Watercolour study in my Moleskine 200gsm ‘Nature Journal’ as the Seagulls (Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus) were hanging around Uncle Harry’s Roadhouse in Randfontein (South Africa)
“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”
- From Jonathan Livingstone Seagull
Not far from us, about 22km, lies the gold mining town of Randfontein, about 45 km west of Johannesburg (South Africa). With the Witwatersrand gold rush in full swing in 1889, mining financier J.B. Robinson bought the farm Randfontein and floated the Randfontein Estates Gold Mining Company. The town was established in 1890 to serve the new mine and was administered by Krugersdorp until it became a municipality in 1929.
We visited Randfontein a couple of months ago, and what amazes me about this town is the fact that you can find flocks of Seagulls there, 600km from the coast!
After we got home from Uncle Harry’s Roadhouse, I made it my mission and tried to track the history of how these birds could have landed up there, as they often fly over my garden in Tarlton as well (about 22km from Randfontein). After a couple of weeks of research and not coming up with anything, I contacted the Randfontein Publicity Association, and they replied to my query with the following information :
I have spoken to a few people and they have said that seagulls are scavengers and will basically land and stay in a place where there is food. I was told by BirdLife SA that seagulls are not necessarily associated with the sea – it’s just their name that is.
The gulls that decided to stay in Randfontein were probably on their way somewhere when they discovered Uncle Harry’s Roadhouse. The owner, Jimmy Pappas, says there used to be hundreds of the birds at the roadhouse and they would always feed them left over hamburgers and chips. At one point the birds would only eat the chips with barbeque sauce!
Jimmy also says they got very fat and never wanted to leave. He noticed fewer birds last year and was worried they may have been poisoned by contaminated water the mines pump out, but he’s not sure. He says they normally come around towards and during winter, so we will have to wait and see.
Seems the mystery has been solved…