The town of Mallaig is nowadays an important commercial & tourist transport hub for the west coast of Scotland. The town originally came into being as a fishing port and was one of the busiest herring fishing towns in Europe in the 1960's. Its railway link opened in 1901 and brought it into direct contact with the larger towns & cities in Scotland and the greater UK. Its ferry service to the isles provided important links to Skye and the remoter Small Isles.
Increasingly the town is becoming a key tourist hub with visitors arriving by train either on the Jacobite Steam train (the Harry Potter tourist) which runs from May to October or the regular day tripper on the regular west highland service offering a not to be forgotten ride along one the most scenic lines in the UK. And then there are the more adventurous ones arriving in Mallaig for the ferry services to Skye, the Small isles & to Uist in the outer Hebrides or to the remote Knoydart peninsula.
Mallaig is surrounded by some of Scotland's most beautiful landscapes with views in every direction; to the iconic Cuillin mountains on Skye, to the munro peaks of Knoydart and to the ancient landscapes of Rhum and its access to the inner Hebridean sea, rich in wildlife (dolphins, seals, otters & birdlife) makes this a uniquely special place.
Mallaig's human population is about 1000. But just like many of the UK's fishing ports it is also host to a variety of seabirds and a significant number of the Herring gulls. The Herring Gull is a scavenging omnivore attracted by the easy pickings of scrap fish and seafood freely available around the harbour. They will of course hang around the "chippie's" and keep an eye on unsuspecting tourists distracted away from their take-away or picnic!
Gulls breed in May and mostly away on the sea cliffs on the nearby Isle of Canna. However for a number of years several mating pairs have decided that Mallaig train station is as equally suited to raising a family much to the fascination & amusement of the daily visitors arriving into the station.
Gulls can live and breed for several decades and mate for life. There are several pairs now breeding regularly down on the tracks below the platforms and this seems to be an ideal for protection from any predators with quick and easy access to food in the harbour and around the town. Each year the nests are made good in May ready to start the family which is generally 2 to 3 per pair. By the start of June the eggs hatch and the young ungainly fluffy down covered chicks are up and about in a matter of hours and able to scramble around the tracks under the watchful eye of at least one of the parents whilst the other is away getting food. With another 6-8 weeks the chicks will be able to fly and the nests are left vacant for the following year.
The Herring Gull and Gulls are protected in UK law:
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"All species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
This makes it illegal to intentionally or, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is also illegal to prevent birds from accessing their nest and, in Northern Ireland, it is illegal to disturb any nesting bird. In addition, the Mediterranean gull is protected under Schedule 1 of both acts. This makes it illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds at or close to their nest or to disturb their dependent young."