Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Having booked this trip over six months ago it was a long time coming and one that I had really looked forward to again. It was an early, 2.30am start to make the long drive up to Dunbar to be at the harbour side for the 7am departure of our boat to the Island. I had been anxiously watching the weather forecast all week as the long dry sunny spell was due to break and heavy rain was forecast that night but would clear by 7am, it poured down all the way up and was still raining as we arrived at Dunbar, but as we boarded the boat it had stopped and clear skies were coming in from the east. As we reached the Bass Rock blue sky was coming over and the rest of the day was a mix of blue sky and light cloud. What a trip it was, and the whole experience is difficult to put into words, other than it was a real priveledge to spend time so close and in the company of amazing birds. I took 1000+ photos, and it has took some time sorting out my favourite images, below are some record shots of the day, and for my ease I have split them into sections which will become apparent. I hope you enjoy the photos, but they really dont bring to life the true experience of being there, but they will help rekindle the memory.
OUT OF DUNBAR
Dunbar harbour on a damp grey morning, at this stage I was seriously doubting the forecast for good weather
The fisherman are busy sorting last nights catch, the local gulls getting all the scraps
The first views of the Bass Rock bathed in sunshine
Coming in closer getting ready to land, the smell starts to hit you, the noise and the spectacle of so many birds
Once safely onto the island to get up to the Gannet colonies we had to run the gauntlet of the Gulls that were nesting lower down and extremely protective of their young, if you get too close they launch themselves at you beak first followed by a dosing of Poo!!
Once we got further up the true enormity of it all hits you as it takes a long while for it to really sink in how many gannets are are on the Rock, we were on the western side and saw only a small proportion, who knows how many there are over the whole rock, tens of thousands I would guess if not many more, the next section of pictures are some of the many flight images I took.
And a few juvenile birds in flight
At this time of year the Gannets are on the Bass Rock to breed and raise their young and lots of birds were sitting on basic nests made out of twigs and bits of seaweed that they were constantly bringing in to repair the nests.
As I mentioned the Gannet colony on the Rock is vast, and we were only allowed on a very small controlled area, but even so the number of birds around us was immense.
It is only when you get the chance to sit quietly so close to these birds that you truly then realise what beatiful birds they are, and so well designed for what they have to contend with out on the high seas.
CLOSE UP IMAGES
on this next image the eye lids are visible that come down over the eye to protect it when they dive.
A very strange pose!!
The eyes are stunning close up
Gannets like a lot of birds pair up for life, and the bond between them is very close, and as one of the birds return to the nest that bond is strengthened with a sort of head rubbing ritual.
After 3 hours up in the Gannet colony it was time to head back down to the boat, again trying to get past the gulls without being pecked or dumped on, although their chicks are very cute
These two have a grandstand view from the window of a derelict building
Going back down to the boat, I wandered across to get some pictures of the stunning cliffs on the southern side of the Rock.
Then it was onto the boat and away from the Rock, the tide had dropped about 10ft in the three hours we had been there.
Just off the boat where a group of Razorbills and Guiilemots.
It was then time for the 'Chumming' this is where the boat skipper throws fish of the boat encouraging the gannets to come down and dive for them. At first it just attracted lots of gulls, but the Gannets were soon down diving close in to the boat, the hard job was photographing it as they entered the water at terrific speed.
The Gull beat the gannet to the fish on this dive
Two Gannets after the same fish, dangerous with those big bills.
The fizz of bubbles as they enter the water
Even after chumming had finished this Gannet followed for a while on the off chance of more
And then a last look back at the Bass Rock as we steamed back to Dunbar Harbour
Once back at the harbour, had a quick look at the Kittiwake colony that are nesting at the harbour entrance, again lots of young in the nests.
To follow are some short videos from the trip, the first off the back of the boat, if you look quickly you will see some gannets diving, filmed it right near the end when I had put the camera down!
An amazing trip and experience, as I already mentioned it was a real priviledge to spend time on the Bass Rock with its inhabitants.