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  • Back in the mid-80’s I was running the boat through a little gut and passed this skiff with a herring gull standing on the forward thwart. It was late afternoon and the low sun had the place lit up but the skiff was moored directly in front of the dark shadow of an island.

    I wanted to photograph what I was seeing, but the passage was tight and shoal, and the first order of business was not going aground, so I passed by the skiff to get my camera ready as I knew there would be only one chance to make the image before the gull took off. The tide was coming, fortunately against me, so I got up into it a bit, improved my drift track by coming a bit over to port, killed the engine and let the tide slowly and silently take me back down to the skiff.

    None of this was lost on the gull.

    These hardy creatures co-exist with man, indeed owe their current legion population to man…our trash dumps and the fishing business have allowed the gull population on the coast of Maine to explode far beyond turn of the century numbers. Indeed, as I recall, back in the 1890’s there were less than a dozen nesting pairs of Black Back gulls on the entire coast of Maine.

    In any event, I digress….this bird, like its diverse kin, wouldn’t bother with a second glance as working boats passed closely by. But their innate wariness kicks in when anything out of the ordinary occurs and my killing the engine and drifting back down on the skiff immediately had this one on full-alert.

    The situation turned into which one of us was going to blink (or exit) first…the gull into flight or me into keeping the boat off the closing shore.

    As I drew nearer, the gull hopped off the bow and began a slow strut back to the stern, keep a wary eye on the approaching boat. Finally, it hopped onto the rear seat, up next to the fisherman’s folded seaboots, glowered at me, waited as long as it could and then took off with the sound of my shutter.

    The glint in this gull’s eye was what I was after; for me it represents the larger wariness I was discovering around me back then – in both the natural and human realms - in those wonderful early years of intense exploration.
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