From “Symbols of the Maine Coast — Herring Gulls” in our August 1956 issue. Photograph by Yolla Niclas.
Of indiscriminating palate, herring gulls do a thorough job of keeping Maine beaches free of dead or stranded fish, as well as general refuse. This service is not often recognized by coastal blueberry growers, who have tried unsuccessfully to ward off the hungry birds with scarecrows, whirling devices, mirrors, and noisemakers. A program of spraying eggs to prevent hatching has helped, but the only sure method is patrolling the fields during the harvest season. The egg control program is under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which at the same time must enforce federal regulations protecting the gulls.
No law, however, prevents one from making friends with the gulls. In the three years that David Boynton has been taming gulls on Monhegan Island, five have become his special friends. One became so friendly that it would fly into his arms whenever he called. But to David’s disappointment, the gulls proved to have short memories, and they never return the next year.
Yolla Niclas’ photos of 11-year-old David Boynton became the basis for a children’s book, David and the Seagulls. Now 73, Boynton is a retired nuclear engineer who lives in Brunswick and still summers on Monhegan. Hungry seagulls still confound blueberry growers, says David Yarborough, a UMaine wild-blueberry specialist. “There is some use of a CO2 noise cannon,” he says, “but as you would expect, it is not very popular with the neighbors.”