I grew up in northern New England, on the short but beautiful coastline of New Hampshire. We lived about two miles inland, but regularly we made trips to the beach to go swimming, to picnic,and later, when we were in high school, to work at the restaurants and tourist traps that lined the boardwalk. There are two things that always bring back memories of my childhood by the Atlantic: the smell of salt air, and the cry of seagulls. I know, lots of folks think they are a nuisance. They are, after all, scavengers, garbage collectors if you will. I've never seen a thrown out bit of food gulls wouldn't eat. It's part of why they are such a common sight at landfills as well! But still, they can be beautiful as they glide across the sky or bob up and down on a wave. I for one, would be most saddened indeed if there were no more gulls!
There are many types of seagulls, and the ones that I grew up with are different than the ones that frequent Sanibel. But still, they have much in common, including their rowdy cry! One of the gulls that is native to the Gulf Coast is the Laughing Gull--so called because it's cry sounds like your Uncle Marvin laughing at the movies!
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster we read a lot about pelicans--Brown Pelicans in particular. Indeed, one of my first posts was about the fate of a few dozen pelicans who had been relocated to Sanibel. And the truth is that as of October 20 at least 766 Brown Pelicans have been impacted by the spill. But as tragic as that is, it pales in comparison to the Laughing Gulls. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that 2815 of the little scavengers have been impacted--and about 2/3 of that number were found dead. Despite their name, it's clearly no laughing matter!
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ranks species according to how threatened they are. The scale ranges from "Least Concern" to "Vulnerable" to "Extinct" with a few stages in between. Laughing Gulls are ranked as being of "Least Concern". And relatively speaking, I guess that's true. A couple thousand Laughing Gulls isn't going to make or break their survival. But I keep thinking about creatures like the bison, who probably would have been ranked as being of "Least Concern" in days long gone by. I just don't like the nomenclature., for ultimately, we should be concerned about all of God's creatures--commonplace like Laughing Gulls, or beautiful and majestic, like Brown Pelicans. They all count. They all matter. "Not one of them is forgotten in God's sight." (Luke 12:6) Sure, Jesus was talking about sparrows at the time, but I suspect his words cover Laughing Gulls as well.
(To hear a recording of the cry of a Laughing Gull visit the All About Birds website created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/laughing_Gull/sounds)
(Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/x/t/0096009/photos/superfantastic/148266632)