has been a Harvey Cedars homeowner since 1994.

 

 

 

           

 

 

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