Seagull Army at Ocean City, MD
Last year, my son and I took a long weekend trip to Ocean City, MD for Columbus Day weekend. We like going to the beach in the fall. The ocean is still warm enough for a beach walk or swim, the hotels are significantly cheaper, the beaches are far less crowded, and the beach traffic is somewhat more tolerable, though still bad. As it turned out, we found that this quieter season was also a great time to watch the seabirds gather en masse.
While taking our nightly beach walks just before dusk, we noticed huge flocks of seagulls gathering in the sand like soldiers at several points up and down the beach. By this time of night, most of the humans had gone to dinner, leaving the beach an open field for throngs of birds to gather. Occasionally, a youngster would come along and run towards a flock, disturbing its military-like formation. The frantic chirp of their alarm calls would send dozens rapidly ascending into the air, circling the beach and then landing again on another empty spot a few yards from their original location, away from the threat.
Because seagulls are scavengers, (essentially nature’s cleaning crew) it’s no wonder they have chosen the Ocean City Boardwalk as their base. The Boardwalk is home to the famous Thrasher’s French Fry stands, making it prime feeding territory for stray fries that drop out of overflowing buckets, as well as other tasty treats that fall to the ground from the variety of snack stands. Who could blame them?
Though I had intended to relax on this weekend jaunt, I couldn’t help but pull out my camera and record this unusual site. My son, a budding naval historian and avid birder, decided on a whim to command the seagull army to take flight without charging toward them. He approached a flock cautiously, and then, pretending to be an aircraft marshaller, waved his arms a few times in big, circular motions. To my amazement, each time, the flock would obey his command, immediately soaring overhead in a mass swarm like bats from a cave. I stood downrange in awe of the spectacle, firing off frame after frame of still photos and video. Here's a compilation of what we witnessed that weekend.