Hawk doesn’t put cat among pigeons

Words and photo by Dave Barry 

A Harris hawk gave Scarborough’s birdlife the jitters on a recent visit to the seafront.

Fortunately for them, it was a captive bird of prey, safely attached to the glove of Nick Hudson of NBC Environment.

The company has been hired by Scarborough Council for the second year running to reduce the herring gull population.

The presence of a Harris hawk puts gulls off nesting on the seafront.

But the most effective part of NBC’s disruption and dispersal programme involves removing eggs and nests.

Last year, 850 eggs and 500 nests were removed in Scarborough and Whitby. When most people were still in bed, Nick was out and about with a cherrypicker and protective clothing on many mornings during the breeding season.

This year, the programme is being broadened out to include Filey.

It is aimed only at the herring gull and not the kittiwake, which is a protected species.

“We are trying to move gulls away from areas which are concentrated with visitors in the summer”, explained the council’s environment and regulation manager, Jonathan Bramley.

“We want to bring down the number of gull muggings”, he added, referring to gulls which dive-bomb people and steal food. “And we are trying to persuade people to stop interacting with gulls by feeding them”. 

The council cabinet member for public health and housing, Cllr Bill Chatt, said no birds would be killed.

He was speaking at one of three roadshows, on Sandside in Scarborough. The others were at Coble Landing in Filey and Dock End in Whitby.

Cllr Chatt said: “The roadshows in 2017 were very successful, so we were keen to put them on again this year. They give us an opportunity to meet residents, answer any questions they may have about the programme and, most importantly, educate people about how changing human behaviour can make a positive difference.

“These measures aren’t about changing the traditional image of the seaside; they’re about trying to achieve a more manageable situation where gulls and humans can live more contentedly side by side”.