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.
170,000 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.
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.