Sunday, 13 February 2011

Legal position on killing gulls, pigeons and crow.

This was posted as a comment on my Rivercottage Blog and I thought it was worth posting on here too. Thanks to Richard Collingridge a.k.a "Yernagates" for this from

"It's worth clarifying the legal position, both for "seagulls", and for "pigeons" and indeed "crows".
Under some circumstances it IS indeed legal to kill one of the gull species, and take the eggs of two, but the many others are protected all the time.
It is NOT legal to kill some species of pigeon, and for the three "pest" pigeon species it is only legal under very particular circumstances. The same applies to the other "pests", including the common crow species.
The two most important things are to know the law, and to be able to identify birds BEFORE you shoot them. Sadly many shooters I've met seem to be quite vague on both these points.
The main law ( is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) Section 1 (1) (1): thou shalt not harm a wild bird, and WCA S 1 (2) (b): thou shalt not possess any part of such bird. This law covers ALL wild birds, including all gulls and all pigeons, crows etc.
However, you can kill or possess a bird if taken lawfully: WCA S 1 (3) (a).
The main relevant legislation that allows lawful killing is the "general licences" (, especially the one which allows "authorised persons" to kill or take the eggs of certain birds "to prevent serious damage or disease" (
The current licences run for the whole of the calendar year of 2011, and they do sometimes change from year to year. They currently list just one gull (the lesser black-backed) and three pigeons (collared dove, feral pigeon and woodpigeon). Also the common crow species, but not raven. Herring gull eggs can also be taken or destroyed for human health protection (a different licence, the one for public health or safety).
You do not have to apply for the general licences: they automatically cover anyone authorised by the landowner, except those previously convicted of wildlife crime.
You can only kill birds under a general licence when other non-lethal methods have failed.
All this means that it is illegal to kill, for example, woodpigeon solely for food or sport: it must be for the protection of crops when other methods have failed. So, if a farm had a history of woodpigeons seriously damaging rape crops, and gas guns no longer dissuaded them, it would then be legal to shoot them. However, on a grass farm with no pigeon damage, or where non-lethal methods had not been tried, it would NOT be legal.
Similarly with lesser black-backed gulls, crows, rooks etc: you have to be able to show that they were causing serious damage or disease, and that other methods had failed.
And then... When you are shooting your woodpigeon, are you certain it is not the very similar stock dove, which is fully protected under all circumstances? Most people don't know the difference, and many don't even know of the existence of stock doves. When shooting your feral pigeon, are you certain it's not a wild rock dove (the same species), or, again, a stock dove? Collared dove from turtle dove? Lesser black-backed gull from greater black-back, herring gull, or even yellow-legged gull (which has an intermediately grey back). Can you recognise a raven, which is fully protected, and is now again widespread in lowland Britain? (I can't always immediately tell a raven from a crow even with binoculars.)
If you are not utterly confident about these identifications, to be honest you should stick to pheasants and rabbits while you practise with binoculars and a bird book.
If you go birdwatching to see stock doves, you will find that they are always extremely shy. I strongly suspect this is because they are used to being shot at in mistake for woodpigeons. Likewise wild rock doves, and indeed ravens.
Incidentally, I have had LBB gull eggs (many years ago, when the law was different). They were lovely, with no hint of a taste of rubbish tip.(We were marooned on an island at the time, with nothing else to eat apart from limpets and seaweed.)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Eating Seagull. (or KFSeagull...)

Vermin with wings? Chicken of the sea? Or just an opportunity missed?

First and foremost, before we all go on a mad seagull killing frenzy. In the U.K it is against the law to kill seagulls or interfere with their nests under the countryside and wildlife act. Some Councils are allowed to cull them however, and usually do this by either poisoning or shooting them.

How to catch your seagull. Remember this is against the law in the U.K. I don't want the Men in Blue knocking at the door because someone said that Foodimum told them it was okay to catch and eat seagulls. It isn't...

Put some bait on a hook on a fishing line. Fling the bait up in to the air so that the seagull goes for it and reel it in. Break its neck as you would a chicken.

Someone also tried an interesting technique here:

I haven't tried any of the recipes below but if you do live somewhere where catching seagulls is legal and you have a go please let me know!

Seagull Recipe 1: Sautéed Seagull

(adapted from

Pluck and prepare the seagull as you would a chicken and joint or quarter.

Soak the meat in heavily briny water in a cold place (the fridge?)for 12 hours. This is to try and remove the fishy taste. Do this again at least 3 times, each time throwing away the old salty water and replacing it with fresh briny water.

Lightly sauté the meat in butter, onions, lots of garlic and herbs and then add stock. Simmer for 3 hours. After 3 hours throw the liquid away. A voilà.

Recipe 2: Fricassee of Seagull

(Inspired by the cookbook "Cooking by Marguerite" (1999, published by Benedict Jacob))

Boil the seagull carcass for 2 hours in lightly salted water. Mince the flesh, and add to a hot pan of sesame oil, sliced beetroot, beansprouts, white wine or cider vinegar and vermouth. Serve with raisins or melon.

I would imagine that this would be a rather intense experience with hot oil sizzling and perhaps the vermouth igniting.

Recipe 3:KF Seagull

I found references to Seagulls being referred to as 'Sea going chickens' in the Channels Isles and that inspired this recipe.

I think that as with rooks the younger birds would be more succulent and if I had a choice I would like to feed the young seagull squab on oatmeal and cooked vegetables for a bit before dispatching it. I also think that you would need more than one bird to make a decent meal.

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
4 tablespoons paprika
2 cups plain flour
Dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Diced Seagull
Vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Place everything in a bowl except the breadcrumbs, eggs, diced seagull and oil. Dip the meat into the beaten egg then the breadcrumbs then the herby floury mix.

Place all your pieces on an oven tray and cover with foil. Cook for 30 min’s then uncover and cook for another 30 min’s uncovered. Baste with the oil and cook for 5 more minutes. Allow to stand and serve.

As I say, I haven't tried any of the recipes so the timings might be out....

Well, I think the challenge is complete. I wonder if any of the recipes work......? If I find a way of legally obtaining a seagull I'll let you know.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Crabbing, edible shore crab bisque and Thai style coconut crab bisque.

Now, I've seen this recipe a few times. First from the well know piscine chef Rick Stein then in John Wrights book The Edible seashore. Controversially I think Mr Wright may have um do I say this..I think he may have 'allegedly' copied and pasted this straight from Mr Steins book.

The result of this recipe is an absolutely outstanding and elegant dish. The big downfall is, that it takes hours to prepare and if , like me you only have a rather elderly hand blender or a dodgy cheap liquidizer, it can seem like really hard work.

We live near West Bay in Dorset and when the sun is shining and there's a holiday feeling in the air we love to head down to the harbour and go crabbing for these edible shore crabs.

You are allowed to crab and take home edible shore crabs all year round and they are not protected.

Now, we've all seen those orange crab lines, avoid these. If you do manage to catch a crab with them it's likely to be only one. You'll find you'll have to slowly raise your line from the bottom of the harbour taking care not to bump it or alarm the crab. What regularly happens is that just before you get to the point where you can grab your crab it lets go and all you are left with is disappointment.

The smart way to do it is to buy a crabbing net (usually about £2-3). This you can bait with something smelly and preferably meaty or fishy. We always use the same, rather elderly and no doubt hygienically dubious bit of mackeral that we carefully re bag and put back in the freezer after use. It's piquancy gives us more of a fighting chance I think......

Lower the net in the water until it lands on the bottom and then tie the end of your string to a post. This stops you from losing the net accidentally- I speak from experience. Wait a few minutes and pull it up again. The crabs will be sitting on the bottom of the net happily chomping away at the bait. We tip our crabs into a big plastic box, half filled with sea water and with a lid (to stop them from escaping). A mixing bowls worth of edible shore crabs makes able 1 small bowl of bisque.

Rick Steins Shore crab bisque


  • 900g/2lb shore crabs or other shellfish
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 50g/2oz onion,chopped
  • 50g/2oz carrot, chopped
  • 50g/2oz celery, chopped
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 85ml/3fl oz dry white wine
  • 1 good-sized sprig of fresh tarragon
  • 1.75l/3pt fish stock
  • 50ml/2fl oz double cream
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Method
    1. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil, drop in the crabs then bring them back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes. Strain and let the crabs cool a little, then chop with a large knife.
    2. Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and the bay leaf. Cook without browning. Stir once or twice then add the crab. Stir, then add the cognac. Allow to boil off then add the tomatoes, tomato purée, wine, tarragon and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
    3. Remove the tough claw shells from the soup before liquidizing in a liquidizer or food processor in two or three batches. Process in short bursts until the shell is broken into small pieces about the size of your finger nail. Avoid producing puréed shell, the aim is to extract all possible flavour from any meat left sticking to the shell, particularly in the body section, rather than to extract flavour from the shell itself. Strain the soup through a conical strainer pushing as much liquid through as you can with the back of a ladle to extract all the juices.
    4. Then, pass the soup through a fine strainer before returning to the heat. Bring to the boil, add the cream then season with cayenne pepper, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Reduce the volume by simmering if you think the flavour needs concentrating.

    Thai style coconut crab bisque.

    Follow the method above but omit the cream and cayenne pepper and add a large tablespoon of Thai red curry paste (see

    Just before serving stir in a tin of coconut milk, sprinkle with coriander leaves and add a big squeeze of fresh lime juice and a shake of nam pla (Thai fish sauce).
  • Wednesday, 9 February 2011

    One man and his Campervan

    Does anyone think that One Man and his Campervan ( Tuesday evening BBC2) is similar to what I've done? Please comment if you do!

    Tuesday, 20 July 2010

    All Hail Sea Kale

    Some people find it surprising that I love the taste on anything cabbagey. I know a lot of people shy away from brassicas and indeed any green vegetable but I really think they are missing out on a treat.

    Covering the shingely shores of Cogden beach near us, succulent sea kale is in it's prime at the moment. I take the youngest leaves and sauté them in sesame oil and light soy sauce then sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    It's a satisfying starter and if you add a few prawns , some noodles and a shake of sweet chilli sauce to the wok a gratifying meal is created.

    Sea kale can be used in exactly the same way as cabbage. The leaves are thicker and it has a slightly salty taste but it's a interesting vegetable and worth experimenting with.

    And I think a little nod should go out to Robin Harford a fellow forager who I spied gathering sea kale in the same location. Hurrah for fellow wild food foragers. Lovely to see you.

    Moroccan style burgers

    Moorish burgers with a twist.

    4 cups bread crumbs
    2 cups chickpea flour
    1 medium sized onion finely chopped
    1/2 cup rice flour
    Ground cumin.
    Ground Coriander
    1 bulb garlic (squashed and finely chopped)
    1 tablespoon parsley
    1 handful fresh mint
    4 eggs
    500g Lamb mince

    Mix the chickpea flour, onion, rice flour, cumin, coriander, garlic, parsley, and mint together with 100 ml cold water. Stir well and leave for five minutes.
    Add to the raw 500g Lamb mince and mix. Add the breadcrumbs and mix. I like to use my hands for this. Beat up the 4 eggs and add them to the mixture making sure they are well mixed in. The beaten eggs bind the mixture together. Leave for 10 minutes then form into burgers using your hands and drop into a hot frying pan. Brown on both sides then turn the temperature down to half way (number 3 on my electric hob) and allow to cook through. Serve with yoghurt, warm pittas and a salad.

    Saturday, 17 July 2010

    Candied Alexander stem

    This is a recipe that I made up and tried in early April when the Alexander’s were shooting up their beautiful new stems. All the children I offered these 'homemade sweets' to loved them and I even used them in them in the same way to decorate cakes as you would use candied Angelica.It went especially well with lemon icing.

    I neglected to share the recipe with you then so here it is.

    Alexander’s have a fragrant taste not unlike myrtle and this candying process works really well with the younger stems. Try not to use the really new stems. They have to have a bit of 'substance' to them or they will disintegrate in the candying process.

    How to make Candied Alexander stem.

    Cut the stems into sections about 6 inches long then soak in cold water for about 8 hours.

    Add the stems to boiling water with 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (per Gallon). The Bicarb helps the Alexanders retain its colour. Boil until the stems have softened. Cool in cold water and soak in syrup of 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Do this for 24 hours.

    After 24 hours drain and heat the syrup to 110 degrees Celsius. It helps if you have a cooking thermometer for this.

    Pour the Syrup over the Alexander stems and repeat the syrup process for the next 3 days. On the fourth day cook the syrup to 120 degrees Celsius and then pop the stems in. Boil and then lift the stems out and drain them on a cake rack.

    When they are cooled eat! I found them a little sticky so rolled them in icing sugar then stored then in a kilner jar. I don't know how long they would last like this. Quite a long time I feel. I never got the chance to find out as Oskar and his school friend ate the lot. I was extremely popular :)