On a par with plague of rats

Further to Ian Smith's article about seagulls (Berwick Advertiser, March 2), I should like to add my voice to the swell of opinion that this issue requires urgent action.

Saturday, 11th March 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:45 am

As a relative newcomer to Berwick, now resident in the centre of the town, I am of the view that the summer seagull presence is the most pressing issue that needs to be resolved to increase the attractiveness and appeal of Berwick as a place to live and a tourist destination, the latter being a key driver of the economy and much-needed employment opportunity.

Unfortunately, the problem coincides with the important summer holiday months, from March until the end of July, which is the breeding season for the gulls. During the rest of the year the issue disappears, along with the birds whose sole reason for infesting the town is as a breeding site, not shortage of food.

From March to July the rain of excrement is a constant threat and the birds are often intimidating and threatening, particularly to children.

The filth that lands on buildings, people and vehicles is foul and unhealthy, making streets and roofs prone to the build-up of moss and other vegetation that leads to blocked gutters and property damage. Clearly, Coun Hill cannot have taken a direct hit.

Adult birds feed their young by regurgitation of fish and other food, including dog excrement, and this leads to messy nests, unpleasant smells and the encouragement of rats, all of which I experienced in my garden last season.

Seagulls return to the same nesting sites year after year so to address the problem the cycle needs to be broken.

Although herring gulls are not, I think, an endangered species, a total cull would be a draconian final solution and I do not believe this is warranted, as in the proper place the birds are to be enjoyed. There may be better alternatives that have been used to great effect elsewhere in the UK where the problem has been tackled.

Coun Gibson has suggested the use of a hawk and this is an effective deterrent. Spiking eggs is another effective solution as breeding pairs will not return to a barren nesting site. It should be made an offence to deliberately feed the gulls.

Examples exist of places that have taken action and achieved impressive results. Inverness is a good example of a city that has taken positive steps to control nesting, resulting in a hugely improved visitor environment. Trafalgar Square in London is another major tourist location that has recently been cleansed of bird pollution by the removal of the pigeons.

I am delighted that Anne Marie Trevelyan has recognised the importance of the issue, as did David Cameron when he was Prime Minister.

We need to come round to recognising that the seagull menace is on a par with a plague of rats in the breeding season.

Handled in the right way by making it unrewarding to breed in the urban area, the birds can be encouraged to return to their natural breeding grounds and a huge leap forward achieved in the cleanliness and appeal of our beautiful historic town.

Angus Hamilton

Bank Hill