Gull ID problems just got worse/better

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I have misidentified gulls.  I think most (if not all) birders have misidentified gulls.  Now if you do happen to have a manky Black-headed on your patch that you have told everyone is a Bonaparte's (just for example) then you can blame your misidentification on radioactive waste.  No really.

Europe's most contaminated industrial site is in Cumbria.  It is called Sellafield. You may know this.   Being near the coast, there are a fair few seabirds around, and being a nuclear installation they produce waste.  Unfortunately these two things combine.  The waste goes into open pools of water for storage, and the gulls go and sit in the pools (because it's what they do) and then they die.  The people at Sellafield then have to store the carcasses as nuclear waste - they are described as 'putrescent', which I like.  They currently have about 350 animal carcasses in a special freezer on site (which I assume is a long way from the catering facilities) which will eventually be put into landfill on site.  What I don't understand about all this is that they haven't covered the pools with some chicken wire or something.  I've done science and stuff and I know that the wire over the pool is not going to glow or dissolve or anything like that, so why not replace the very expensive pest control company with some preventitive measure?

Stick with it dear reader, I'm getting somewhere.   Now I can only assume that not every gull that lands in said pools dies instantly (radiation doesn't work like that) which means that it may have been able to leave the pool, fly off, and if it escapes the hands of the pest controllers it can enter the wider population.  It is here that exposure to radiation can take effect if it breeds as it's progeny might then produce strangeness due to corruption of mytochondria or sperm or ova or whatever else.  What could the effects be?  Primaries without the expected P5 tongue?  Beady eyes? Abnormal carpal bars?  Beaks that are straighter than you might expect? An absence of a prominent gonys?  Yellowy legs?  Super long tibia? 

You get the picture.  Remember this the next time you tell someone that you have found a cracking Larid and are told that it is not a cracking Larid at all and that you are very silly indeed.  It's probably a radioactive bird you can say - you'll be able to get away with anything.  You heard it here first.

Before I stop for today, the the Thing household was in a state of Ren & Stimpy like joy last night as Mrs Thing got some degree results yesterday, and was awarded 80% in her scientific dissertation.  Eighty bloody per cent.  That's officially outstanding.  Good on you kiddo.

A Common Gull doing flying when the sky was that blue colour that it used to do ages ago.


Ernest said...

Ray says.... I always wondered about that Spanish Sparrow up at Wigton. I mean, how many genes separate the various sparrows... House, tree, spanish, italian? Nuclear Power Station just down the road, landscape full of radioactivity from the Chernobyl disaster.... it's a no-brainer.
I ticked it anyway, feeling an unnatural warm glow if I remember rightly.
Anyhow, I am off now to do some birdwatching... perhaps Coots will be counted, perhaps not.
Remember.... not everything that gets counted counts... and not everything that counts gets counted.
How very true that is.

Dave said...

Happy happy joy joy!
What a great post, we have a power plant close to our patch that the gulls and ducks feed at...I now have a new excuse!

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Mrs Thingy!

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