An Eastbourne woman has struck up an unlikely friendship with a young seagull she ended up ‘baby-sitting’.
Elizabeth Wright, of Midhurst Road in Hampden Park, says the young Herring gull, which she has named Babe, has been a regular visitor to her home since he was a chick.
She said, “He is the only survivor of a nest of three and his dad, Alfie, must have had some kind of accident because he walks with a pronounced limp.
“His mum we call Moaning Minnie; she’s not the brightest bird on the beach, and subserviently shadows partner Alfie whilst making a series of whining noises. They are regular visitors to my bird feeding table.”
Elizabeth said when two of the three chicks disappeared, Alfie and Minnie seemed to lose interest in rearing Babe.
Though he was large enough to leave the nest, he still needed care and top-ups of food.
“Many of his pleas to be fed were ignored,” she said, “so I began to make sure he got enough to eat each day.
“His favourites were tinned dog food or cooked sausages, offered on a plate that I held whilst he stuffed his face.
“This built up a tentative bond between the two of us, resulting in Alfie and Minnie seeming to pass the parenting over to me.”
Elizabeth continued, “People say they find it astonishing when I tell them of the time that the adult birds tapped loudly on my back garden gate with their sturdy beaks and on opening it I was confronted by Alfie and Minnie standing either side of a hungry Babe.
“I will not embroider the situation by saying they pushed their offspring towards me, but when they saw I was around, they bolted, flying away over the rooftops, leaving their baby by my feet.”
She said she took over the role of babysitter for Babe, who hung out with the other fledgling gulls in the neighbourhood and would come to her front or back doors for regular feeds.
“A few months down the line and he has grown into a magnificent bird and although perfectly capable of completely looking after himself, he still regularly visits me,” she said.
“When he arrives in the back garden he noisily thumps around on my conservatory roof until he gets my attention.
Or he watches the front of my house, and the moment I appear with his food dish he enthusiastically swoops down from the ridge tiles of the building opposite, straight in my front door and along the hallway to gobble up his meal.
“What a character!”