Western Gull Drama in the Bay!

I was birding along the cliff of UCSC Coastal Campus, hoping to catch a glimpse of a juvenile Black Oystercatcher and its parents. I happened to glance out at the water and saw a flurry of wings.

Thinking a gull was trying to steal food from another, I zoomed in with my camera. What I saw, though, looked more like attempted murder than petty theft…

(For ease of narrative, I’ll call the attacker Ferocious Fred and the victim, Gary the Gull.)

Ferocious Fred had latched onto Gary, refusing to let go.

“Help! Someone! Anyone! Help!”

I took several photos and then realized this would actually make a good (depending on your taste) video…

Ferocious Fred and Gary continued to tussle even as the current drew them towards the beach and the crashing surf…

Having reached the relative safety of the beach and been separated from Ferocious Fred by the waves, Gary ran into another problem! He had inadvertently stumbled onto the breeding grounds of the aforementioned Black Oystercatchers. The parents, Ollie and Olive, were pretty upset…

I felt pretty sorry for Gary before it became an uneven two-against-one fight…

Suddenly, Ferocious Fred showed up! Ollie and Olive — at least one of them anyway — was not deterred by the arrival of Fred. Now, all three birds were rumbling.

Ollie (or Olive) flew over to Fred. “You wanna piece of this?!”

Olive (or Ollie) is hoping “Little O'” is well hidden among the ice plant and rocks.

While Fred and Ollie (or Olive) go at it, Gary attempted to flee.

However…”You will not escape me!” Fred quickly broke off from the fight with the oystercatcher to pursue Gary.

I quickly switched back to video as Fred tried to grab Gary…

It was looking grim for Gary…

By now, seven minutes have gone by since I first noticed the disturbance in the water. Seven minutes which probably felt like seven hundred to Gary!

Poor Gary! Fred had, again, managed to latch onto his neck!

And this is where my skills as a photographic storyteller fall short. The next photo I have is of Fred standing alone.

I don’t even remember exactly how, but Gary made his escape. Where is my shot of Gary, flying triumphantly away?

Though, from what I saw, I don’t think Gary would be feeling very triumphant. That was a royal feather-kicking if ever I saw one.

I watched the fight for eight minutes. Who knows how long Fred and Gary had been scrapping in the water before I noticed them. Every time I see these photos, I’m gonna wonder what the heck started it.

Birds fight over territory — especially nesting territory (as the oystercatchers did) — and resources (which is what I thought was originally going on). If they were fighting over a mate — and, I think it’s a little late in the season for that — the prize had probably gone off with someone else rather than wait around for these two to duke it out.

As a side note, when I reviewed all the photos of the fight, a few of them looked like Gary was banded. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with the fight, though…(“Gimme that bracelet, Gary!”) ;0

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