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The Astonishment Method.

"I'm afraid we have an infestation" are not the first words you want to hear when you check into your hotel on holiday, but this happened to us recently in Portugal.

"What of?" I asked.

"Seagulls" replied the manager, "we us an eagle to scare them away"!!!

At this my ears pricked up and I scanned the information leaflet he gave me, and I quote "In order to be able to control in an effective and ecological way we use the method of astonishment with the use of birds of prey where there is no physical damage to the invading birds."

Now bear in mind the hotel is built on a cliff above the ocean and they are claiming an invasion of seabirds, I'm pretty sure the seagulls have been nesting here way before the hotel was built.

The next morning I was stood on the balcony when I noticed a man wandering the grounds by the swimming pool with a hawk on his arm. I grabbed my camera and rushed down to have a look and watch the "astonishment method" in action.

This is Aries a Harris Hawk who's job is to basically intimidate yellow legged gulls and scare them away.

I chatted with his keeper who introduced me to Aries. They visit this hotel and others twice a day and basically, from what I witnessed, they mildly irritate the gulls while they are there and then it's back to normal.

The gulls would make a bit of a fuss with a few dives at Aries and would vacate their usual spots while he was in the grounds. As soon as he was gone they would return.

From my perspective I loved seeing Aries up close and personal but as to his role in "astonishing" the gulls I wasn't convinced, they just seemed slightly put out that he was there, before quickly returning to business as usual.

I didn't find them invasive or a problem and after all the hotel has been built on their natural home. I've a feeling they'll still be there long after the hotel has gone. However I do like the method, I'm sure there are some places where the gulls may be killed and their nests destroyed in order to clear the "infestation" so just pissing them off for an hour gets my vote.

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