I have developed a fascination with gulls since my close encounters with nesting ones on the Bass Rock last month. They are easily overlooked because of their ubiquity, or even worse because people consider them pests or struggle to live alongside them.
Mark Cocker’s Country Diary extract about common gulls talks about how the aesthetics of gulls are often overlooked and he is absolutely right (thanks to him for the title of this post – ‘gulls make grey beautiful again’). They are majestic birds – they make striking shapes both in the air, on land and on sea. I find their adaptability and endurance encouraging and inspiring too.
As part of The Written Image project, a collaboration between printmakers and poets, I found myself on a boat heading to Inchcolm Island on Sunday morning with poet, Vicki Husband (and some bleary eyed tourists).
Inchcolm Island is in the Firth of Forth, close to the Fife coast. It has a rich cultural history but I’m afraid I was more interested in its wildlife on this trip! As I hoped it was covered in gulls – mostly lesser-black backed gulls and herring gulls. The gulls were surprisingly threatening as Vicki and I headed to the west end of the island. Apart from paths which had been cut in the grass the area was mostly covered in tall grasses, cow parsley (or a similar umbilifer – will endeavour to find out) and the occasional small tree (elderflower and sea-buckthorn mostly). Amongst this abundant foliage were lots of adult and juvenile gulls wandering around and flying up noisily as we approached. Hitchcock’s film The Birds was brought up more than once in our conversations!
We settled down on the path and I started some drawings.
I was very taken with the juvenile gulls, many of which were as big as their parents and have these strange wizened old faces but make small rasping ‘cheep cheep’ noises and often hound their parents, bobbing their heads up and down and cheeping imploringly at them for food.
I attempted to get the amazing shapes this lesser-black backed gull was making as it was preening.
This drawing was unfortunately cut short as we had to head back to the boat. I hope to continue developing it in the studio.
And finally, the most sustained drawing I managed to do – a lesser-black backed gull, framed against a sunlit Firth of Forth, with its young poking a curious head up to the left of it from the grassy cliff top.
Here is Vicki, writing notes in the sunshine. It was great to share the day with her, it was nice working alongside a poet, occasionally talking about ideas and things that inspired us but mostly just sitting and working away on our own thing. I am excited to see how we will bring our ideas together over the course of the next few months.