Friday, 20 February 2015
Möwen füttern verboten! (don't feed the seagulls)
This sign at Zinnowitz, on the Baltic island of Usedom, exhorts tourists that feeding the seagulls is prohibited. Or not quite - see the comments below; we think there is either a missing umlaut in futtern/füttern or it is a sign telling the seagulls not to be so greedy!
This prohibition didn't seem to be in effect at Wolgast on the way to Zinnowitz (nor against feeding the ducks). But hey, it is Winter, and our feathered friends need all the nutrition they can get:
I love being by the sea, and gulls are the genius loci whose plaintive calls evoke that edge of the land and the beginning of fathomless oceans for me.
Here is a black-headed gull at Zinnowitz. Hang on Andie, you say. It doesn't have a black head! And you would be right, but during Winter this gull that is so distinctive in the Summer eschews its jet-black hood.
In German they are called Lachmöwe which at first I thought must be a reference to their call ,which could be described as a kind of laconic laugh (Lache). However it derives from Lache meaning a shallow lake or pool, which is their favoured habitat when not by the sea-coast. Still, the sight of them makes me lächeln (smile).
Another sea-side opportunist is the cormorant (Kormoran) who can be spotted looking out for fish from any perching spot.
And then there is always the ubiquitous herring gull, which in German is called die Silbermöwe or 'silver gull'. In British sea-side resorts they are very likely to swoop down on you and snatch a bite from your bag of fish and chips right out of your hand. But as it is, German sea-side resorts are singularly lacking in fish and chip vendors. And anyway, Möwen futtern ist verboten!