I was enjoying the opportunity to photograph a gull mercilessly terrorizing a neighbor’s garbage when I got a chill up the back of my spine. We know this bird. The moment my lens came into focus it was clear: I was looking at Mac Daddy: North Beach’s Oldest & Most Experienced Herring Gull.
Now, before you assume that I’ve jumped to hasty conclusions I’ll give you some background. I’ve been silent on the Mac Daddy issue, fearful he may have perished during the difficult off season, and wanted to spare you all the anguish if he never showed. Early July is the same time he made his return appearance last year so I was being patient, also knowing that Mac Daddy would reveal himself through his behavior before anything else.
But in the meantime, I’ve taken over 1,361 photos of possible Mac Daddy’s this season and subjected each to rigorous beak checks against my stock Mac Daddy Identification Shots.
You see, gulls are extremely difficult to identify. Forget the fact that they all look the same: each is constantly morphing and molting. Even over the course of a few weeks a gull can change appearance radically. Feathers, coloring, spots, beak markings, eye markings: everything in a constant state of flux. It takes a strong set of geeky Photoshop skills and some carefully framed photos to do it accurately.
But relative beak measurements are the reliable key, and this bird passes my tests with 96% accuracy. And importantly: even though I’d “hoped” in my heart of hearts that those 1,361 other gulls were Mac Daddy, this was the first I knew was Mac Daddy, even before I looked at the photos carefully. Perhaps I’ll do a later post with some the gory photographic evidence to help let any “experts” out there weigh in and maybe give some ID tips.
After all this excitement I headed to the beach for a Celebratory and Absolutely Freezing Swim. Well, well, well, what do you think I saw?
That’s right. Mac Daddy (definitely the same bird I had just caught raiding the garbage) was on the beach, right back where we left off. Raiding camps, walkin’ on yer towels, and munchin’ on yer Cheezitz (TM).
Consider yourself warned if you live in North Beach. Mac is Back. Your stuff is NOT SAFE.
Welcome back Mac Daddy. It just would not be summer without.
Special Note: this post was typed with a joyful tear in my eye.