When the corridors of power and privilege are emptied out by the midsummer holidays each year and genuine hard news is thin on the ground, then the Irish media folk like myself become involved in what is called the Silly Season and stories that would never see the light of day in winter and spring fly high, wide, and handsome.

In keeping with that reality, can I begin then by announcing that when leaving the airy Catskills reluctantly behind last month, I imported into Ireland, via Aer Lingus, a burly American Robin redbreast whom I have christened Rupert the Redneck.

As I write he is flying along my garden fence close to the Shannon putting the fear of God into the resident smaller robins and sparrows and finches and, dreadfully, this afternoon he was even bold enough to knock our largest cat Belle off the fence with his powerful left wing. It is the Silly Season but that is not a lie.

The whole of the truth is that my Catskills friend, the colorful Denis Winter, writer, musician, singer and craftsman, especially with wood, carved out Rupert the Redneck as his gift for the Dutch Nation's garden back home in Killaloe, and I was not home an hour before a delighted Annet mounted him upon the fence over her tulips.

He has been there since, wooden wings whirring in the breezes from Lough Derg and the Shannon. A splendid icon of a splendid week.

But this yarn marries perfectly with the best Irish Silly Season yarn of all this summer, one that is flying high in every sense of the word, not alone over Ireland but over John Bull's other island as well. It is the frightening and Hitchcockian in almost every detail.

It is the revelation that the previously beautiful and harmless herring gull flocks around our waters have recently become extremely dangerous both to humans and animals. There has even been a call in Leinster House by a Fianna Fail senator called Denis O'Donovan for the government to launch a national gull cull to reduce the threat to man and beast. Incredible stuff.

If it is true, and it seems to be authenticated, that huge herring gulls have recently killed small dogs and tortoises in the South of England, and mothers there have been officially warned to protect their babies from the new aerial threat.

It is equally certain, especially in the Kingdom of Kerry, that mountain sheep and lambs have been killed by gulls, and even a named motorcyclist, Vincent Appleby, was attacked by a gull when traveling at 40 miles an hour through the Iveragh district.

Said Appleby, "He nearly knocked my head off. It was like a Second World War Tula coming in! He knew what he was doing, he turned at the last minute so his wings would not be hit. Gulls are very clever.”

Equally incredibly, in nearby Annascaul, farmer John McCrohan witnessed a savage attack by the gulls on two fully-grown sheep of his mountain flock. The gulls killed the ewes by attacking them with beaks and claws even though he tried to drive them off with a stick.

"If I had not had the stick I am convinced they would have attacked me too," he told Radio Kerry.

And farmer Bridget O'Connor, who lost two little lambs to the gull attacks on her farm outside Tralee earlier this year, described the victims as having been ripped and torn apart, "gored to death."

It maybe the Silly Season, but there are some quite frightening elements to this story.

As an inland countryman, growing up 30 miles from the Atlantic coast, I know one only saw small flights of seagulls inland during the weeks when farmers were cutting their meadows and the shorn earth provided the birds with a feast of slugs and earthworms and insects and small mammals for a few days. Then they disappeared until next year.

Experts say that the overfishing of the herring stocks on which the gulls have depended down their generations has led to them being driven further and further inland, hungrier and hungrier, in search of alternative sources. It would seem that mountain lambs are relatively easy prey for birds of a predatory species whom I have seen swallowing down whole mackerel easily during my Connemara years.

I recall warning all of you visiting Ireland nowadays to be aware of increasingly large herds of deer jumping out on to the roadways you are using. It may well be equally true in this strangely evolving world that you should also equip yourself with a strong stick if you venture up one of our beautiful mountains anywhere on the island.

Ye have been warned!

Beautiful and harmless herring gull flocks around our waters have recently become extremely dangerous.Cathy Bartholomew