Scotland – The Bass Rock

Scotland – The Bass Rock

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The Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) is a truly impressive bird. It is the largest seabird in the North Atlantic as well as being the largest member of the Gannet family, Sulidae.

Whilst on a family holiday to my native Scotland, we took a nostalgic boat trip from town of North Berwick, sailing around the Bass Rock and Craigleith on the edge of The Firth of Forth to experiences the ultimate in gannet spectacles off this huge basalt column that rises from the sea bed.

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Gannets often perform dramatic plunge dives from high in the sky to catch fish up to depths of 30m and can stay submerged for over half a minute. They have no nostrils on their bills and can survive the enormous pressure of such 85kmph dives into the sea without worrying about blowing their brains out!

They also feed from the surface on small shoaling fish like Sand Eels and on discards from fishing vessels, where their large size helps them out compete most other scavenging species. The northern gannet is endemic to the North Atlantic and most breed in Britain and Ireland. There are 21 colonies around the British Isles, with most being on remote offshore islands and stacks, and two on mainland cliffs. Some colonies have been occupied for centuries and are large and conspicuous like the Bass Rock off the East Lothian coast.

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An adult Shag sits on the lower rocks at the base of the Bass Rock

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A Grey Seal pup

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The distant Isle of May another great seabird island on the Forth

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Gannets wheeling over the top of the Bass

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North Berwick

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Heading out to sea on the Sula II

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The Bass Rock. The white covering is mostly 150,000 of the gannets that breed there although there is some guano!

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Canoeists taking a trip out to see the wildlife

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Tantallon Castle ruins from the Bass

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Wall to wall gannets

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Gannets pair for life and only the males build their nests

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Over the Bass Lighthouse

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In such a cramped breeding aea, fights and territorial disputes are common and the noise can be incredible, but then again so can the smell…

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Gannet chick being tended to by it’s parents

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An adult Grey Seal with some facial injury, probably from fighting with other males

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Elegant flight

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Chick preening

Stephen Daly

Stephen Daly

Stephen Daly, has been birding since he was eight years old in his native Scotland. After living in Germany and France he established Andalucian Guides the successful birding and wildlife tour company on The Strait of Gibraltar in Spain and has been living here since 2001. Photographing birds in flight is one passion and his photos can be found in many books, magazines and journals. Studying bird behaviour and bird migration are two other positive aspects of being based on one of the busiest migration routes on Earth.

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