I had come in the last week of April, by courteous invitation, to renew acquaintance with that fast-growing colony of black-headed gulls that make the dunes of Ravenglass famous. (p. 60)

A boat was called, and leaving the pebbly beach that ‘Stott of Oldham’ so delights to paint, we rowed across the flooding tide of the Ravenglass harbour to the sand-dunes of happy quietude, where the oyster-catchers were sunning themselves, and where the sheldrake in her nesting season loves to hide.  As one went forward over the dunes one felt back in the great desert of the Badiet-Tih, and expected to see Bedouins start from the ground, and camels come in single file with solemn sway round the sedge-tufted, wind-blown hillocks and hummocks of glaring sand. (p. 61)

Then suddenly the silence of the waste was broken by a marvellous sound, and a huge cloud of palpitating wings, that changed from black to white and hovered and trembled against the grey sea or the blue inland hills, swept by overhead.  The black-headed gulls had heard of our approach, and mightily disapproved of our trespass upon their sand-blown solitude. (p. 61)

We sat down and the clamour died: the gulls had settled.  Creeping warily to the crest of a great billow of sand, we peeped beyond.  Below us lay a natural amphitheatre of grey-green grass that looked as if it were starred with white flowers innumerable.  WE showed our heads and the flowers all took wing, and the air was filled again with sound and intricate maze of innumerable wings. (pp. 61-62)

We approached, and walking with care found the ground cup-marked with little baskets or basket-bottoms roughly woven of tussock grass or sea-bent.  Each casket contained from two to three magnificent jewels.  These were the eggs we had come so far to see.  There they lay—deep brown blotched with purple, light bronze marked with brown, pale green dashed with umber, white shading into blue.  All colours and all sizes; some as small as a pigeon’s, others as large as bantams.  Three seemed to be the general complement.  In one nest I found four.  The nests were so close to one another that I counted twenty-six within a radius of ten yards; and what struck one most was the way in which, instead of seeking shelter, the birds had evidently planned to nest on every bit of rising ground from which swift outlook over the gull-nursery could be obtained. (p. 62)

Who shall describe the uproar and anger with which one was greeted as one stood in the midst of the nests?  The black-headed gull swept at one with open beak. And one found oneself involuntarily shading one’s face and protecting one’s eyes as the savage little sooty-brown heads swooped round one’s head.  But we were not the only foes they had had to battle with.  The carrion crow had evidently been an intruder and a thief; and many an egg which was beginning to be hard set on, had been prey to the black robber’s beak.  One was being robbed as I stood there in the midst of the hubbub. (pp. 62-63)

Away, for what seemed the best part of a mile, the ‘gullery’ stretched to the north in the direction of Seascale; and one felt that, thanks to the public-spirited owner of the seaboard, and the County Council of Cumberland, the black-headed gull was not likely to diminish in this generation. (p. 63)

(Lake Country Sketches, pp. 59-68)