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Archive News

February 22nd 2011

Plan to use birds of prey to stop seagull attacks in Carlisle

Hawks or falcons could be drafted in to get rid of nuisance seagulls in Carlisle.

The city council says it has received complaints about aggressive birds swooping to attack pedestrians during the nesting/breeding season from May to August.

The problem is so bad that Angela Culleton, the council's assistant director - local environment, has drawn up a report for the environment scrutiny panel, which meets on Thursday.

It says: "The majority of the complaints are related to industrial estates although some concern the city centre.

"More and more seagulls are moving into built-up areas to nest.

"The main reason is that food sources are readily available from people deliberately feeding them and the amount of takeaways and other food refuse strewn around roads and back streets.

"Kingstown industrial estate often experiences problems due to its gently-sloping roofs and its close proximity to Hespin Wood landfill site."

As well as swooping on pedestrians, the gulls are noisy and their nests can block gutters and gas flues, potentially with fatal consequences if fumes cannot escape. The gulls can also damage buildings by pecking at roof materials.

As a last resort, Mrs Culleton says, the council could employ "disturbance techniques".

She argues that the use of loud bangs to frighten off the birds is inappropriate in the city centre.

Birds of prey might be deployed, however. Her report adds: "The use of a hawk or falcon could be considered but if this method is used the birds of prey must be flown at least daily over a prolonged period."

Companies at Kingstown paid for a hawk to be brought in when they suffered a spate of attacks last May while McVitie's uses birds of prey to keep seagulls off its factory in Caldewgate.

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February 17th 2011

Jewellery Quarter to trial new seagull control method

THEY are a winged menace, often operating in gangs, swooping on innocent bystanders, stealing food from the hands of children and breeding at an alarming rate.

The seagull has made the rooftops of Birmingham city centre its home and complaints of 'mobbing' by the aggressive birds are growing.

Now Birmingham City Council pest controllers have vowed to fight back against the bird blight.

They considered shooting or drugging them, using distressing sounds, birds of prey, scarecrows, removing nests and even lasers to deter the gulls.

But, after ruling these methods out, they will replace the eggs with artificial ones to fool the birds to remain in their nests and out of harm's way.

A six-month trial begins in the Jewellery Quarter next month - the area from where most complaints have been received.

Head of environmental health Mark Croxford believes Birmingham is the first inland local authority to look at tackling the urban gull menace.

He said: "We are used to dealing with rats and mice, but there has been a sharp increase in complaints about gulls and we had no way of dealing with them.

"The herring gull has been almost as successful as humans at adapting to the urban environment, they see buildings as artificial cliffs and an ideal place to breed. They are not afraid of people and will travel hundreds of miles from the nest to forage.

"We will see if the artificial egg has any impact, and if it does then we can use it more widely and advise businesses to take their own action."

The methods ruled out included:

* Shooting: Not an option in a city environment

* Narcotics: Making large birds drowsy in flight is dangerous

* Sound boxes to mimic bird distress calls: Where used they have proved more distressing to residents than gulls

* Birds of prey: In urban areas gulls will attack larger birds in a 'mob fashion'

* Artificial bird of prey or scarecrow: Gulls quickly cotton on

* Removing nests: They build new ones pretty quickly

* Lasers: Cannot be used over a wide area as it has a 'light show effect'.

The seagull problem in urban areas has been growing. Areas hit recently include Cheltenham, Bristol and Gloucester, and solutions put forward have included making rooftops on new-build homes 'seagull proof', fining people who feed them, and using birds of prey to drive them off - a plan which was abandoned in Dumfries, Scotland, after the number of breeding pairs of Falcons soared, reaching 370.

The artificial egg trial is expected to be approved by councillors tomorrow.

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February 11th 2011

Shooting seagulls suggested by councillor

A SEAGULL cull has been proposed in Dumfries.

Councillor Graham Bell suggested the radical solution to the town's problem with the aggressive birds.

He said this week: "Shooting the seagulls and having a cull would improve things."

The North West Dumfries councillor made the proposal at a meeting of the environment service committee.

Mr Bell asked fellow councillors to consider writing to the Scottish Government requesting a licence to cull the birds.

The suggestion came as councillors agreed to spend £40,000 to continue a seagull egg and nest removal scheme running for another year.

Mr Bell told the Standard: "The scheme does work but if you go up a ladder and remove eggs gulls will simply go and lay somewhere else.

"But if you poke holes in eggs, which it is legal to do, the gulls will continue to sit on them for several weeks and not lay more eggs."

He added: "The method of scaring off the gulls with hawks doesn't work as it just moves them onto other areas like Georgetown and Heathhall.

"I asked members to write to the Scottish Government asking for a licence for a cull of the birds. This has been taken under advisement."

Councillors agreed to seek government advice on the options available.

The council holds a general shooting licence but a special licence would need to be issued if a cull was to take place.

Meanwhile, eggs and nests will be removed from buildings in Dumfries and Heathhall over the next few months.

The project was introduced in 2009 following complaints from residents about attacks by aggressive seagulls.

In 2003 the council agreed to a temporary cull of the birds which angered animal rights campaigners.

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February 9th 2011

Bird lovers told not to feed the ducks at Thorpe St. Andrew

Bird feeders have had their feathers ruffled by plans stop them throwing food and grain on Thorpe St Andrew River Green.

Councillors could attempt to impose a bylaw on the much-loved riverside spot, near Norwich, as they say the grass and tree roots are being destroyed by vast swathes of pecking geese, ducks and doves.

But wildlife enthusiasts, who regularly feed the birds, say it is a long tradition, they are not doing any damage and are, in fact, helping the birds.

Pat Woods, who is in her early 50s, lives at nearby Richmond Court, in Yarmouth Road. She said she goes out to feed the birds as much as she can.

"Bird feeding has been going on for years and years and years and lots of families come down and that's what they enjoy. They get enjoyment from feeding the birds. It is a bit like a sanctuary," she said.

She said the birds were not doing any harm and that recent improvements to the green had actually made it worse and some grass had disappeared.

Adam Goodrum, 29, of Yarmouth Road, was feeding the birds yesterday.

He said: "They are the main attraction here. Lots of families with kids come and feed the ducks. It has been such a harsh winter; if it hadn't been for people feeding them, they would have suffered. On a nice day like this, you think 'I'll go for a walk and feed the ducks'. The council should find better things to worry about than feeding the birds."

He said that the doves would not be able to get the feed if it were thrown on the water.

Last year, the council spent £60,000 building a bus shelter and a flag pole, and creating disabled access to the green. They are now hoping to plant grass seed.

They are advising people who want to feed the birds at the River Green to drop food in the river rather than on the ground.

Town councillor Eleanor Laming said that they wanted a "dialogue" with the bird feeders, but if they did not see an improvement in the future, they would consider a bylaw.

"It's better to have a dialogue with people and try to reach some sort of compromise", she said.

"We have spent an awful lot of money improving the river green.

"We would like it to look nice for everybody when they come.

"It think their intention is as nature lovers, but since there are other areas within a short distance, particularly in the marshes, that are more appropriate for the birds to live, we would encourage them to go there."

Fellow councillor Ian Mackie added that it was not about restricting families coming to feed the birds. "Everybody has done that in their time. It's about people not feeding the birds on an industrial scale", he said.

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February 9th 2011

Dumfries seagull egg and nest removal funds agreed

A £40,000 funding package to tackle the number of seagulls in Dumfries has been approved by councillors.

The money will be used to support an egg and nest removal programme, which is now in its third year.

A study has suggested the removal of eggs last year resulted in the reduction of young birds by nearly 90%.

Further efforts to tackle the urban gull problem will include extra signs discouraging members of the public from feeding the birds.

The number of breeding pairs of birds in the town has risen despite the scheme.

However, a council report said it would probably take four to five years for any "appreciable decrease" to be seen in the breeding gull population.

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February 5th 2011

RSPB investigates decline of common scoter

Climate change and mink could be among factors behind a decline in a species of duck, according to RSPB Scotland.

Dr Mark Hancock, an ecologist with RSPB Scotland, is at the end of the second year of a three-year study of common scoter in Caithness.

His research so far suggests that warmer weather has led to insects the birds prey on hatching earlier.

Mink, a predator, are also present around the remote lochs in Forsinard where Dr Hanock has been working.

The study is part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and has been carried out with the co-operation of local estates.

Dr Hancock said there were three possible factors affecting scoter numbers.

He said: "These are climate change, the availability of insects, molluscs and other invertebrates to feed the chicks, and predation.

"It could easily be a combination of all three but it is really too early to say at the moment."

The ecologist added: "We believe climate change may be a factor because warmer winters and springs could lead to aquatic insects such as mayflies and caddis flies hatching earlier in the season and not being available to the scoter ducklings when they hatch out themselves.

"And warmer winters may, over time, lead to more predators surviving and that could make an impact.

"Mink are definitely present in some scoter areas and part of the research is about finding out how many are about and what they are up to."

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February 2nd 2011

Timeline: Dumfries seagull fight

Dumfries is one of many towns throughout the UK to have problems with seagulls swooping on members of the public.

It has seen a range of potential solutions suggested and implemented in recent years.

3 July 2006

An MSP suggested fines should be considered for people feeding gulls in Dumfries.

Dumfries MSP Elaine Murray wrote to the council to see what action might be taken, using current legislation, against anyone leaving litter on the streets, encouraging birds into the town centre.

Among her suggestions was a £50 fine for people deliberately feeding the birds.

1 August 2007

An appeal was made to the environment minister to find a solution to seagull problems in Dumfries.

Provost Jack Groom claimed the birds had been attacking the public, making the town centre a dangerous place for both visitors and residents alike.

He said he had witnessed seagulls swooping down to steal sandwiches from people walking in the area.

17 August 2007

Councillors hatched a new plan which they hoped would help rid Dumfries of its seagull problem.

It would mean that all new non-domestic buildings in the area would be subject to a planning condition that their roofs were made seagull-proof.

The move was unanimously agreed by members at a meeting of Nithsdale area regulatory committee.

24 June 2008

A summit in Dumfries hoped to tackle the growing menace of seagulls in urban areas.

The birds were being blamed for scattering rubbish and attacking people during the breeding season.

22 August 2008

The Scottish government unveiled a pilot project for destroying gull nests to tackle the "menace" of urban seagulls.

If successful, the project was to be considered for places like Aberdeen which also have major seagull problems.

However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said a change in human behaviour would address the problem better than destroying nests.

9 January 2009

A three-year plan to tackle the problems posed by urban seagulls was drawn up.

A Dumfries and Galloway Council task force recommended a falcon be used to stop the birds nesting and action be taken to remove eggs from rooftops.

It was hoped the south west Scotland scheme could be used as a template for other areas to tackle their problems.

18 March 2009

A falcon patrol took to the skies over Dumfries in a bid to rid it of an urban seagull problem.

The predatory birds were being used to disturb the gulls and stop them from nesting.

It was hoped this in turn would help to reduce the number of incidents in the town centre where seagulls swooped on members of the public.

3 December 2009

A scheme using falcons to tackle urban seagull problems was dropped after the number of nesting pairs increased to 370 - an increase of 18.5% compared with the previous year.

A report to councillors said that due to the cost and outcome of the trial it was not recommended to continue.

14 September 2010

Councillors rejected the possibility of a by-law banning the feeding of seagulls in Dumfries town centre.

Dumfries and Galloway Council turned down both a by-law and rules which could have been enforced by its staff.

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December 23rd 2010

New bins to defy flying pests in Bath

New bins have been installed in an area of Bath that can be plagued by gulls.

The containers have replaced 15-year-old open-topped bins in Kingsmead Square.

There are a number of food businesses in the area and dumped leftovers have proved too much of a temptation for the pesky birds.

Local councillor Andy Furse (Lib Dem, Kingsmead) has been pressing Bath and North East Somerset Council to put in the new bins, which have strong flaps to keep out the gulls.

Mr Furse said: "Although it's been a long time coming, I am pleased to see these new litter bins and thank council officers for their persistence in securing funding.

"I believe this will contribute to reducing food sources for the gull population in Bath and will lead to a cleaner and more pleasant environment in Kingsmead Square."

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December 5th 2010

Let's try a disco ball to stop Syndey pigeons

Flight risk ... A pyramid in action at Central Station. Pic: Ella Pellegrini Source: The Sunday Telegraph

Light brigade ... RailCorp worker Brittany Foetschl with a pyramid at Central Station. Pic: Ella Pellegrini Source: The Sunday Telegraph

THEY'VE tried trapping them, shooting them, baiting them and scaring them - and failed miserably to win the war against Sydney's pigeons. So how about blinding them with disco lights?

Sounds far-fetched, but Rail-Corp has unveiled its latest weapon to defeat the pigeon plague at city stations and it's a rotating, mirrored pyramid resembling a dance club disco ball.

The devices, called Eagle Eyes, work by reflecting light at various angles to confuse and disorient incoming pigeons. The company behind them claims the birds grow so irritated by the flashing lights they quickly find somewhere else to roost.

Fed up with flocks of pigeons pooping on commuters and staff and creating safety and hygiene issues, RailCorp has installed four of the devices at Central Station, with more to go up in the coming days. The pyramids have been placed in the ceiling of the main CountryLink concourse.

Another two will be located outside the tram stop. Special lights will be shone on the internal pyramids, while the two outdoors will rely on sunlight.

RailCorp customer service general manager Rino Matarazzo said the bird-deterrents had been well received by commuters, many of whom had thought the pyramids were part of RailCorp's official Christmas decorations.

RailCorp will install other pyramids at Hurstville and Waterfall stations by January.

The rail authority has for years tried to rid its stations of the birds, adopting measures ranging from trapping them in cages and moving them off to stringing up fake eagles to scare them.

But nothing has worked.

"The eagles seemed to keep the pigeons away at first, but then the pigeons got friendly with them, pecking at them, nesting on them and even trying to mate," Mr Matarazzo said. "We also tried putting up spikes everywhere, but the pigeons decided they were good places to nest."

Apart from being a pest, the mess left behind by pigeons created a slip hazard on platforms.

Hurstville station staff were so fed up with pigeons roosting there, they planned to hire a contractor to shoot them. That plan was dropped late last year after details of the planned shooting were made public.

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October 19th 2010

Pest controllers poisoned wildlife

Two pest controllers who spent their lunch break poisoning wildlife for their "personal amusement" have been jailed.

Terrence Webb, 28, and Mark Page, 35, were responsible for the deaths of 90 birds and a pet dog at a beauty spot in Wanstead Flats, east London.

The former Newham Council employees used bread laced with a deadly pesticide to kill birds and a pet dog at Alexandra Lake. The pair fed the toxic chemical used to kill cockroaches, fleas and bed bugs to birds over two days, boasting of what they had done to colleagues.

Experts said their reckless actions also put children playing around the lake in danger of being poisoned.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said Webb and Page were jailed for four months and fined £7,000 each at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

The outbreak of animal deaths at the lake in March sparked a public health scare as police and wildlife officers sealed off the area for three weeks. At least 90 birds, including geese, moor hens, ducks and coot, as well as a pet German Shepherd, were killed.

Investigators discovered the two pest controllers had spent their lunch breaks at the lake on March 8 and 9.They baited bread with pesticide and left it on the ground before watching the animals die.

One of their first victims was a pet dog owned by a local woman who regularly walked it around the lake.

Webb, of Peregrine Road, Ilford, and Page, of White Hart Lane, Romford, admitted two counts of misuse of pesticides and two counts of theft. Charges relating to the storing of pesticide and the theft of a sprayer were dropped by the prosecution.

The two men were sacked by Newham Council once their actions came to light.

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September 23rd 2010

Seagull food waste warning issued in Gloucester

Restaurants and takeaways in Gloucester have been warned of the consequences of inadvertently providing fodder for the growing gull population.

The city council has written to about 100 businesses after officers found evidence of takeaways while removing nests and eggs from rooftops.

The letters remind them they must provide bins outside their premises and keep the areas clean.

The council has introduced a "zero tolerance" campaign against litter.

Gloucester has one of the largest urban gull populations in the UK.

The letters also warn that the authority can take action if the businesses fail "to provide adequate provision for litter disposal".

Councillor Andrew Gravells said: "Everyone is well aware of the problems we have with gulls in the city. We are doing all we can to combat this and are seeking national advice.

"But businesses must play their part too. It is evident that the gulls are feeding on scraps from takeaway restaurants that are dropped in the street."

He added that people caught littering face fines of up to £80.

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September 21st 2010

Dagenham pest controller faces jail

TWO PEST control officers who killed a pet dog and 90 wild birds with poison for their "own amusement" could face jail.

Mark Page, 35, and Terrance Webb, 28, spent their lunch breaks laying down bread laced with the pesticide Ficam-W at a beauty spot on March 8 and 9.

The pair wanted to see if the chemical, which they had stolen from their employer Newham Council, was capable of killing crows.

Instead a German Shepherd, described as its elderly owner's "sole companion", suffered violent convulsions and died 20 minutes after eating the poison on Wanstead Flats.

The corpses of 90 birds, including coots, moorhens, pigeons, crows and geese, were later found strewn over Alexandra Lake by the park warden.

Page and Webb both admitted theft charges and misusing Ficam-W during a short hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Ordering pre-sentence reports and bailing the men until October 18, Judge Simon Wilkinson said: "This is an unpleasant offence - all sentencing options will be open."

Page, of Barrington Road, Bexleyheath, Kent, and Webb, of Bancroft Chase, Rush Green, both admitted two counts of using a pesticide without approval and two counts of theft.

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September 15th 2010

Seagull plan falls through

PLANS to ban people who feed seagulls from Dumfries town centre have been dropped.

Councillors yesterday backed away from a proposal to create a no-feeding zone.

They had been warned that it could be difficult to enforce a ban.

A vote divided the councillors of the planning, housing and environment services committee down the middle.

But with the vote at deadlock, the committee's chairman Roger Grant held the casting vote and opted to keep the status quo.

He said: "Clearly this is a problem in Dumfries, but we need to bear in mind the economic position we are in.

"I think we need to leave this for the winter and look to hold a campaign next year.

"We need to educate people about the problem and then approach it again in the future."

The report which went before councillors yesterday, suggested a no-feeding boundary of Buccleuch Street, Shakespeare Street, the Whitesands, and the High Street as an option.

The report also warned that repeat offenders of the gull feeding could recieve an exclusion order, forcing them to keep out of the zone.

But it was decided not to take forward the plans.

Councillors have tried removing nest eggs and introduced birds of prey around the town centre, in attempts to discourage the gulls from returning to the area.

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September 2nd 2010

Why culling urban gulls won't work

Those whose understandable frustration has led to calling for gull culls know all about the problems, but maybe less about the expense.

For sure, urban gulls have already cost millions. Culling involves shooting, poisoning or narcotising. Poisoning has long been illegal because of risks to other species and the active ingredient for narcotising was proscribed some years ago. For either to be used there would have to be a change in the law, which is unlikely.

So, we're left with shooting. This year, Bath supports 979 pairs (ie 1,958 breeding adults and, with non-breeders, a conservative total of 2,500 birds). That's a lot of birds to shoot and it would take a long time.

How would the cull be conducted? Would there be a team of vigilantes patrolling city streets, or snipers positioned on rooftops? And how would permission be obtained to shoot over the many hundreds of properties which make up the city of Bath?

The serious questions, though, are these: in the present security climate, how would such a plan be received by the police, the RSPCA, the RSPB and bird lovers? Who would pay for any damage to buildings caused by stray shots? And what would happen if someone were hit by a stray shot?

Wherever a niche appears, it will be filled. So, if only a hundred or two are killed, the difference in the population would probably not even be noticed by the following season.

Why? The large gulls do not breed until they are between three and six years old, so gulls hatched in Bath before 2010 could be seeking to breed for the first time from next year onwards, but so, too, will those hatched in all of the surrounding urban colonies which have been supplying Bath with recruits for many years.

Even if a large number of Bath gulls were killed, an even larger number would need to be killed in the other colonies in the Severn Estuary - a cull of more than 60,000 gulls. It would be unimaginably time-consuming and expensive.

What should we do? Just about everything in the name of pest control has been based on guesswork. How can we contemplate managing the issue if we don't know what we're dealing with? Without research, the inevitable prospect is one of problems and expense increasing in direct proportion to rapidly growing urban gull populations.

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August 25th 2010

North Devon Council moves against resort seagulls

THE fight against seagull attacks on rubbish in Ilfracombe is continuing, with North Devon Council taking to the streets to raise awareness of the problem.

Over the last three weeks, staff and councillors have been talking to residents about how they can help the situation, covering areas such as Oxford Grove and the High Street. They've been joined by some of the town's street champions and representatives from Transform, the neighbourhood management programme for Ilfracombe.

Ward councillor and Lead Member for Waste and Recycling, Cllr Paul Yabsley, said: "Many people put out their waste and recycling the evening before their collection. This wouldn't normally be a problem. However, in Ilfracombe, waste is often targeted by seagulls, which means some streets are left littered with rubbish before our teams even get to them.

"Therefore, we've been speaking to local people face-to-face over the last few weeks to offer tips on how to prevent seagull attacks. This has included information about discounted gull guards they can buy or simply putting a blanket over their rubbish bags to deter the birds."

During the evening rounds, staff have also been offering general advice about waste and recycling services.

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August 25th 2010

Herring gull decline spotted at Spinnaker Tower

Contractors abseiling around Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower have noticed signs of the local seagull population falling.

While cleaning the exterior of the 170m tower, they have noticed a much smaller amount of seagull droppings.

An RSPB spokesperson said: "Many of the UK's gull species are in decline".

Seagull excrement can react with water to produce a mould which attacks the masonry of the Spinnaker Tower.

Cleaners are called in to clean the viewing windows and exterior structure of the

Spinnaker Tower several times a year but recently have only had to spend half the time cleaning the droppings from the tower compared to the same time in 2009.

RSPB spokesperson Sophie McCallum said: It's very difficult to calculate gull numbers at just one site, but we know the herring gull population is falling dramatically."

The UK breeding population of herring gulls has declined from 750,000 pairs in 1993 to just 378,000 pairs now.

As a result, the herring gull is now classified as on the Red List of species most in need of conservation.

The figures may seem surprising to anyone living on the coast where seagulls nesting on rooftops and foraging in rubbish are seen as vermin.

However the RSPB says more birds moving into town is a symptom of a lack of food in their natural habitats.

Sophie McCallum said: "These are wild birds just trying to survive.

"Their marine habitat and food availability is under threat which is why we see so many of them moving into towns, but the population as a whole is under threat."

Ms McCallum appealed to people not to feed seagulls in towns which can cause them to become a nuisance.

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August 19th 2010

RSPCA warning over nets after bird gets trapped in Llandudno

PEOPLE are being urged to remove anti-bird netting from rooftops after a herring gull had to be released by the RSPCA.

The bird got tangled up above a shop on Mostyn Street in Llandudno. An officer from the animal charity had to be called in on August 6.

The officer managed to free the distressed bird from the three-storey high property. It flew away after unharmed. But it's sparked a warning message from RSPCA inspector Mike Pugh about the dangers house protection such as netting can pose to wildlife.

He said "Seagulls and other wild birds often nest on top of houses and shops.

"Whilst it is completely understandable that property owners will seek to protect their premises we would ask that they think seriously about the measures they adopt."

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August 17th 2010

Londoners warned to steer clear of angry seagulls as numbers double

Londoners were today given an unprecedented warning against "divebombing" by seagulls.

After a spate of attacks across Britain, the RSPB today said the birds had become a new urban menace and told Londoners not to approach them or throw food out for them.

Experts say that a "perfect storm" of the breeding season combined with the first chicks hatching has led to an explosion in the birds across London.

The RSPB says that numbers of herring gulls have doubled in the capital since the Eighties, with about 20,000 pairs now nesting here.

Black-headed gulls, common gulls and black-backed gulls are also common. The birds are attracted in increasing numbers by the rubbish on the streets and in landfill sites.

Pregnant pop star Lily Allen has turned to Twitter to complain about the birds' distinctive calls, telling her followers: "Seagulls in W1. I've never heard them here before tonight. Must be a shift in the weather or summat."

The RSPB says that the birds have been unusually noisy this year. "City gull numbers have not massively increased, but the noise they make has," said spokesman Tim Webb. "It's made more Londoners aware of them.

"More and more birds are living here, because the fishing boats they normally follow just don't exist any more - instead they are nesting on London roofs."

The RSPB today warned Londoners not to approach the birds, which have been known to attack people. They also warned that if the gull population continues to increase, councils may have to come up with measures such as designing "gullproof" rubbish bins.

"I'd urge Londoners to be as tolerant as possible," said Mr Webb. "Gulls are often perceived as intimidating, but if they are aggressive it's because they're either protecting their young or feel threatened by us. They are very protective parents, but they'd much rather poo on people than peck them," he said. "However, they will divebomb people if provoked."

In Sussex, 29-year-old student Amy Derham was left with a deep head cut after she tried to walk round a baby bird lying on a pavement. It is thought the adult bird struck to protect the fledgling, although Ms Derham had crossed on to the other side of the road in Hove.

She said: "I saw a baby seagull sitting down on the pavement making a high-pitched squeak. I thought to myself I am not going anywhere near that' so I crossed the road. The next thing I know I was hit on the head by what looked like an adult seagull swooping down - it was extremely painful and happened all of a sudden."

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August 16th 2010

Chicks illegally killed, says gull rescue charity

SEAGULLS were illegally killed by pest controllers according to a charity set up to rescue and protect the birds.

Tim McKenzie from National Gull Rescue and Protection says pest control company Ecolab killed protected herring gulls while working at BT's premises in Polegate.

BT and Ecolab say the pest controllers killed two chicks which they thought were lesser black backed gulls, an unprotected bird, not the protected herring gulls. Ecolab has said the two species look very similar but Mr McKenzie has slammed their actions.

He said, "The lesser black backed gull and the herring gull look completely different and these people should know the difference - it is their business to know the difference. Lesser black backed gulls are so few and far between. I know there are no colonies in Polegate."

Mr McKenzie said even if the birds killed were lesser black backed gulls, the pest controllers would have had to get a special license from Natural England to legally cull the gulls. He said such a license is given out if the birds are causing a health and safety issue.

Mr McKenzie said, "This sort of license from Natural England would apply in the case of a hospital for example, not a BT depot with trucks driving in and out all day. What sort of a health and safety issue would be caused there?"

Ecolab employees have also been criticised by Mr McKenzie for using shovels as a deterrent to fend off the birds while on the roof.

Mr McKenzie complained to BT about Ecolab and has said the response he received is a 'whitewash'.

A statement issued by BT on behalf of both firms said, "BT employed a specialist firm, Ecolab, to deal with a pest control problem after gulls had created a hazard at its building in Eastbourne.

"Nesting gulls are recognised as a potential cause of hygiene, health and safety hazards, including diseases that affect humans and other animals.

"After the work was completed, BT received a complaint that the birds may have been protected herring gulls. Naturally, we take complaints very seriously and an investigation was undertaken. Of course, the policies of both BT and Ecolab are to comply with all applicable laws and regulations governing the humane removal of pests.

"BT and Ecolab are both independently recognised as environmentally responsible companies."

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May 14th 2010

Seagulls are getting worse in Dumfries, claims councillor

DUMFRIES is arming itself for the 2010 battle with seagulls as a councillor insists they have returned with a “vengeance”.

An egg and nest removal swat team are now on hand for sites around the town.

But Councillor Andrew Wood (pictured) believes the problem is worse than ever.

He said: “I was parked up in Irish Street the other day and you can see them swooping down and there seems to be more of them this year.

“The gulls have returned with a vengeance.

“We need to do something which would have a lasting affect as what we did last year hasn’t worked as well as it should.

“We need to bring in tougher hawks into the high street and do something to make the gulls’ eggs infertile.”

Dumfries has a long-running issue with the problem birds. Every summer, residents report being dive-bombed and having food stolen from their hands.

Last year, the authority spent £50,000 on having a falcon in the High Street to scare the gulls away. But in December it was admitted that the bird of prey plan failed – after seagull numbers went up.

Another £42,000 has been made available to continue the nest and egg removal programme.

Yesterday, a council spokesman said: “The council is undertaking a programme of egg and nest removals from affected residential and commercial properties again this year, with the aim of reducing the number of gulls in the town.

“Last year 671 nests and a total of 1,535 eggs were removed from around Dumfries and the council is keen to build on that success during the current breeding season.

“The egg and nest removals should decrease the numbers of gulls in the town making the remaining birds feel less confident about nesting.”

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May 14th 2010

Gunmen shooting dead seagulls in their dozens in Sussex

Seagulls across Sussex are being shot and killed in their dozens.

Bird protection groups have offered a £5,000 reward to catch the gunmen responsible for the deaths of up to 50 gulls in a string of attacks across the county in the last fortnight.

The birds are being cruelly shot down from rooftops but in some cases the maimed birds are not dying instantly but are plummeting from rooftops and then dying slow, painful deaths.

The National Seagull Rescue and Protection (NSRP) campaign has had to be called out to care for many of the injured birds.

In the last week the charity has been called in to care for two birds attacked in Hove and another one Brighton, one in Seaford, plus nine in Eastbourne.

Investigators believe the same people are repeatedly shooting at birds. Residents in the Hazlewood Avenue area of Eastbourne have reporting finding about 40 dead gulls in the last two weeks alone.

All 11 species of seagull found in Britain, including the most commonly seen herring gulls, are protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Shooting a seagull is a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail or a £20,000 fine.

Anyone with any information on the shootings should contact NSRP on 07765 114599 or Sussex Police on 0845 6070999.

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May 13th 2010

Fresh bid to cut Dumfries seagull numbers

A second nest and egg removal programme has been launched in Dumfries in a bid to curb the town's seagull numbers.

The scheme was first introduced last year as part of a Scottish government-backed anti-gull initiative.

The town hosted a national summit on the issue before being selected to pilot efforts to tackle the problem.

A first initiative was to fly a falcon to disrupt gull breeding but it was found that the number of breeding pairs actually increased after that effort.

The second phase of the programme was the introduction of a nest removal scheme which saw almost 700 destroyed along with 1,500 eggs.

The service - which is provided free by Dumfries and Galloway Council - is now being repeated in the hope that it will have a marked impact on gull numbers.

Business owners and householders in Dumfries and nearby Heathhall with nests on their properties are being urged to report them to the authority.

The removal scheme will run until the end of July.

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May 13th 2010

Highland leaflet to deal with seagulls

Advice on how to combat birds

THE menace of marauding gulls has led to a leaflet campaign being launched yesterday giving advice to the public about how to combat the nuisance they often cause in urban areas.

Although Highland Council has no statutory duty to take action against gulls, it recognises the misery that gulls cause many homeowners and businesses throughout the nesting season, which is just about to begin.

Copies of a leaflet on seagull control will be distributed from council service points, libraries, transport environmental and community services offices and on the council website at www.highland. gov.uk/seagullcontrol

It provides information and advice on gulls and the law; problems caused by gulls; the controlling of gulls; deterrent measures; and education about gulls.

Councillor John Laing, chairman of transport and environment services committee, said: “Gulls are very opportunistic scavengers and take full advantage of the left-overs that we humans provide for them in our urban areas. Food sources can either be deliberately provided by putting out food scraps, bread and take-aways or indirectly by overfilling household bins or littering.

“I urge everyone not to drop litter in the streets and not to feed gulls at the riverside, harbour or park.

“I also call on homeowners not to feed seagulls in their gardens and to ensure that their bin lids are closed; and businesses to ensure that their waste is securely stored.”

The leaflet also explains that only licensed contractors with specialist skill and experience are legally allowed to kill certain species of gulls. It also explains what homeowners and businesses can do to prevent gulls nesting on their properties and gives examples of the different types of deterrent measures that can be taken to try to prevent gulls from nesting.

Councillor Laing added: “There is no easy answer to dealing with the problem of gulls in urban areas but if we can help to educate the public and advise them of the measures available to them then hopefully we can make a difference.”

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May 12th 2010

Seagulls settle in Hove garden

A pair of seagulls have abandoned the high life to set up home at the bottom of a garden.

The seabirds, which usually choose the highest point they can find to set up home, have chosen a spot on the grass in Rosemary Howat’s Hove garden to start their family.

Seagull expert Tim McKenzie said the case was extremely unusual and he had never heard of seagulls choosing to build their nest on the ground before.

Now conservationists are considering installing an electric fence around the nest to protect the endangered birds.

The gulls had been visiting the garden for several days when they started building a nest on the ground.

Then on Monday the female laid an egg. The love birds are nowfiercely guarding their precious charge.

Mrs Howat, of Livingstone Road, said: “The seagull had been coming and going for a while, but then on Monday morning I noticed she had laid the egg right on the ground and made her nest there.

“I have been trying not to get too close because they will probably be quite territorial. Both of them have been guarding it quite fiercely.”

Keen to keep her new feathered friends happy, Mrs Howat has been feeding them pieces of bread and fish and said even the family’s pet has been keeping clear.

She said: “I was worried that my cat would try and go for them, but it’s been keeping well out of their way.”

Mrs Howat’s visitor is a herring gull, but all kinds of seagulls are protected species meaning the bird, their eggs and nests need looking after.

Mr McKenzie, of the National Gull Rescue and Protection charity, said: “This must be a first.

“I have never heard of a gull making its nest on the ground before – it’s unheard of.

“The worry is as soon as it hatches a fox or a cat will help themselves.

“I cannot think of any reason why a gull would do this.

“We may have to look at putting an electric fence around it to keep them away.

“Moving the nest could result in a £5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.”

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May 4th 2010

REDBRIDGE: Council calls on residents to stop feeding pigeons

PEOPLE who feed pigeons are adding to the borough's vermin problem, according to the council.

The authority has called on residents to stop giving food to the birds, which it warns carry harmful bacteria, viruses and mites.

A council spokeswoman said pigeon droppings, apart from being unsightly, can also damage buildings and block drains.

She said: "Residents often ask if Redbridge Council provides a pigeon removal or destruction service. The answer is no.

"Redbridge Council's Environmental Health Service reduce the number of pigeons through natural control methods only, which include asking people not to feed the pigeons, letting them know about the problems associated with feeding them and explaining why they should stop.

"The council also puts 'no feeding' signs up in public places where pigeon feeding takes place and gives advice on how to install anti-perching appliances to buildings to stop pigeons roosting.

"The amount of pigeons depends on the availability of regular food and the only effective way to control them is to stop feeding them and prevent them from roosting and nesting on buildings.

"Not feeding the pigeons won't result in them dying of starvation but they will breed less or move to another place."

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May 4th 2010

Carlisle estate workers under attack from angry gulls

Angry seagulls are regularly attacking workers on a Carlisle industrial estate, leaving some so afraid that they will no longer risk walking between buildings.

The huge birds are flocking to the Kingstown estate in growing numbers so they can nest on roofs.

But workers in the area are living in fear of the birds, which regularly “dive-bomb” them, probably because they consider them a threat.

Many say the attacks resemble scenes from the classic Alfred Hitchcock horror movie The Birds.

Some companies have now resorted to hiring a bird of prey expert, who has flown a hawk in the area to scare off the seagulls while other have used anti seagull sirens.

With the nesting season about to get underway, employees on the estate are bracing themselves for a surge in attacks as the seagulls battle to protect their chicks.

Truck and car companies are also being frustrated by the amount of seagull muck.

Ian Wheatcroft, branch manager at Ciceley Commercials, the Mercedes-Benz commercial truck and van dealership in Petersfield Road, said: “I’ve been dive-bombed on numerous occasions.

“The seagulls are protecting their young after making nests on the roofs round here.

“Some of these birds are a fair old size, with a wing span of about three feet. It can be quite frightening when they come swooping down at you.”

He said his research suggested that seagulls often return to the place where they were reared, steadily adding to the bird numbers.

The firm’s workshop controller Mark Walters said he had noticed a definite increase in seagull numbers, and he recently saw around 50 of the birds circling above the building where he is based.

“It’s definitely getting worse,” he said. “It never used to be a major problem here.”

One of the key problems for the companies affected is the seagull mess – which has to be washed of vehicles quickly because it is acidic and would otherwise stain paint-work.

The firm hopes the use of a hawk or eagle of some kind may keep seagull numbers down.

At the nearby Graham (Commercials), on Kingstown Broadway, director Stuart Graham said: “The seagulls are a major problem. Basically, people don’t feel safe walking from one depot to another because once the chicks are born the birds become very protective, swooping down on people. It’s a problem across the estate.

“You can’t walk round the corner without being dive-bombed. It’s scary – you have to watch your back all the time. Even though it’s just 100 yards from our office to our depot round the corner, some people won’t risk it – they drive round in the van.”

Across the road, at the Bendalls Hinds paint and body car workshop, general manager Darren Wildey said: “It’s a big problem for us too.

“Because the seagull muck is so corrosive, it spoils paint-work, and we’ve had to redo vehicles because of it.

“The firm over the road used a siren, with a recording of a seagull in distress, but that just scared them on to other buildings.”

Several of the firms said they were advised by environmental health officials that they would have to come up with methods of dealing with the seagull problem themselves. But the law prevents any person from interfering with a bird which is caring for chicks in a nest.

Gary Swainson, 39, who has been a falconer for 30 years, uses his birds to help McVities keep seagulls off their premises in Carlisle, said: “The problem is definitely getting worse.

“Many seagulls are just not going out to sea and many have permanently become inland birds.

“It's probably a lot to do with there being more fast food outlets, and that means they can make good living.”

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April 29th 2010

Cardiff bid to crack gull menace

CARDIFF council has launched an unusual new scheme to tackle the persistent seagull problem in the city.

Fake seagull eggs are being offered to businesses in order to discourage the birds from congregating and in some cases attacking people.

The eggs are used to replace real eggs, which are taken away. With fewer young, the birds are less aggressive.

The gull population is on the increase in urban areas and can often lead to problems such as noise, nesting on roofs, swooping to protect young and the ripping open of rubbish bags.

A leaflet has been produced by the council’s Pest Control and Waste Management services, which offers advice to businesses across the city.

Residents in Birchgrove faced a serious threat from the airborne nuisances in the past couple of years.

Unsuspecting home-owners on Groveland Road were dive-bombed by the birds and some were too afraid to leave their houses.

Now, due to the instalment of roof-top spikes, the problem seems to have subsided.

Jennifer Reynolds, who lives on the street, said: “Hopefully it’s going to be fine this summer, but for the past three or four years, some of our neighbours haven’t even been able to go out in their gardens.”

Another resident, Susan Bull, said: “It’s a really clean area around here so I don’t know why they chose to nest here.

“They don’t make a lot of noise, but then when they had their babies they were horrible.”

Cardiff council has offered advice about the presentation of food waste for collection, particularly in areas served by the tri-bag system. Residents should put food waste in bio bags, which are collected in the morning.

If disposed of in black bags, which are collected in the afternoon, there is a longer opportunity for gulls to rip the bags open.

A trial scheme involving kerbside caddies will also begin shortly. Areas with the most reported cases of seagull nuisance will be some of those involved in this food collection scheme, which involves larger versions of kitchen caddies placed at the kerbside for collection.

It is also best to avoid putting out excessive amounts of food for wild birds in the garden, says the council. Gulls will return year after year to areas where they find food and will scare off other birds.

Cardiff council’s cabinet member for the environment, Margaret Jones said: “It is clear that the seagull population in Cardiff is growing, as are the subsequent problems associated with the birds.

“By making helpful tips and recommendations available by leaflet, through our website and via the pest control service, we are giving people the opportunity to lessen the chances of seagull nuisance.”

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April 27th 2010

Cardiff gull menace grows

As the breeding season gets underway, Cardiff Council is offering support and advice to help minimise seagull nuisance.

Executive Member for Environment Councillor Margaret Jones said: "It is clear that the seagull population in Cardiff is growing, as are the subsequent problems associated with the birds.

"By making helpful tips and recommendations available by leaflet, through our website and via the pest control service, we are giving people the opportunity to lessen the chances of seagull nuisance."

The gull population is on the increase in urban areas and can often lead to problems such as noise, nesting on roofs, swooping to protect young and the ripping open of rubbish bags.

A leaflet by the council's Pest Control and Waste Management services offers information and advice to businesses across the city. The team also offers a service to commercial premises, where eggs are carefully replaced with plastic imitations.

With fewer young, the birds are then less aggressive.

Businesses are advised to:

Make sure left over food is quickly cleared from outside areas

Dispose of edible litter in gull-proof hidden bins

Present food waste for collection in wheeled bins or similar containers; plastic bin bags are an open invitation for gulls to explore

Discourage people from dropping food litter on the floor (this is an offence and the person committing the offence may be liable for a penalty)

Consider using parasols. These tend to "hide" food from seagulls' vision

Gulls are drawn to urban areas by the vast amount of food on offer and there are also cautionary measures that can be taken by residents. These include following the Council's advice about the presentation of food waste for collection, particularly in areas served by the tri-bag system.

Food waste for example, should be placed in bio bags, which are collected in the morning. If disposed of in black bags, which are collected in the afternoon, there is a longer opportunity for gulls to rip the bags open.

A trial scheme involving kerbside caddies will also begin shortly. Areas with the most reported cases of seagull nuisance will be some of those involved in this food collection scheme, which involves larger versions of kitchen caddies placed at the kerbside for collection.

It is also best to avoid putting out excessive amounts of food for wild birds in the garden. Gulls will return year-after-year to areas where they find food and will scare off other birds.

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April 18th 2010

Fight-shy falcons a failure at seeing off smug seagulls

IT WAS meant to be an inspired way to stop flocks of seagulls terrorising a town centre. Eight falcons were brought in to Dumfries to scare off the pests. Their presence alone was expected to do the trick – to keep animal rights sensibilities they had not been trained to attack the intruders.

But the gulls quickly learned that they were in no real danger – so more actually flocked there. The trial project – the first of its kind on the UK – has been declared a disaster in an official report. A new trial is now being planned with birds of prey taught to exert "direct lethal control".

The Dumfries trial, which cost about £50,000, involved experts from the local council, the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The problem was recognised by Mike Russell, the former SNP environment minister in 2008, who said it was time to "get tough on seagulls and tough on the causes of seagulls." The trial was expected to pave the way for seagull control in communities around the Scottish coast.

But the experts' report found that after being frightened by the falcons for the first five weeks of the ten-week study, the gulls then started to ignore the birds of prey.

Sensitive to complaints from animal rights groups, the falcons had not been taught to hunt by their trainers, in order to make sure they did not kill the gulls.

Instead, the falcons were expected to simply perch on buildings or fly around among the seagulls birds to intimidate them into fleeing.

However, in the report for the government, the trial organisers wrote:

"It was apparent, however, that both species of gull began to tolerate the presence of falcons as the trial period progressed and no actual threat occurred."

The report concluded that the total number of lesser black-backed and herring gull nests rose from 138 during 2008 to 149 last year.

"The programme implemented therefore failed to reduce the nesting population," it said.

The report recommends a further trial, which involves either "direct lethal control" by the falcons, or allowing the birds of prey to swoop down on already-dead gulls to scare the other birds.

The new kill-on-sight policy, however, has not found favour with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland. A spokesman said: "The RSPB favours non-lethal solutions and believes that gulls should only be killed as a last resort."

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April 1st 2010

Help for Ilfracombe folk in battle against seagulls

PEOPLE in Ilfracombe are being offered help in their fight against seagulls and litter.

North Devon Council has bought 100 devices called gull guards, which aim to prevent seagulls from attacking rubbish left out for collection. These can then be bought by local people at a subsidised price.

The product is suitable for certain homes in the town where wheelie bins cannot be used. It is a smart, stainless steel tube that fixes permanently on a house wall. This contains a strong, retractable mesh bag, which can then protect up to three black bin bags.

Cllr Rodney Cann, Lead Member for Waste and Recycling, said: "As spring approaches, seagulls start their nesting season, which is a real issue for residents in Ilfracombe. This is because many homes leave their rubbish out in black bags, which are then at risk of seagull attack.

"These gull guards can help protect those bags from being ripped open, preventing roads and pavements from being littered, and saving residents the hassle of cleaning up afterwards."

The gull guard offer follows a successful pilot project organised by neighbourhood management team, Transform. The guards usually cost around £33 each. However, the council has bought these at a reduced rate, and is offering them to local people at a further discounted price of £12. They will now be handed over to the Ilfracombe Street Reps Network, to distribute to households that want to buy one.

Ilfracombe Street Rep, Wendy Butler, said: "Seagulls along the coast can cause real problems for residents and we are keen to help come up with a solution. We know that there are many responsible people here who make a great effort to cover their black bags, sometimes using things like sheets or curtains. However, this is often messy and ineffective. Therefore, our volunteer reps will be going out over the next few weeks to see if households in suitable areas want to take up the gull guard offer."

If the gull guards prove popular in Ilfracombe, the council will look at whether they could work in other coastal areas.

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April 1st 2010

Pesky gulls send people into a flap

Fed up residents have signed a petition calling for the council to tackle the town's seagull population.

More than 250 people across town put their signatures on the document saying the herring gulls' noise were making their lives a misery.

Daphne May, of Winchelsea Road, who organised the petition, made her pleas at a cabinet meeting on Monday, calling for the council to take steps to limit gull numbers.

She said: "The noise from the gulls is horrendous and even earplugs and headphones barely blunt it.

"Food has been snatched from children by gulls in Winchelsea Road and two mothers had to leave the park while picnicking because they were harassed by the birds."

The pensioner called on the council to launch a campaign against feeding the gulls as well as spiking chimneys and roofs.

Legislation bans adult herring gulls from being culled as they are a declining species and protected by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Richard Homewood, the council's corporate director for environmental services, said a number of limited options were open to the council such as egg oiling and replacement to restrict new gull numbers, and deterring people from feeding the birds.

Councillor Robert Cooke said he had a 'lot of sympathy' for residents.

He said: "I remember being chased by a gull when I was 16.

"An educational campaign to get residents not to put out black rubbish bags before collection would go a long way."

Cllr Richard Stevens said gulls were 'part and parcel' of Hastings as a seaside town.

He said: "Where there is a food source gulls will concentrate in that area."

Cllr Phil Scott said: "If you live in a seaside town you should expect to see seagulls. I accept that for some seagulls are a problem and in some of the more problematic areas such as the Old Town, central St Leonards and parts of Ore.

"The council needs to work with residents in tackling some of the problems associated with seagulls such as ripping black rubbish bags apart.

"Black bags should only be put out on the day of collection, so residents may need to consider taking some responsibility themselves and proofing their roofs which would stop herring gulls from nesting.

"I do not accept a need to cull gulls as we are being advised that their numbers are in decline. In any event the herring gulls are a protected species.

"Hastings Borough Council has in place an animal welfare charter."

- After the meeting, the local authority said it wants people to think carefully about where they place bin bags.

Richard Homewood said: "Seagulls really are a part of Hastings but as the weather gets warmer we see a huge increase in the number of birds attacking bin bags and spreading their contents all over the street.

"I would urge residents to keep bin bags in a secure area until the morning of collection day and not to put them out until 7am."

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March 24th 2010

Pigeon mess could put newly-weds in a flap

CONCERNS have been voiced over the 'shabby' state of an Alnwick building which is used for weddings, but plagued by pigeon fouling.

Coun Susan Bell said The Centre on Fenkle Street – which houses the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and hosts wedding ceremonies on the building's ground floor – was looking 'messy' and it was clear that the problem with pigeon excrement still existed.

After the meeting, Coun Geoff Watson admitted the birds were causing a "terrific problem" by fouling on the front of the building and on the steps below.

But he said that plans were in place to try and alleviate the issue.

Coun Watson, manager at Alnwick Community Development Trust (ACDT) – which is also housed in The Centre – said he regularly cleans the area, particularly when there is a wedding, and the county council has also assisted when asked.

He added that a conservation officer has given the trust permission to put spikes on the front of the building to try and solve the problem but it was waiting for the county council to supply a cherry picker so the spikes can be fixed.

"Pigeons do create a horrible mess," he admitted.

"It is a problem in Alnwick and it is a problem at The Centre because we have wedding parties here."

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February 11th 2010

Holy Island sees record numbers of light-bellied geese

The big freeze in Europe has helped attract record numbers of rare geese to an island off Northumberland.

About 4,000 light-bellied brent geese have landed at the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve on Holy Island.

Normally only half of the species' world population of 6,000 come to the island from the Arctic, with the remainder wintering in Denmark.

But experts say frozen wetlands in the Scandinavian nation has led to more seeking refuge in England.

The coastal climate of the Lindisfarne reserve still provides an attractive feeding site for the birds, despite the UK suffering from prolonged cold weather earlier this winter.

Reserve manager Andrew Craggs said: "It is a sign of just how widespread the big freeze has been that these geese are present at Lindisfarne in such large numbers.

'Never touched down'

"The arrival of the geese is a treat for wildlife watchers, but it is a sobering thought that virtually the entire world population of these birds rely on only a couple of locations in Europe for their survival in winter."

Carl Watts, the reserve's community outreach officer, said mystery surrounded the location of the remaining light-bellied brents, with no sightings reported in Denmark or the rest of Europe.

He said: "It was expected that they would arrive at Lindisfarne but they never touched down.

"The geese are not radio tracked and Birdlife International, which works globally to conserve birds, has not reported any sightings in Europe to us.

"One possibility is that some could have died, but we hope that they have been able to find new grounds on which to winter."

The birds traditionally arrive in November after travelling from the Arctic island of Svalbard and they normally head back in March.

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February 10th 2010

Car trade in Gloucester is hit by gulls

GARAGE owners yesterday pleaded with officials to deal with seagulls in Gloucester city centre.

During a debate at Westminster yesterday, MPs heard the problem had even prompted one firm to consider moving out of Gloucester.

Jeff Close, manager of Nick King Car Sales Ltd in Bristol Road, said his business had experienced problems for years.

"Between March and September we are out there every morning cleaning bird mess off the cars, it is horrendous,"

He added: "We have to employ a car washer just to deal with it, it really is awful."

He urged officials to do something about the problem.

"The thing is, when they are moved on from the tip, they just move into Gloucester causing problems for everyone who lives and works in the city," he said.

The birds have even attacked cars as they are driven onto the forecourt at Cotswold Motor Group, MPs heard.

And they heard claims the gulls' acidic droppings could corrode paintwork unless swiftly cleaned off.

The owners of Cotswold Motor Group, in Cole Avenue, were so fed up with the feathered menaces they considered relocating, MPs heard.

The plight of the firm and other businesses was raised during a parliamentary debate by Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda.

He told ministers there were around 2,800 breeding pairs of seagulls in the city which thrive on readily-available food, an abundance of rooftop nesting sites and a lack of natural predators.

Mr Dhanda said: "This is a growing and serious problem."

Seagulls can have wingspans of more than four feet and can 'dive-bomb' at 40mph.

Mr Dhanda said: "We are seeing far more aggressive behaviour from these gulls.

"More and more we are seeing these birds becoming bolder in their activity."

There are believed to be two colonies of seagulls in Gloucester – at the tip and also near Bristol Road.

"There are a number of businesses that have been in touch with me," said Mr Dhanda.

He urged ministers to fund research, to give a greater understanding of the birds' habits, and tackling the problem.

He said: "I don't want Cotswold Motor Group or other businesses moving away.

"I am not calling for culls either but we need to know what we can do to restrict the size of these populations."

Large sums have been spent trying to combat the problem, from removing and oiling gulls' eggs to installing netting and using birds of prey, but numbers continue to rise.

Rural Affairs Minister Dan Norris pointed out there was an obligation to conserve wild bird populations, and some species of gulls were in decline.

Tackling sources of food and available habitat was the long- term solution, he insisted.

Mr Norris added: "I don't think further research is necessary. My officials do feel we have a lot of information about gull behaviour."

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February 7th 2010

£740-a-bird cull of ruddy ducks 'a waste of money'

A government-funded drive to wipe out the US interloper is not only expensive but doomed to failure, say wildlife activists

A controversial UK cull of ruddy ducks, a US native that has been compared to a "feathered lager lout" for its displays of thuggish and amorous behaviour, has cost the British taxpayer more than £740 for each dead bird.

Figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that shoots of the chestnut-coloured bird have cost taxpayers £4.6m, yet only 6,200 have been killed.

The disclosure has sparked an outcry from ornithologists and animal activists who have protested since the cull began five years ago. They say that the bird, ­targeted because it had interbred with the threatened white-headed duck in Spain, should have been left alone. The cull is due to end in August.

Lee Evans, the founder of the British Birding Association, said that the cull should be abandoned. "It's appalling and pointless, a complete waste of taxpayers' money. What's the point of it all? Our ruddy ducks don't go to Spain, but the French ducks do, and the French are not culling their birds. These marksmen are getting away with murder," he said.

Sir Peter Scott, the respected conservationist, has been blamed for accidentally introducing Oxyura jamaicensis to Britain more than 50 years ago. After escaping from Scott's Gloucestershire sanctuary, the species soon gained an unfortunate reputation: its mating call sounds more like a belch, it boasts a penis half the length of its body and, after mating, it ignores its partner.

By the 1990s the population was estimated to be in the thousands and the bird had spread to Spain, where it had cross-bred with its white-headed cousin. This has resulted in hybrid youngsters that threaten the purity of the species and its very existence, according to some experts.

Birdwatchers say the plan to cull the birds is pointless because other European countries have not implemented a similar plan.

Hampshire-based estate manager John Levell claimed to have witnessed one shoot. He wrote on his website: "The Defra gunships turned up today in their attempt to obliterate the poor old ruddy duck. The cost of eight gunboats chasing half a dozen ruddys about must run well into the tens of thousands of pounds, and I can't imagine this government has money to burn in such a fashion."

At Pitsford Water, Northamptonshire, seven marksmen arrived in a four-by-four each towing a trailer and a boat, according to one birdwatcher.

The scheme has been run by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), part of Defra. However, other European countries such as Holland and France have resisted a cull, with a resultant rise in the population.

A spokesman for the RSPB said it stood by its decision to support the cull. "We appreciate that members may feel great concern over birds being killed, and eradicating ruddy ducks from the UK is clearly not an action that anybody approaches with enthusiasm. However, we have long felt that it would be wrong to stand by, do nothing and allow the white-headed duck to become extinct. It is important that eradication from the UK is achieved as soon as possible."

In a statement a Defra spokesman said the ducks "threaten the survival of the globally endangered white-headed duck. Eradicating the ruddy duck in the UK is part of the European Life Project to conserve and protect the white-headed duck and is supported by conservation organisations such as the RSPB, BirdLife International and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Extensive research has shown that culling ruddy ducks by shooting is the most humane way of eradicating them, and this is carried out by trained expert marksmen."

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January 24th 2010

Scottish Government in flap over birds of prey

A well-intentioned attempt by ministers to prevent sparrowhawks from killing homing pigeons has turned into an embarrassing fiasco for the Scottish Government, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

An intensely controversial trial saw hawks being trapped and taken far from pigeon lofts. However, the project has achieved nothing as the number of birds involved was so small and the data so unreliable. It will not be repeated.

The final report of the trial, seen by the Sunday Herald and due to be published tomorrow, is bound provoke a storm of claims and counterclaims but it has failed to resolve any of the major disagreements.

Wildlife groups say that predation is natural and leads to the loss of only a tiny proportion of pigeons.

The owners of urban doocots, however, insist it’s cruel and damaging.

In November 2007, the then Environment Minister, Michael Russell, decided to conduct an experiment to see if trapping and relocating sparrowhawks would protect the pigeons. The idea was opposed as ineffective by the Government’s wildlife advisers, and was delayed in 2008.

Nevertheless, the £25,000 trial eventually went ahead, and ran from January to April 2009. Attempting to bring together the Scottish Homing Union, which represents 3,500 pigeon-fanciers, and the Government’s conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, it was dogged by strife over its scientific methods.

Its final report was delayed while they argued over how to interpret the results. The main problem was that so little data had been gathered.

Tomorrow’s report will reveal that only seven sparrowhawks were relocated away from five pigeon lofts. One of them returned twice to the vicinity of the loft, and two others were replaced by other hawks. The report says: “The quantity and quality of the observational data collected meant that it was impossible to draw any firm conclusions.”

‘No conclusive data was found on whether relocation of sparrowhawks is an effective way of reducing predation in racing pigeons,” said a Scottish Government spokeswoman, adding that there would be “no further research involving the trapping or translocation of raptors.”

The homing union, however, completely rejected the report’s findings. It insisted that the data showed that when sparrowhawks were removed the number of attacks on pigeons dropped from one every 10 days to one every 34 days.

“We are very optimistic that licensed trapping and translocation could at last provide some protection,” said the union’s secretary, Linda Brooks.

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January 22nd 2010

Report pigeon problems - public are urged

LOCAL residents are being asked to formally complain about the pigeon nuisance in Market Rasen in a bid to get Network Rail to recognise the problem.

West Lindsey Environmental Protection Officer Tony Adams said the railway company is to carry out another assessment of the bridge at Queen Street as part of its policy and procedures which must be done before any work to clear the nuisance of pigeon mess can be authorised.

"The last assessment found the pigeons did not present a 'statutory nuisance' but marginally so and the problem has since been reduced by virtue of removal of the bill boards," Mr Adams said.

He added that at the time of the previous assessment there was no visible problem and the case lacked specific numbers and details of complaints, many of which have come through the Town Council.

"I ask the town council ensures complaints regarding pigeons at this bridge are reported and where possible any unreported records of complaint are compiled and forwarded as soon as possible," Mr Adams said.

Residents have reported numerous incidents of slipping in pigeon mess and it being dropped on them by the flying pests.

The pigeon population has begun to decrease but remains a nuisance underneath both the Queen St and Chapel Street bridges.

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January 21st 2010

Hawk hired to scare off Holyrood pigeons flies away for good

THE Scottish Parliament's "war" against a long-standing enemy has suffered a major blow, with the loss of one of its deadliest weapons.

One of the hawks brought in last year to cut down on the mess made by pigeons. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Tweed, a Harris hawk, who was drafted in at a cost of £44,000 to scare pigeons away from the Holyrood building, has gone AWOL.

He is understood to have moved to Salisbury Crags, near the parliament.

Since its completion in 2004, the £400 million parliament building has been plagued by dozens of pigeons, which roost in the air-conditioning vents and on window ledges.

The clean-up bill for the mess left by the "winged vermin" runs into tens of thousands of pounds every year.

But yesterday, the parliamentary authorities were forced to admit that one of the their birds of prey, which they hoped would end the problem, had apparently given up the fight and flown off.

It was unclear whether, after six and a half months of effort, the eight-month-old hawk had got fed up of the edict that prevented him from actually killing any pigeons.

The ruling was imposed as a condition of the hawks, work to make sure visiting schoolchildren were not upset.

The deal to bring in the hawks was secured last year by NBS Bird and Pest Solutions after other moves, including relocating some pigeons to Ayrshire, had failed.

Since last summer, Tweed and his fellow birds of prey have been seen several times a week flying over Holyrood.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said yesterday: "Regrettably, one of our contractor's hawks has gone missing.

"However, this does not affect the cost or conditions with the contractor who supplies this service.

"The falconry contract is helping us deal with our pigeon problem and seven other birds of prey continue to be flown at Holyrood.

"In the long term, we fully expect to see a reduction in the money we spend on external cleaning as a result of pigeons being deterred from the parliament building."

In a report before the decision was made, parliament officials warned, under a section headed "The Risks", that they had assessed the use of three different birds, a red-tailed hawk, a Harris hawk and a Saker falcon, and said: "Both hawks were successful in flying to high points.

"The red tail was good at getting into some of the nooks and crannies, but often had problems on landing, failing to stop, and on one occasion flew into the windows of the members' restaurant."

However, the report failed to identify the possibility of Tweed going native.

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slideshow of images humane bird control Hampshire

The PiCAS Group will provide advice on the control of any bird species. Advice is most commonly sought for problems relating to the following:

Pigeon or Rock Dove: Pigeons are never more at home than when roosting and breeding on buildings in urban areas and as a result they are the most commonly controlled species of bird on the planet. Conventional pest control options such as lethal control has simply acted to increase pigeon numbers, not reduce them. The PiCAS Group has specialised in pigeon control for decades, researching and designing effective and sustainable pigeon control systems and as a result is now considered to be the foremost authority on the subject worldwide. PiCAS will provide advice on the protection of individual buildings and sites through to the provision of area-wide pigeon control systems for local authorities.

Gulls: Gulls have historically caused problems for property owners in towns and cities close to coastal areas but now many species of gull, including herring gulls, black headed gulls and black backed gulls are becoming common in many inland urban areas. These species are commonly known as roof-nesting gulls. Effective gull management systems are complex and to be effective they must be holistic and deal with the source of the problem as well as the problem itself. PiCAS will advise on all aspects of humane but effective gull control.

Ducks and Geese: Ducks and geese are a growing problem throughout the UK in villages, towns and even city parks with deliberate and persistent feeding of the birds being the root cause of the problem. Duck control and goose control is never straightforward and can be a highly public and emotive issue. PiCAS has extensive experience of providing humane but effective duck and goose management systems for councils, property owners and site managers throughout the UK.

Canada Geese: This species is starting to cause major problems for property owners and site managers throughout the UK. As with most waterfowl controls, Canada goose control systems are complex and must be holistic. PiCAS has extensive experience of controlling Canada goose populations, whether they be static or migratory, and will tailor a Canada goose control programme to the specific needs of the client.

Starlings and Sparrows: Although starlings were a common problem in town and city centres worldwide during the 1960’s and 1970’s, fewer problems are now being reported. However, where starlings do roost in large numbers problems can be extreme and PiCAS will provide any property owner with a tailor-made starling control system.

Sparrow populations are in rapid decline and as a result fewer sparrow-related problems are being reported. Sparrows do sometimes cause problems in food production plants and food preparation facilities however. Sparrow control is rarely simple or straightforward due to the fact that these small birds can easily access roof voids or internal areas due to their size. PiCAS will provide advice on humane but effective sparrow control.

Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves: These species are more complex to control and are more commonly associated with rural areas. Both species are now becoming more common in urban areas where they can cause problems for residential property owners. Control options for these species are limited but PiCAS will offer advice where both wood pigeon control and collared dove control is concerned.

Rook, Magpie, Jackdaw and Hooded Crow (Corvids): These species commonly cause problems in both urban and rural areas and can be complex to control. Rook control and Crow control options are usually limited to rural areas where they are perceived to cause crop damage and predate on livestock in the case of crows, but nuisance is exaggerated. Rooks often breed in rookeries and can cause significant disturbance as a result of noise. Magpie control is more commonly sought in urban areas due to their growing presence in domestic gardens as a result of persecution in rural areas. Jackdaws rarely cause problems other than nesting in chimney pots and therefore jackdaw control is extremely straightforward. All members of the Corvid family can be controlled effectively using non-lethal and holistic controls.

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