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Lighthouse tales: Critters possess character

From time to time the critters in the animal world will surprise you. We know that they are driven by instinct rather than cognitive thought yet sometimes they really make you wonder.

When Sally and I came to Battery Point we found that there were a couple of seagulls that hung out at the lighthouse. Over the years the lighthouse keepers would feed them some dry cat food, and of all the seagulls at Battery Point only these two birds seemed to be interested in the dining experience. We learned early on that it is illegal to feed any birds in Crescent City, primarily to keep the population of scavenger birds down to a minimum, but we were also told that Battery Point Island is county jurisdiction and not part of the city so it was OK to feed the two seagulls.

Then, a couple of months ago one of the seagulls stopped coming. The larger of the two gulls that the light keepers call Jonathan appeared to be all alone.

Kept his routine

Every morning Jonathan would sit out on the rocks waiting patiently for breakfast. "Have you fed Jonathan?" Sally would ask and if I replied "no," she would take out a cup of dry cat food and put it into a six inch metal bowl that was used to feed him. Jonathan would fly over to the little hill behind the kitchen and then onto the security light in the back yard. He was tame for a wild creature but still a little cautious, especially considering the two cats that live at the lighthouse and a family of raccoons that have a den under the boathouse. He would wait a little to make sure that the cats were not around, all the while keeping up a constant chatter. When he felt it was safe, he would fly to his bowl and have his breakfast.

That was pretty much the routine with Jonathan until the other day. It was a nasty weather day with rain, hail, thunder, lightning and high winds. We stayed inside where it was warm and toasty and never thought of poor Jonathan without his breakfast. In the afternoon, the weather got better, and a little sun came out.

As we sat inside the radio room in the back of the lighthouse, Sally looked out and saw Jonathan in the backyard. She asked if I had fed him today. I replied that I had not when Sally looked at him and said, "Well he sure must be pretty hungry!"

We both looked at Jonathan as he picked up his bowl in his beak and literally dragged it to the back door. He knew what he wanted, and he was tired of waiting and decided to take care of matters himself. Sally went outside to put some cat food in Jonathan's bowl, and he ate very contentedly and happily.

Take time to know them

Sometimes we take for granted the critters that we share the planet with. Our pets give us companionship and are ready to please but, we tend to forget that non-domestic animals and birds have an intelligence all their own. When we visit them in a zoo or circus, we find out just how much personality they have. But, if you take the time to know the critters in your own back yard you just might be surprised how much character and personality they have.

Randy Ansley, the Battery Point Lighthouse keeper, can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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