Hawks have St Andrews seagulls in a flap

Lurcher Sky which was gashed under the eye by a seagull.
Lurcher Sky which was gashed under the eye by a seagull.

A four-month pilot project aimed at deterring seagulls from nesting on roofs and chimneys during the breeding season in St Andrews town centre has been voted a success.

Members of a local residents’ association and other householders engaged an Angus-based company to use South American Harris Hawks in the hope the measure would force the gulls to return to their more traditional nesting areas.

Launched in mid-March, the environmental protection company introduced the birds of prey to scare off the significant numbers of seagulls in the central area.

Jim Jamieson, who operates Senna Environmental Protection, located the hawks on the roofs of buildings with the aim of discouraging the gulls from building their nests during the breeding season, which has just ended.

The initiative centred principally on Hope Street, Howard Place, Abbotsford Crescent and Greyfriars Garden.

Fed up locals financed the programme after years of anguish which has seen the seagull population grow to massive levels, with their droppings causing damage to cars, blocking rone pipes and guttering, annoying and keeping people awake at night with their continuous raucous cries and screeching, and, more alarmingly, attacking anyone they consider has ventured too close to their nesting young.

The gulls are at their noisiest and most aggressive during the nesting season in April, May and June.

Dr Frank Quinault, chairman of the Hope Street Residents’ Association, told the Citizen: ”The problems of noise and mess caused by nesting gulls during the spring and early summer - which have greatly increased in recent years - led town centre residents in the Hope Park and Greyfriars area to call in the services of Jim Jamieson and his Harris Hawks.

“They became a familiar sight on several days each week on roofs where, even though they were tethered, their presence would deter gulls from nesting. Now that the nesting season is coming to an end the residents who sponsored the scheme, with additional support from some local businesses, have been reviewing its effectiveness.

“They are pleased with what has been achieved during this first year. Far fewer fledgling birds are to be seen on roofs in the area and there has been less noise from gulls in the early hours, whereas songbirds have been making themselves heard again.

“Many of the gulls that are still frequenting local roofs were born in the previous year and will be of nesting age next year. The residents behind the scheme plan to continue with it then, in the hope that this will break the nesting cycle. They also hope that its initial success will persuade Fife Council to make a contribution to what is a considerable financial cost.”

However, the success of the scheme has been tempered with disturbing news after it emerged that in another area of the town two members of a local family were left traumatised after their pet dog was attacked by marauding gulls, while a man was also understood to have been injured by gulls while out walking.

Mrs Julia Rogan and her 11-year-old daughter, Amber, were walking close to the East Sands Leisure Centre and could only look on in horror as several gulls swooped on their unfortunate pet lurcher - called Sky - leaving it with a nasty gash below one of its eyes, an attack which could have blinded the dog.

Mrs Rogan (34) said: ”We saw the seagulls divebombing Sky and the next thing she came running back to us with blood running down her face. It was horrible.”

The dog was taken to a vet in Dundee where the wound was treated and staples were inserted.

Mrs Rogan added: ”There have been reports of seagulls swooping down on people walking in the area of the beach and I believe one man was attacked. We are now really scared to go back there to exercise Sky and will go elsewehere.”

Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it illegal to intentionally injure or kill them, to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.