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Black-Headed Gull

The terrier overlooks the scene of the crime.
The terrier overlooks the scene of the crime.

Having been lent an english pointer for the weekend again, I thought it was only fair to give him a good run for his money up round the Chayne this afternoon. True to form, he did not disappoint, and performed a couple of really nice displays in a strong, driving wind. The grouse were no sooner in the air than they were tumbling off to Dunscore and the Cairn Valley, and even a solitary jack snipe was forced to fly for more than its customary seventy yards. Jack snipe have a very appealing way of landing, which they do with a delicate little flutter. Perhaps common snipe also have the same habit, but their tendency to fly so much further when disturbed means that you seldom get to see it.

It was very exciting to find a huge pile of white feathers on some of the very high ground, and judging by the enormous piece of fox shit which had been delicately balanced on what remained of the breastbone, it was clear who had been involved in the murder or its subsequent cover-up. Slightly less obvious was the identity of the victim, and handling the wingtip which had been nipped off in classic fox style, it occurred to me that I might be looking at the remains of a cock harrier – after all, what else is decked out in smoky blue feathers with black primaries? However, on closer inspection it seems like it was a black headed gull, since the black and white flecks on the inner feathers do seem very gull-like, the primaries are only black at their ends and the first primary is only black all the way down its leading edge.

It is very rare to see black headed gulls on the Chayne, but I have heard them calling sometimes during the night when I’ve been out lamping foxes. How the fox was able to kill a gull I have no idea, but it could well be that it was killed from above by peregrine or goshawk and then the fox tidied up the remains. Scraps of bone between the feathers would seem to confirm this, and I think it is the most logical explanation.

Since I had a terrier on this long walk, it made sense to get an idea of activity on some of the furthest flung fox earths, but they were empty. One of the more promising holes has been filled with two or three large pieces of fox shit, so it is certainly on the fox radar. One to keep an eye on.

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