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The Mast-Head: In a Gull’s Eye

Wed, 01/08/2020 - 11:56

Driving past the Amagansett School the other morning, I noticed a half-dozen or so seagulls standing on the ridge of the old slate roof. Gulls usually are up there, three stories above the schoolyard, minding their own business. But what their business is up there puzzles me. It might be trivial amid all the troubles of the world to think about seagulls, sure. Yet for a moment, all that was out of my head as I wondered about them.

Few other birds here stake out rooflines as regularly as the gulls, which have a preference for the tallest ones. There are often a few on the Presbyterian Church on East Hamp­ton Main Street and on the Municipal Building in Sag Harbor. In Montauk, art imitates life, with a group most days on top of the A-frame Bird on a Roof restaurant. They also are on the Bridgehampton Community House, Gosman’s Dock, and sometimes the Parrish Art Museum. What they find to their liking about these perches seemed obvious at first, but the more I thought about it, the less I felt I understood.

Focusing on the Amagansett School roof, for example, it is neither close enough to the ocean for the birds to be looking for passing baitfish, nor close enough to the dump for them to swoop down for easy pickings. They might feel safe from predators up high, but even that does not sound right, since neither gulls nor others of their ilk seem comfortable on the ground, and few other creatures would want to mess with them anyway.

Rather, it seems, they might just like the view. Some days I just wish I could join them and do nothing other than study the horizon and the land below.

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