Piedwagtail

Tesco applied for a licence to shoot it, at which point TV ‘SpringWatch’ presenter Chris Packham suggested there was a better way.

Pied Wagtails and Tesco don’t mix – just like Seagulls and Open Markets. Last month the Supermarket chain was forced to rethink plans to shoot a bird flying around it’s Great Yarmouth store. It evaded capture for several weeks before Tesco applied for a licence to shoot it, at which point TV ‘SpringWatch’ presenter Chris Packham suggested there was a better way. He Tweeted on Twitter (nice one) that the British Trust for Ornithology would be able to capture and release it. Tesco agreed to look at the alternatives but since then it has all gone very quiet and the bird has not been available for comment.

Zombie Seagulls have become a real problem and trade is suffering as a result.

Tesco’s Wagtail problem is nothing compared to the Seagull nuisance on some Open Markets. I’ve visited several this year where Zombie Seagulls have become a real problem and trade is suffering as a result. Clothing displays have to be kept under cover to avoid ‘fouling from above’ and fresh food traders have cleared-off because of the hygiene issues. Shoppers are assaulted and the Market has shrunk in size as a result. If anyone suggests they should be culled (the Seagulls that is, not the Traders) the tree-huggers come out of the woods and the press have a field day.

And it’s not just a problem for Markets – Hoteliers are increasingly fending-off complaints from guests woken by the 4.00am dawn chorus. Truro is a lovely place to stay but try finding a quiet hotel room in the summer – the squawking sounds like your first spouse and in-laws at Christmas.

It’s an offence to disturb or harm any birds or eggs, or their nests when in use.

The problem is partly-created by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 198 which makes it an offence to disturb or harm any birds or eggs, or their nests when in use. Traders, Shopkeepers and Hoteliers who try to shift the problem onto their local Council often find the Act used as an excuse for inaction whilst in reality the problem is money – who should pay to solve the problem? Perhaps building owners should be more responsible and put netting over their roofs – or takeaway food outlets be reduced in number to reduce public ‘grazing’ and refuse? It has all got very political since dustbins were replaced by refuse bags and takeaway outlets have multiplied. UK Seagull numbers are on the increase whilst in Europe numbers they are falling. This is largely due to the Italians shooting anything which flies and the French eating whatever remains. Seagulls are remarkably intelligent beasties and have flown over to Scarborough, Rhyl and Swansea instead.

The Act does make provision for control measures in the event of a ‘nuisance or risk to Health & Safety’ and anyone can apply for a licence to control numbers. Just like Tesco, British Aerospace at Warton aerodrome applied for a licence to cull seagulls on the nearby Ribble estuary – home to thousands of pairs which cause damage to their aircraft. In response the RSPB lodged (and lost) an appeal to the High Court which cost them £100,000 in legal fees.

‘Predator control’ was invented 150 years ago by the Duke of Wellington when the Crystal Palace became infested with sparrows.

If someone finds the money then various control measures are available: Prevention (netting and anti-roosting spikes) are expensive but shooting is hit and miss (sorry about the pun). ‘Predator control’ was invented 150 years ago by the Duke of Wellington when the Crystal Palace became infested with sparrows. Ken Livingstone and the GLA tried this again in the ‘80’s and treated Londoners to the sight of pigeons being ripped apart whilst still alive on the pavements of Trafalgar Square. This was not good PR. Nottingham and Norwich Councils have tried that as well and although the tourists objected some locals apparently enjoyed it as a good substitute for fox-hunting.

A discrete industry has now grown up to control seagulls and pigeons, but it’s not cheap. If you have a problem then your Market Authority will not like the cost. The most humane method is to coat the eggs with oil whilst still in the nest or replace them with plastic ones. Mummy seagull continues to sit quietly on them but they never hatch – then after she’s cleared off you remove the nest and put up a net to stop her returning next year. But please NEVER allow a Market Manager loose with a permit and an air rifle after hours. He’ll cause more damage to buildings then the birds.

Some birds are still welcome on Markets – Parrots for instance. They’re noisy and good-natured but do tend to argue with the Manager. A lot like Traders. Who’s a pretty boy now then?

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