France went down to the cove late in the day yesterday while I was finishing up the last post. It took a little longer than I thought and I didn’t know if I’d even find her there by the time I walked down the very slippery trail. It had rained a good part of the day. We had no visitors. The tide was just an hour past low and the sandy beach extended quite far out to the waterline with seaweed-covered rocks exposed to the afternoon sun. As soon as I got to the top of the wooden stairs leading down from the tram to the rocks on the beach I saw that France wasn’t there and I heard the same gull who sits on the stunted top of a tall tree on the other side of the cove, where there are a lot of dense trees growing on a steep rock cliff, begin to make the same calls of protest he shrieks each time he sees me. This time I vowed not to be cowering when he dive-bombed me. I’d brought my camera and gotten a nice shot of the pink flowers in bloom all over the island but specifically on the path down to the cove, which are more delicate than Rose Hips, called Rugosa roses. After goading the bird with my imitations of it’s calls of distress, I whipped it out as if it were a weapon, stood tall, stood my ground and hit the telephoto as it zoomed off its high perch (was it really a nest that high in the sky as though it were an osprey, when all the other gulls made sloppy dried grass nests in the bushes or right in the middle of a trail we’d cleared?). I didn’t flinch as it came straight at me. Long before I would have hit the beach face down in the sand, it veered up and circled around for a second wave of attack. I wasn’t intimidated; it veered off and landed back on the tree, squawked a little and settled in to leave me alone. I turned to find France on the deck in front of the boathouse. I’d seen her shortly before; she was turned the other way looking at something through the binoculars. I hadn’t wanted to scare her but as my attention was drawn to the gull, hers was drawn to me, because as she explained to me later on, the gull made no such noises when she was on the beach earlier, to take a quick dip. So it’s just me? France wanted to know what it was I’d said to the gull previously to offend it.
They are becoming use to our presence. We walked up the tram to avoid the slippery grass path to go back up to the house and the same gull was perched on the rail we’ve seen before, who guards a nest underneath. We walked slowly side by side and made no noise to see how close this one would let us come. Instead of flying off as we approached and circling around to land where it had been after we passed by, it turned around and began to walk up the rail ahead of us. Periodically it would turn and let us get a little closer before it would again turn and walk a little farther up the rail toward the top. Then it turned and let us approach stealthily; when it dared not let us get any closer, it flew off to make a lazy circle back to where it had sat lower down the tram when we first climbed up.
There’s one you may have noticed up top where we live, in the photos. It perches often on the Oil House, whether on the roof peak, or the peak of the little ornament that sits on top of the roof. The building is well placed and beautiful. It dates from 1892; the house we live in from 1857. The tram we use is from 1895. I’m sure not every beam is that old but it’s old. We see this gull often late in the afternoon and at dusk. It also walks around the lawn as the sun is setting and I’ve even photographed him on the bench where we sit to watch the sun set over the mainland. Maybe it’s the same gull that tried to eat the butter the morning we ate breakfast at the picnic table with Jamie and Sol. It’s not the shrieking vulture the gull is that lives in the cove. This one is more like the gull on the tram: inquisitive, it only made a little bit of sound as it soared up to the peak of the roof of the Oil House when I came flying out of the house with only three minutes to go on the braised collard greens before I had to uncover them and turn the heat up and boil off the remaining liquid while the cusk baked in the oven under a little olive oil and thin slices of tomatoes, chives from the garden and a bit of shallot; because I’d seen a rainbow through the screen door and had fled up to the bedroom to get fresh batteries to put into the camera that I knew wouldn’t work without them. The bird must have thought I’d lost it. The best view of the house and lighthouse captured with a rainbow hovering over it in the east as the sun sets in the west after a storm comes through from the west, as they often seem to, is from the helipad which is next to the Oil House. I yelled to France who was working on some sewing in the living room, that it was a double one as I ran out the kitchen slamming the screen door behind me and charging out across the lawn.
When we sat on the bench to watch the light leave the sky, after I’d calmed down and we’d finished dinner and brought the last of the wine out to sip, the bird was drinking rainwater out of little cupped places in the boulders that dot the lawn. (They drink both salt water and fresh water.) France said we should give this one a name. Because it sat on the Oil House guarding a nest that must be on the other side of it, I suggested Oily. Okay, maybe Ollie? I told France that Ollie was short for Oliver. That’s it she said: Oliver. Oliver walked all over the lawn after that. We watched him, he watched us, we watched the sky, we looked at the bushes of pink flowers that were in bloom below us, we listened to the catbirds have a spat in the bushes close by and fly out together to the top of another bush farther away. We said good-night to Oliver as we trekked across the lawn past the garden, to listen to the last of the New York Philharmonic playing Beethoven’s Misa Solemnis live from Avery Fisher Hall, in the living room. I thought about the audience in from the humid air of the city sitting in the dark. I thought about Oliver out on the lawn strutting in the fresh ocean breeze.
This morning I’m sure I heard a Laughing Gull. I don’t know yet how to tell them apart from the Herring Gulls. It sounded so sinister!