Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Islands and Highlands 4

From Seahouses and the Farne Islands I headed up to Dunbar for a trip out to Bass Rock the following morning. Arriving at the harbour I recognised several other faces - clearly the Farne Islands -Bass Rock circuit is developing! The aim was a boat trip out, to feed some Bass Rock gannets on the way, and hopefully, weather permitting, to land on the Rock.

The weather was reasonably kind (although it clouded over as the morning passed), a few birds came to feed at the boat (the fishing has been good this year, so the gulls outnumbered the gannets significantly, but it was still a treat to see them hit the water so near), and the spectacle of the Rock came nearer.

The largest gannet colony in the world, from a distance the birds provide a dusting on the bare rock.

Access when we landed was as high as the ruined chapel can see just above the lighthouse, and the birds were just phenomenal. These are big birds, but they are at your feet, all around you - the sound, the smell - quite breathtaking. In fact there are so many photography was tricky - always a bit of another bird in the way!

I feel I rarely get my best shots on the first visit to a venue - I'm still too green at this game, and need to look back at the snaps and consider what to do better next time, but here I only had the one chance. In hindsight I spent too long trying for some flight shots - it's not the best venue light-wise, and with the wind direction as it was the birds were flying in from the sun, tending to cast shadow on the head. Still in the end I got some snaps I was happy with.

I should probably have spent a bit more time on the nesting birds, but got some nice views of parents with chicks of all ages,

of the parents together (very easy to anthropomorphise here - sorry Brian - but there has to be some element of affection here surely).....

including the bill-fencing greeting as one of the pair returned ........

and the 'sky pointing' a bird would do just before take off.

Not all was peace and quiet though. Two birds started a scrap, then more joined in and the mud was soon flying before the target bird managed a get-away. I presume it had ventured into the wrong territory, but suspect it won't make the same mistake again.

I previously commented on the brightly coloured mouths of various seabirds. Not so the gannets - but just look at the size of that gob!

Inevitably gannet fever took over. I should have spent more time on the herring gulls also nesting on the Rock - like I say next time I'll do better.

It was a good trip, and a great experience, but it's not cheap and you need to be lucky with the wind and light if you are going to get the really best views - especially flight shots. I took way too many pictures as usual, but if you want to see some more, or just better views of these shots, click HERE and look at the latest pictures album.

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