Saturday, November 27, 2021

Sticks in a parking lot: life goes on for AK gulls

| July 18, 2021 12:00 AM

The saga of seagulls unabashedly laying eggs and raising their chicks in a TV station parking lot in Anchorage, Alaska, recently caught my interest when my daughter Heather started retweeting posts from her former colleague Nick Swann.

Swann, now the assistant chief photographer for Alaska’s News Source, has been documenting the aviary and other wildlife outside his workplace, the likes of which will have one uttering the popular catchphrase: “Only in the AK.”

When I first tuned into Swann’s Twitter posts, one mother gull had started on her nest with a couple of sticks on the pavement. The short video snippets showed the gull seemingly not knowing how to sit on her nest; face plants were a regular occurrence and honestly it was hilarious to watch.

Orange traffic cones were set up around the misplaced nest, and Swann kept shooting.

“It was the saddest little nest,” he told me in a phone interview. The unbalanced mama gull laid three eggs, and eventually all three eggs were pushed out of the nest as unviable. Then lo and behold, the nest one day had a new set of eggs, and eventually, with Swann tenderly revealing the outcome, we learn that two babies hatched and are now thriving.

Interest in the gulls grew. Soon the station set up a live seagull cam, and Swann was interviewed for a piece that was broadcast nationally.

Swann said he loves animals and is always looking for interesting critters to photograph. He’s got a treasure trove right in the parking lot of his workplace. While it was the pavement nest that got much of the attention, there were 19 gull nests around the TV station this year in all kinds of places, even the backside of a satellite dish.

“It definitely seems like a record number of nests for this property,” Swann said. “Last year there were five nests.”

More than 20 chicks have hatched thus far this cycle, and Swann has caught some interesting interactions with the mothers and their offspring. One video clip shows three older chicks “hounding mom for lunch,” Swann posted. “She just gave up, gave them her lunch and got the heck out of there.”

At one point Swann built a tiny set of stairs for a gull chick who couldn’t make the leap from the pavement to the curb and sidewalk.

You can follow Swann at

There’s other wildlife at the station, too. Rabbits romp around the place, and there’s a moose with two calves on the other side of the fence. But this year, it’s all about the gulls.

“A lot of people hate seagulls,” Swann pointed out, but he’s found that “if I talk to them, we coexist quite well.”

In November 2018, then-Daily Inter Lake reporter Duncan Adams wrote about Flathead Valley gulls, calling them the “Rodney Dangerfield of birds” because they get no respect.

“Gulls hang out in parking lots,” Adams wrote. “ They seem to loaf there like shiftless teens. As ‘opportunistic foragers,’ they eat just about anything. “

What Swann has so eloquently captured, really, with his daily gull posts, is one of those big-picture realizations, that life finds a way to carry on, even if you’re a lowly gull in a parking lot.

News editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or