Now common terns at a site near Elizabeth Castle have deserted their breeding site because some deeply misguided person thought that it was a good idea to remove their eggs and, bizarrely, line them up in a rocky gully.
Sadly, wanton cruelty and disregard for the natural environment of this sort is not as rare as most Islanders would wish it to be. For example, the latest incident concerning birds’ eggs came to light at about the same time as an act of extreme callousness perpetrated against a herring gull. The gull, found in a garden in Vallée des Vaux, had had its beak taped up so that it was totally unable to feed and would have faced a lingering death had it not been released from its torment.
Now it is undoubtedly true that herring gulls – the ordinary seagull of our coasts, our town and, alas, our rubbish tips – is not the most popular bird in the Island. Its raucous call is siren-loud, particularly at four o’clock in the morning, and some street-wise members of the local population have learned how to rob human beings of sandwiches and ice creams. In addition, dive-bombing gulls defend their breeding places in a way which might be understandable but is nevertheless highly intimidating.
However, for all their shrieking and, from our point of view, anti-social behaviour, no gull deserves the beak-binding torture revealed in that valley garden.
Meanwhile, those who are inclined to regard the herring gull as some sort of aerial rat might pause to consider the ecological role they play – not to mention their essential contribution to any perfect seaside scene. Cunning, intrusive and occasionally aggressive they might be, but they are also beautiful and, if their sandwich-thieving antics are anything to go by, highly intelligent.
As far as the delicate terns are concerned, how could anyone be their enemy? Like the puffins on the north coast, which are now reaping the benefits of a zone from which boat-owners, fishermen and climbers are being encouraged to avoid, terns simply enrich the maritime environment and do no harm to anyone – if, that is, you exclude small fish.
Cruelty in itself is, of course, bad enough, but the recent cases which have been highlighted emphasise that if we fail to respect our natural environment, we stand in danger of losing irreplaceable assets that are right at the forefront of the features that make this Island so special.