Oh, for a gull’s egg

The season for gulls’ eggs is so short that, blink twice and you’ll miss it. In a normal year it runs for 3 or 4 weeks between April and May. This year, blink once, and you will have missed it, as I did. There I was, trotting along to Bentley’s in Swallow Street, looking forward to a glass of champagne and three or four of the epicurean delights of the egg world before lunch. “I’m very sorry, sir,’ said the man behind the bar. “There are no gulls’ eggs to be had, even for ready money.’ I reeled back. ‘What?’ I said. “What? What?’ Now, normally, the eggs of the black-headed gulls – larus ridibundus – are collected in an orderly fashion by licensed gulls’ eggs gatherers during a strictly appointed and policed season. However, it seems that word has got about that fortunes are to be made from this trade (which may not be so surprising given that some restaurateurs will charge up to £6 an egg), and the cliffs where the gulls’ nest were swarming with unlicensed blokes plundering the eggs on a grand scale. “It was like the Wild West,’ said the man behind the bar. Consequently, the season was brought to a premature close, and hence the acute shortage of legitimate eggs and hence my crushing disappointment.

A few years back war raged around the traditional elver fishing tumps on the Rivers Severn and Wye. Cudgels were wielded and interlopers found themselves tipped into the murky waters. Not long ago there were skirmishes on the cockle beds around Cardiff, when local cockle harvesters took on cockle-poaching gangs from the Midlands. Will it be long before similar scenes are re-enacted on the cliffs and marshes where the black-headed gull breeds?

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