I PICKED up this feather, a primary from the gull’s right wing, on the pavement in front of the Bingley Arms, an old pub that stands on a narrow strip of land between the river and the canal at Horbury Bridge. Having a feather as a temporary bookmark in my sketchbook proved handy when I found myself sitting in a waiting room with nothing else available to draw.
Under the microscope, half way down the unfeathered end of quill, you can see this scratch. Is the ‘V’-shaped impression on the underside of the quill an impression left by gull’s bill when it was preening?
Scratches like these around the base of a feather can be a sign that a sparrowhawk has gripped and twisted with its beak as it plucks feathers from it’s prey. Could this be evidence that the gull was taken by a sparrowhawk?
A few yards from my suspected avian crime scene, down the side of the Bingley Arms, there’s a smoking shelter, one of the most picturesque I’ve seen, with petunias, geraniums and garden mint in pots and runner beans and sweet peas growing up the trellis.
If I was visiting a pub on a summer’s day, I’d find this more tempting than sitting in the public bar. But I’m still not tempted to take up smoking.