Love & Romance at Seagull Reef

July 22, 2022 Craig Spence

When we’re not complaining about them, we most often take seagulls for granted, but photographer-artist Cim MacDonald wants to show people a more romantic side of their natures.

Photographer and artist Cim MacDonald never imagined how fascinating and inspiring a study of seagulls would be the day she pulled on her black ‘Walmart boots’, grabbed her camera, headed down to Kin Beach and began taking pictures.

But as she got to know the gulls, and they got to trust her, she was astonished at the sensitivity and beauty of a species that is most often taken for granted, quite often considered a noisy nuisance by beach-goers.

“I would never have thought in my wildest imagination that I would have been able to catch something like this,” MacDonald said of the birds’ courting and mating behaviour.

Her show, Love & Romance at Seagull Reef will be featured at Rainforest Arts from Sept. 5 to Nov. 12. The stunning photos are the result of many hours photographing the birds using a long lens.

Seagull Reef is the islet off Kin Beach which becomes a spit at low tide. Crows and oyster catchers also frequent the rocky outcrop with its miniature lighthouse. So do people, except during COVID the human visitations were sharply curtailed, giving MacDonald a chance to capture the gull’s interactions and rituals without interruption.

“I looked out the window one day and saw the beach was vacant, and there were lots of birds around, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll grab my camera and go on down,’ and of course there was literally no-one on the beach.”

What amazed her most were the mating rituals of the seagulls, behaviour that demonstrated what MacDonald can only describe as a species of love that is similar in many ways to the romantic approaches of humans.

At first she mistook their courting as the prelude to the type of quarrelsome antics gulls are known for. “Two of them were standing face-to-face with their beaks wide open, making a great racket and I thought, ‘Oh-oh, here goes a fight.’” she recounted.

But then, “They got closer and closer and it ended up, ‘Oh! There must be romance going on here.’”

In the following weeks MacDonald felt honoured to be accepted by the gulls and allowed to photograph their most intimate rituals. “They literally cuddled, beak to beak and did a whole lot of things that I was surprised to catch,” she said. “It was very romantic. I felt almost like I was intruding.”

Her record of Love & Romance on Seagull Reef honours and aspect of seagull behaviour most of us are unaware of, and broadens our appreciation of nature in general.