Gannets at the Bass Rock

Rocky island with lighthouse in sea. The Bass Rock from the south-west, turned white by the gannets (and their 'output') This page is about the Bass Rock, a small volcanic island rising 300 feet (100 m) from the water, on the east coast of Scotland, where the Firth of Forth joins the North Sea. It lies about a mile from the shore near North Berwick, and some 30 miles (48 kms) east of Edinburgh. Its glory is that it is home to the world's largest colony of North Atlantic Gannets, numbers of which can rise to around 150,000. The screaming wheeling seething mass overhead, joins the smell of the guano which, together with the motion of the small boat needed for the trip, creates a unique experience - one that still photography cannot capture, although hopefully the photos do show something of the birds themselves. One of their most magnificent performances is given when they dive into the sea after fish. Photographs illustrating this were taken in the south-west of Scotland, the activity can be seen almost anywhere around the British islands as the birds travel up to 200 miles (320 kilometres) in search of food from one of the 21 gannetries around our coastlines. City laid out with sea beyond and volcano apparent. From the west side of Edinburgh (The spires of the Anglican Cathedral are to the right) the volcanoes of East Lothian can just be seen - North Berwick Law is central, the Bass Rock to its left View of hill from sea with houses along shore. Looking back, en route to the Rock, at North Berwick Law Gannet flying above sea level with camera. The passing gannet's smooth majestic flight Bass Rock sea and nearby land clifs with two birds. The Rock is not far off shore, within view of these cormorants sitting on the landward rocks Young gannet struggling to rise from water. Stately once flying, but getting out of the water for a young bird is no easy matter! Bass Rock showing its whiteness, dark rocks in foreground. The evening sun makes the conversion of black volcanic rock to a white (guano) Christmas cake all the more conspicuous Gannets on water, one spear-like entering water. Birds enter the water at nearly 50 mph (80 kph)... General scene of gannets flying, beginning dives and swimming. ...These speeds would break the necks of human divers...

These photographs of wheeling and diving gannets, were taken off Corsewall Point, in south-west Scotland
Gannets flying low near water, one spear diving into water ...The wings are folded right back to the tail Gannets in the air and on the water, vertical splashes visible. The birds wait overhead, when shoals of fish are detected. The splashes of recent dives can be seen Many gannets on and just above the sea. On emerging from the water the birds have the effort of getting their three kilogram bodies back up into the air Many wheeling gannets over cliff top covered with birds. Back at the Bass Rock the birds wheel overhead... Cormorants and gulls standing on cliff top. ...but of course other species (cormorants) get a foothold Massive sloping surface above cliffs covered in white dots. At this magnification, the gannets (each about one yard by two yards when flying - 0.9 by 1.8 metres) become just white dots Cliff face with many ledges and birds. The west cliffs offer a myriad of... Nearer view of cliff face, shape of birds visible. ...ledges and crevices where the birds can nest Small area of cliff with birds identifiable. Coming closer to the cliffs when the beautiful... Gannet looking up into the sky. ...soft brown on the back of the heads can be seen Young bird and older bird, breasts pressing against each other. A 'sub-adult' bird gently nestling against a probable parent Head and neck of gannet against black rock. The full adult seeming to be more a work of fine porcelain Gannet sitting, head turned giving side view. Poser. For us the delicacy of the blue eye, soft brown head and black lines marking the beak are aesthetic. And for a fish about to be speared by that massive beak? Below some photographs of nestlings

Adult, neck right down, standing next to young.
Young gannet, beak pointing vertically upwards. A bird now with little down - practicing trumpeting.

These pictures show nestlings at different ages. The birds above have little down left on their heads and necks; lower left, a full crown of down, and below an almost white bird
Young gannet trying to get its long beak to its neck feathers. Above, a young bird - it still has down on the back of its neck - next to parent. The elder bird is very relaxed - neck right down

Left a young bird tackling the problem of preening under the chin
Side view of young gannet with white down on head and neck. The bird below is younger with plenty of down on the crown and back of the neck Young nestling gannet, all white apart from face. White down nestling looking up at the camera. What parent couldn't be proud of me? Trailers... Looking down Glen Dochertie towards Loch Maree. The next page of this section takes you up to the highlands of Scotland and to the road to Gairloch in Wester Ross. Girls faces looking left. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Metaphor as Image'.
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Saturday 26th March 2022 Murphy on duty to this site

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