Tim Dee is a writer and birdwatcher. He is the author of The Running Sky (2009) and Four Fields (2013), the editor of Ground Work (2018) and co-editor, with Simon Armitage, of The Poetry of Birds (2009). Previously, he worked as a radio producer at the BBC for thirty years. He lives in Bristol, the Cambridgeshire Fens, and sometimes in Cape Town, South Africa. (September 2018)
Nowadays, gulls are increasingly thought of not as seabirds but trash birds, the sub-natural inhabitants of what MIT professor of urban design Alan Berger called “drosscapes,” déclassé and mongrelizing in their habits. We see them as scavengers, not as entrepreneurs—as aliens, not as refugees. They steal our chips and kill our Chihuahuas. They are too big for the world they have entered. Some of this distaste is particular to the times, and some is a resurgent rivalrous antagonism that almost any other creature on Earth can trigger in our species—that dark loathing we can find in ourselves for any nonhuman life. Yet, even besmirched like this, the gulls keep us company. And they’ll be with us, we feel, for the duration of this, our late hour.