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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Yearly Visitors To Rock Hill

The town of Rock Hill, as well as my home in Chester County just 15 miles south of the city, are both at least a four hour drive from the Atlantic coast and Myrtle Beach - one of the more popular tourist destinations for out-of-state visitors to the Palmetto State. This far inland one does not usually expect to find seagulls. 

The Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) is quite a common sight every year in the winter months hanging around the parking lot at the K-Mart shopping center on the corner of Anderson & Cherry Road in Rock Hill. Sometimes only about a dozen, or as many as a hundred can be found at this particular parking lot. Other mall parking lots have them as well, though only a few to a dozen at any given time. 

The Ring-billed gull is native to Canada and the northern part of the United States, though they can also be found in Western Europe as well.    

These are some of the photos I managed to get of these yearly northern visitors on Thursday, February 11th. 



I witnessed several people driving slowly through them, while the birds walked slowly out of the way, or hovered in the air while the vehicles went by. These little fellows were fearless. One group - students from the nearby Winthrop University - actually threw out half a bad of old loaf bread. The bread lasted all of a few brief seconds as the winged piranha quickly swallowed them down.   

Some people tend to feed them leftover popcorn from the local Cinema nearby, other leftover loaf bread, or scraps from the nearby fast food establishments. Some feed them bread, crackers or even popcorn from the nearby Cinema, which unfortunately is terrible for them. Any kind of white bread is the equivalent of junk food for birds that fills them up extremely fast and can lead to major health problems for these animals, including death from stomach and intestinal damage. Those who do feed these animals such foods are good-hearten, though terribly misguided.

There are other conservation issues with feeding wildlife that I somewhat agree with in certain cases - though considering that much of the local wildlife has little trouble with stealing from the food sources of outdoor pets, I kinda look the other way when it comes to leaving pet food for feral cats and dogs, or giving corn to squirrels.

I neither support, no condemn people who feed these migratory birds. I feed birds myself, though I stick with bird seed. I recommend the same for people who feed waterfowl, pigeons, ect. since birdseed, or corn is closer to their actual natural food sources.

As I drove close to the gulls they moved only slight as I parked and then got out. Some hovered as I set up my tripod and began taking photos. Aside from the few moments I felt like an extra in a certain Alfred Hitchcock film, the gulls showed no real aggressive behavior. They stood off slightly, or hovered just overhead, none too concerned about their new visitor taking photos of them. In fact, several actually seemed to enjoy the attention. 

I cannot help but wonder if some of them were the same exact birds that were hanging out in this same parking lot the year before. I can't tell, since the markings are similar and aside from bird watching my knowledge of avian psychology and behavior is limited; but I suspect that some instinct that makes the same Canadian Geese fly thousands of miles to the same ponds in the American Southland where they, or their parents, were hatched also applies to these amazing birds. 

I thanked the little winged visitors before I packed up and slowed drove by them on my way home. I plan to make a few more trips by the area in the coming month or so. Hopefully I can say hello a few more times before they leave for the year.

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