Bass Rock gannets

A view from the bull’s eye of the target, right before the release of a uric acid/digested fish bomb. The splattering impact is impressive. The smell lingers.

gannet1170,000 gannets (with 75,259 nests) make their summer homes on the Bass Rock, just off the Scottish coast.

Like Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, the Bass Rock is a volcanic plug, an erosion-resistant intrusion into softer rocks, now standing exposed. The Rock’s lighthouse was built by the family of Robert Louis Stevenson, as were many of Scotland’s nineteenth century lighthouses. Before the lighthouse, the Rock served variously over the centuries as a castle, prison, and hermitage. Now, birds have run of the place.

bass rockgannet2 Gannets are plunge-feeders, diving with wings folded onto their prey (cam-on-human video here; cam-on-bird video here, the green is marking paint on the bird’s feathers).

Gannets fly up to 100 km from the colony in search of food. Unlike most other northern seabirds, gannet populations have grown lately, perhaps because the birds are no longer hunted for meat and eggs (except for a small hunt on the Outer Hebrides). The fishing industry leaves plenty of edible “by-catch” and removes larger fish that would compete with gannets for food.

Nests are perched on every available rock ledge. A seaweed base and rim gives the eggs and nestlings a suitably salty start to life, spiced with plastic flotsam.

gannet3

11 thoughts on “Bass Rock gannets

  1. pete saussy

    those white and black chex marks are harbingers of winter on our soouth carolina coast. they seldom come closer to shore than half a mile and get crowded buring rockfish or sheepshed runs

    Reply
  2. Minyon Bond

    Never have seen such a good closeup as the nesting shot. Had no idea they were so pretty. Such well defined patterns. Is this an example of “nature” coloring “inside the lines”?

    Reply
  3. April Minkler

    Thanks for the wonderful pictures and descriptions. I love Scotland and her islands so much. I got to visit Iona and Staffa a couple of decades ago, and to sing into the cave on Staffa. Incredible experience.

    Reply
  4. Ralph

    Thanks for the wonderful photos and info-as always. Great stuff! Reading “The world without us”-Alan Weisman.
    Scary stuff this plastic!

    Reply
  5. Jim Markowich

    Love gannets. They’re northern cousins of boobies, aren’t they? In any case, they are splendid, trim, smart-looking birds. Once when we watched many of them whirling and diving for fish, we were surprised to see them repeatedly pair off. Two birds would synchronize their aerial moves, ending eventually in a tandem, near-vertical, small-splash plummet. Did you see any of that behavior?

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Gannets, tough heads, and offshore oil drilling. | Ramble

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