150,000 gannets (all pictured here)

This is George (149,999 to go)

Today’s guest picture comes from Matilda’s mother, Clare and shows Matilda teaching her father how to fly a kite this afternoon.

kite flying

The (ocean) main business of the day was a boat trip round Craigleith Island and the Bass Rock to see the birds.  As you can see from the guest picture, the sun was out in the afternoon but unfortunately, it was rather grey  and cold when we set out from North Berwick harbour at lunch time…

North Berwick harbour

…but the plus point was that it was not very windy at all and the boat trip was pleasingly uneventful.

The little catamaran was full with about 40 or 50 passengers as it skimmed across the waters of the Firth of Firth towards Craigleith Island…

craigleith island

…but we got there in no time.

The boat politely slowed down when it got near the island and we were treated to a very leisurely circumnavigation with plenty of time to look around.

Even at a slow pace though, my boat legs were a bit wobbly and the island passed all too quickly so I didn’t get the pictures that the life there deserved.

Here is a sample.

Guillemots and kittiwakes
Guillemots showing that they can both float and walk on water
puffins on hill
Puffins on the top the hill
A passing cormorant with nesting material
puffins paddling
We saw seals.  One was interested in us and the other wasn’t
eider ducks
Male eider ducks
flying razorbill
As we left the island, a razorbill flew past us

I could have done with another two circuits of the island but time and the boat moved on towards the Bass Rock, the biggest colony of Atlantic gannets in the world.

I avoided feeling the motion of the boat as it bumped across the grain of the waves by keeping my eyes fixed on Berwick law.

berwick law from the sea

It didn’t take us long to get to the rock with its 100ft cliffs and if it was gannets that we were looking for, we were in the right place.

bass rock lighthouse (2)

They were everywhere.

flying gannet
A youngster in the air


lots of gannets
Established couples at their nesting sites

We were close enough to be able to see some characteristic behaviour.

gannet arguing
Territorial dispute:  “You’re cramping my style!”
gannet staring
Staring upwards prior to taking off


gannets grooming
Mutual grooming

The oldest gannets live on top of the rock where it is easiest to take off and the pecking order literally descends with age.

There were many birds in the sky at all time….

gannets 18 (2)

…with even some being shot out of a handy cannon.

gannets 18

It’s a disused foghorn really.

Gannets have a wingspan of two metres and are big birds but they must be among the most elegant of all birds, both in flight and on the ground.

gannet (2)
A lot of the birds of all sorts that we saw in the air today were bringing nesting material back.  This gannet was returning triumphantly with a single feather.

Once again, I could easily have stayed put for another couple of circuits, particularly as the sea was very calm round the rock but once again, the skipper had a schedule and we headed back to the harbour.

The rock has been inhabited for centuries and has a lighthouse, a castle, a chapel and prison.  The humans made a huge dent in the gannet population but they are there no longer and there are only birds now.  As a result, the guide told us, there are currently 150,000 breeding gulls on the rock and it is now so full that the gannets are looking for alternative accommodation on other cliffs near by.

bass rock lighthouse
You can see the castle in the foreground and the pipe from the lighthouse to the fog horn climbing up over the top of the Rock and some fine caves on the right.

We waved goodbye to the gannets…

gannet (4)

…and after a polite pause so that the passengers could take the iconic view of the Bass Rock from a suitable distance…

bass rock view
I have put this picture in at a larger than usual size so a click on it should bring it up in more detail.

….the skipper whisked us home at a brisk and exhilarating pace.

leaving bass rock

We hadn’t been long off the boat before Mrs Tootlepedal ran into our friend Sandy, who is spending a day or two in Haddington, a few miles away.  He had come into North Berwick for a quick visit.  He came in for a cup of tea and then he and I walked along the beach to where he had parked his car.  More or less as soon as we got off the boat, the sun had come out and it was a very pleasant afternoon by this time.

north berwick west beach

We passed this Scots pine in a garden on the way to the car…


…looking more like a pineapple than a pine, I thought.

After Sandy had set off to Haddington, I walked back along the beach, passing our boat now parked at sea as the tide was too far out for it to get into the harbour.

Bass rock boat

I found Matilda and her parents having fun on the beach near the cottage and I joined in.  I even went as far as rolling up my trouser legs and having a paddle with Matilda.  Luckily there were no paparazzi about to record this.

We had a delicious beanfeast for our tea and then we all collapsed quietly, feeling that we had had a very full day.

The flying bird of the day (and this will come a surprise to readers who haven’t been paying attention) is a gannet.

gannet (3)

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

18 thoughts on “150,000 gannets (all pictured here)

  1. Great Gannets! I have been trying to follow all your adventures and cannot resist commenting on this one as years ago I took a similar boat trip to the Skelligs off of Ireland where there is a similar situation going on with seabirds. Adore the Gannets (and Razorbills and Guillemots and Kittiwakes). We did not see Puffins or Eider Ducks there though. Absolutely wonderful pictures!

  2. Gannets are beautiful, and like many other creatures, they seem to do much better without us. Sigh. Why are we so destructive?

  3. However much guano each bird produces daily x 150,000 = a truly prodigious amount of fertilizer. The mind boggles!

  4. Wonderful images of the birds. Seems as though we were perhaps snapping Guillemots at roughly the same time. Yours came out far better than mine, but will have to wait for me to catch up to posting. I’ve never, ever seen a Gannet, except in pictures. We are getting a few shots of a pair of goldfinches, but they don’t look much like yours. The Guillemots however appear to be rather similar.

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