Gull haters target ‘Mister Seagull’

A seagull in the snow
A seagull in the snow

A PRO-gull rally advertised as taking place in Priory Meadow was the latest in a string of hoaxes by people targeting a local seagull saver.

Tim McKenzie, who formed and runs the Hastings-based National Gull Rescue and Protection, has fallen foul of people sending out emails and arranging events pretending to be him.

First someone started a group on social networking website Facebook telling people Mr McKenzie had decided to call it a day and wind up the charity.

And then last week an email campaign, started from the address, urged gull-loving locals to head down to the town centre on Saturday for an I Love Seagulls rally.

However, it has since emerged that it was nothing more than the latest in a string of hoaxes.

“There were never plans for a seagull flash mob,” explained Mr McKenzie - who developed his love of gulls watching them as a child growing up in Hastings.

“Gulls can be unpopular with some people - particularly if they have nested near their bedroom window, or on their roof. Sadly, it isn’t a surprise that people have resorted to such petty and nasty measures.”

Gull Rescue has gone from strength to strength and now treats more than 400 birds each year from Hastings and St Leonards alone.

Many of these are young gulls which have fallen from their nests. They are taken in, hand-reared and then re-introduced to the wild through the centre’s pre-release sanctuary.

Others are birds who have been injured or tangled in rubbish and, according to Mr McKenzie, 90 per cent of these then go on to lead a healthy life.

Earlier this year the animal lover known locally as The Gull Man claimed the tide was turning on anti-gull attitudes and despite the recent spate of impersonations, he remains confident this is the case.

“There are people out there who do not like gulls, but the majority of people I talk to are fond of them.

“For many people they are a part of seaside life and judging by the number of calls I take from locals who want me to help a bird they have found Hastings is still gull friendly.

“But, particularly in this line of work, you will always get some people who disagree. I know the anti-fox hunting lobby gets similar abuse, so I am not surprised.

“This sort of behaviour won’t put me off.”

Although the nesting season is the charity’s busiest time of year, Mr McKenzie is urging people to report any gulls injured or in trouble, mindful of the plummeting temperatures.

Readers can ring the gull hotline on 07765114599.

People are also advised not to feed gulls bread or milk - instead opting for small fish.