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What is this giant seagull shape on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge?

This photograph taken from the City View ferris wheel on Parker’s Piece captures the exact moment Cambridge was terrorised by a 150ft seagull. Possibly.

The picture was taken by Cambridge Independent columnist Paul Kirkley’s sister, Joanne Aston, and they are both mystified by how the image of the bird appeared.

Joanne Aston took this picture from the City View ferris wheel on Parker's Piece
Joanne Aston took this picture from the City View ferris wheel on Parker's Piece

Paul said: “It’s a real picture – it’s definitely not Photoshopped. My sister was visiting me from Leeds and we went on the ferris wheel and she took the picture. I went up there 10 minutes before her and there was nothing there.

“She didn’t even notice the seagull shape at the time. She uploaded her pictures on Facebook over the weekend and I said, ‘What is this giant seagull terrorising Cambridge?’.

“I mean it could be a ghost, a haunted Victorian seagull that appears in pictures sometimes. But to me it looks like a shadow. I would like to know from some kind of expert in physics if it is possible that a shadow of a seagull could appear like that on her camera? Did it really make a shadow that big? It would seem strange if it fell across Parker’s Piece that size. Surely it’s something to do with the perspective?”

Streets and open spaces development manager for the city council, Alistair Wilson, investigated for us.

At first he thought the shape may have been cut or brushed into the grass.

But, he said: “The wheel operator has checked today and there is nothing there. I asked the operator if he had done anything to the grass and he said no – and that nothing was visible now from the top of the wheel.”

He was going to ask colleagues to look through CCTV to see what happened to the grass but then he was struck by an idea.

Alistair says: “I noticed the path changes colour in the photo, and if someone had drawn something on the ground you couldn’t change the colour of the path. So I think it might be a shadow superimposed on the window of the glass gondola – because the sun is behind you and a bird is flying past – and when you look through it, it seems like the bird is on the ground.”

Even if the mystery is never solved, it has inspired Alistair.

“I really like it,” he says. “I think we could do something like this in the parks. You can draw pictures on sports pitches by sweeping grass in different ways and you can do it with dew on the grass in the mornings with a drag brush. It’s something we could look at from the ferris wheel. This makes a change from what I usually have to deal with!”

Any ideas - and have you spotted anything similar? Let us know below or by emailing newsdesk@iliffemedia.co.uk.

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