Over the last few days a question-mark has come and gone from the title of this piece.
A black-backed gull – karoro – has been our “resident gull” since we came here eight (heavens!) years ago. From his perch on the neighbour’s roof he has ruled the roost, keeping a beady eye on the kitchen window for emerging tidbits, and noisily seeing off competitors. We inherited him from the lady who had our house before us, and for a long time he seemed to be a solo act – an older gent with a gammy leg, who’d found himself a nice spot in the sun for his declining years. Mani fed him bread laced with comfrey tincture to help his knee.
Then one spring four years ago while we were still in Switzerland, an email from Rosalind told us he had allowed a girl-friend to move in, and was engaged in amorous – if precarious – adventures on the streetlight.
Initially she seemed only to be permitted to stay over during the courting season, but over a few years she is more often there than not.
Earlier this year, I was grumbling at him for being a dog in the manger. He would gobble everything coming from the magic window, and chase off his shyer partner if she looked like trying to get something for herself.
But then I saw him back up on the roof, regurgitating food for her. An old-fashioned chap indeed, certain that his role is bringing home – and up – the bacon.
He’s been very assiduous in this “good provider” role, gathering and presenting choice bits of nesting material to her.
I wasn’t sure how to approach the neighbours if it looked like the couple were serious about building on their roof. Accommodating the tap-dancing and raucous calling is one thing. But hosting a nest – that might be pushing it. Happily, they had the rituals here… and the real thing somewhere else.
But perhaps he was feeling his age pressing on him, in his need to be a father yet again. It looked like he’d had some tough competition for her continuing favours; he’d turn up with a dented head, dirty and not his normal immaculate self.
Then a couple of times, we saw him standing on the lawn, trembling all over.
“Not good” we thought, having just had Mani doing the same with a high fever from an infection.
Anyway … after six weeks away, we got back from our South Island round-trip. No gull to greet us. “Perhaps off on parenting duty”, we tried to convince ourselves. But the next day – no gull. And so it’s gone on. “Well, he’s had a good life” we consoled ourselves.
Then suddenly – the question-mark appeared on the title of this piece. The girlfriend was on the neighbour’s roof, calling loudly. I’m not fluent in gull and can’t differentiate between the warning “you’re in my air-space – leave immediately or take the consequences” call and the “ welcome home” call.
But in flew a young gull, still in camouflage brown feathers. Clearly this year’s offspring.
And then…. in flew another adult, also welcomed. Our old chap? I couldn’t tell. But I could hope.
No. If it were “our” gull, he’d had have quickly been down as soon as he saw we’d returned – on station outside the kitchen window, gulping down food to feed the family.
Like the girlfriend, I think we have to accept it’s a relationship finished. Will we be as fast to move on? Perhaps not.
Requiescat in pace, old boy.