Excerpts from a ‘fragmented’ essay I wrote earlier in the year.
1 – In May 2020 a Herring Gull was photographed at a Blackpool KFC drive through with a crossbow bolt through its body. It survived at least nine months despite the trauma and was regularly seen by customers and the general public. The bird was found dead nearby in March 2021, the gentleman who found it blamed its demise on a Buzzard circling high overhead at the time.
2 – A regular sight in Stanley Park is a Black-headed Gull with a white ring inscribed ‘VLJ’ on her lower right leg. She was originally caught and marked as an adult in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2008 and summers there each year before returning to Blackpool. At some point she lost her lower left leg and foot but continues to feed successfully and migrate across the North Sea. Other regular visitors to the town are known to migrate from Lithuania, Norway and Poland.
3 – The original Coat of Arms for Blackpool includes a pier, a lifeboat, a bathing machine and a sailing ship. The crest is a gull in flight. Several of these features could not be described in heraldic terms and the badge was rejected by the Royal College of Heraldry. The adopted Coat of Arms was approved in 1899; it is still in use today and includes a large gull species above the motto ‘Progress’.
4 – Keen Blackpool wildlife photographer Elizabeth Gomm has adopted a Herring Gull dubbed ‘Victor’, who she feeds every morning on her daily walk. She features pictures of him on social media groups where he has developed a cult following. He is named after the Blackpool Victoria Hospital where he lives. More recently Victor has paired up with a female who also comes to be fed, guess what her name is…
5 – Arts Group Left Coast have produced a colour palette based on the essence of Blackpool as a town. The ten shades include Herring Gull – ‘a soft gentle grey taken from the wind beaten feathers of swooping gulls on the Promenade’. Tins of Herring Gull paint can be purchased from Johnstone’s Paints. The artist responsible for the project objected to the commercialisation of the work and gives her alternative range away for free.
6 – On 27 February 2016 Blackpool FC played Bradford City in the EFL League one at Bloomfield Road. Due to the way in which the Oyston family were managing the financial affairs of the club a boycott was occurring. As a group of Herring Gulls homed in on the pitch to feed on the turf disturbed by the players a chant started in the away end:
‘More Seagulls Than Fans. More Seagulls Than Fans. You’ve Got More Seagulls, More Seagulls Than Fans’.
7 – The town’s ice hockey team was named the Blackpool Seagulls. At its peak the team was nationally competitive, but folded in 1993 because the Pleasure Beach ice rink home fixtures were held on was adjudged too small for competitive matches. The Seagull name was retained for a while when some of the squad moved to inland Blackburn but eventually dropped. A new Blackpool Seagulls team formed in 2011 but has also now folded because the short lived Cleveleys Ice Arena closed down.
8 – The Walney Island gullery near Barrow-in-Furness, once the largest in Europe, has declined calamitously. There are now around a tenth of the numbers there than in the 1980s. In 2018 the Barrow Evening Mail reported ‘a carpet of dead chicks’ with a complete breeding failure of the 3,465 occupied nests. Despite this there remains a vociferous campaign to cull the relatively small numbers that have moved across Morecambe Bay to nest on Blackpool rooftops.