I’ve seen bears, rattlesnakes, eagles, and hawks, but I’ve never been attacked by them. Alpha was different.
In September 2012 I spent a rainy day exploring part of north central Pennsylvania with my friend Judy. As part of our travels we drove to Kinzua Dam and the lake it created. The dam itself is an impressive piece of engineering, spanning the Allegheny River with one of the largest structures of its kind east of the Mississippi. Canoeing on the lake is a wish I never manage to get fulfilled, sadly, even though I’ve been in the area a few times.
Canoeing wasn’t in our plans today either. Time was short and I was still fatiguing far too soon. So we walked and took photos. I must have tripped some invisible security alarm at the dam, for no sooner did I take out the camera and start snapping away than I was accosted by security.
The bird didn’t say a word. Being a seagull and not a parrot, I wasn’t surprised. But I was shocked at how seriously the avian agent took its job. The sign at the dam’s gated, secure area said “Force Protection Level: Alpha”, so I took that to be the seagull’s name. Alpha shot me a dirty look and made gull noises at me. Not planning to trespass and assuming the gull would understand my intentions, I stood my ground taking photos. And then this happened.
Judy kept her distance, documenting the encounter. Not wanting to be strafed by the gull again, I retreated. As I did I had a bad flashback to Sea Isle City, New Jersey three decades ago, and my youngest brother getting hit by a rock he’d thrown to a passing seagull. That gull was just doing beach patrol. Who knew what this bird was carrying? I wasn’t going to find out.
Kinzua Dam is worth visiting. And worth photographing. Just keep in mind security watches over it from the air. Respect them. Don’t fall afoul of the fowl.