“We will show ourselves now,” said the keeper, “but go quietly,” and creeping up the warm sand, I found myself on the edge of a miniature crater, whose edges were sand hills and tussock grass, filled with white lily flowers, and whose floor seemed to be tapestried or carpeted with purple and green.  The green I found on nearer view to be young nettles, the purple, thousands upon tens of thousands of wild pansies. (pp. 43-4)

In a moment the while lilies became a multitude of wings, and in another moment one involuntarily put one’s hands up to protect one’s head and eyes, so furiously, and with such a scream of savagery, did the blackheads sweep at one.  The whole air quivered, and while the words that the gulls close beside me were saying seemed to be distinctly a shrill “gëet-away! gëet away!” that was half hiss and scream, the sound of the distant flock of fearful creatures could only be compared to the angry sound of steam an express engine makes when it comes to a sudden standstill beneath a resonant station roof. (p. 44)

I could not wonder.  Here at my feet lay tiny fluffy things of golden tabby colour, there in a heap of tussock grass three olive brown eggs.  Just beyond two squabs four days old had left their nest and hid in the grass, and here another ten days old, with the blue quill feathers showing, who had changed from tabby to grey, went scuttling away till it fell head foremost, picked itself up, and fell again in its haste to be off. (p. 44)

Down on the sandy slope, another looking as one might suppose a fleet-footed dromedary would look among the sand dunes of the Arabian desert, if one were high up in a balloon, was running for dear life, and Egypt came once again to mind.  If one had but known black-headed gull language, one might have appealed to them to recognise the likeness, for many of these birds had probably wintered on the banks of the Nile.  The nests were here, there, and everywhere, (pp. 44-5)

It was with real difficulty that one avoided treading upon nest or tabby chicks as one followed one’s guide, but what struck one was the way in which there on the edge of the crater, at its most exposed part, the bids had nested, preferring the chance of quick look-out to shelter from the wind. (p. 45)

The variety, both of egg size and egg colour, was astonishing.  Three was the usual number of eggs.  Four were rarely seen in one nest.  The nests varied much in size and shape.  Here one builder had taken much trouble to arrange her bunch of tussock, here again close by a more careless mother had been content with the work of a few hours in preparing its cradle.  We passed quickly along to a dune, where the nests seemed to be fewer in number, and then ceased.  Suddenly my eyes caught sight of what looked in the distance like lumps of chalk on the bare sand.  Lying singly or in pairs, a near view showed that the chalk lumps were beautifully mottled with black and brown, larger they seemed in size than the olive green jewels we had seen in the caskets of the black-headed gulls. (pp. 45-6)

“Here,” said the keeper, “are the Sandwich tern’s eggs, and as I told you, see what a number they have  broken: it’s a curious thing, and no one, I think, can explain it.  It isn’t the ‘jacks,’ that I am sure of, though they are the greatest thieves the black-heads have to contend with.”

“No,” said I, “the jackdaws are not to blame; it is, I think, the casual habit the bird has of laying its single egg in another nest that is to blame; at least that is a possible explanation.” (p. 46)

All this while the cloud of wings thickened above us.  The black-headed gulls had seemed to come to the relief of the handful of these graceful associates, and as fork-tailed mothers swung back and forward overhead, clear above the hissing scream and the chuck, chuck of the gull, came the shrill “Kirhitt! Kirhitt! Kirhitt!” of the Sandwich tern. (p. 46)

Back through the purple violas, and the red dwarf sorrel; back by the golden sand dunes and the blue shining mussel-covered beach we came, and still the gulls tossed and screamed in heaven, and though our hands were clean and our conscience untroubled by intent to harm, we felt verily guilty concerning our brother gull and sister tern, for all the needless anxieties we had caused them by being in the shape of man. (p. 46)

(Round the Lake Country, pp. 38-46)