Bass Rock is one of the most distinctive landmarks
in Scotland, jutting out abruptly from the Firth of Forth.
love islands like Bass Rock because they are safe from predators and have a plentiful
supply of food.
Rock is sea bird central in the summer. |
thousand birds live cheek by jowl, occupying every single available space.
common with the other Forth islands, the rock is the remains of a volcano - over
millions of years the sea has worn away the softer layers of rock, leaving only
a hard plug of solidified lava.
Bass has been part of many significant events
in Scottish history.
It was a religious retreat in early Christianity, and
a fortress and prison during the time of the Jacobites.
It also had a strategic
position during many wars between Scotland and England.
visitors approach Bass Rock in the middle of summer, it looks like it's covered
in snow, but this is actually the sight of tens of thousands of Atlantic Gannets,
who've come from the west coast of Africa to nest on the island.
has the biggest Gannet colony in Britain, and a trip to see it as an extraordinary
sight and experience - the drama of the Gannets' lives unfolds just a few feet
As well as the Gannets, other seabirds nest at Bass Rock - Shags
nest not far from the splash zone, Guillemots crowd the lower ledges, and Kittiwakes
can be spotted on narrowest ledges of the cliffs.
The bird prefers wind
blown stacks to enable vertical takeoff and landing.
The male Gannet invests
a deal of energy in his nest site which he keeps for life.
He defends it
by his presence and display for a bigger part of each year than does any other
When the chicks are ready, they jump off the ledge on cliff and
fly out to sea.
Many don't make it. Those that do are unlikely to return
for three or four years.
Every July, many of the birds are beginning to
leave but the Gannets stay on the rock until autumn.
are one of the UK's largest sea birds.
The birds themselves demand attention
with their striking white plumage and golden heads.
Gannets have probably
nested on Bass for many thousands of years, but in recent centuries they were
exploited for their meat, eggs, oil and feathers.
* The birds have
a wingspan of just under two metres.
* They slam into the sea like missiles,
descending at speeds of over 90 mph to depths of 30 feet below sea level.
The Gannet are designed for high speed impact as they hit water - they have built
in safety features including a skull like a crash helmet and a throat pouch that
swells like a driver's air bag.
*Gannets are fiercely territorial and
very aggressive to neighbours and even their mates.
Egg laying tends to be sychronised in one area so chicks tend to be same age.
During Victorian times the Gannets were hunted by shooting
Since then the birds have become protected species, and their population
has risen dramatically over the last 20-30 years.
Gannets have many advantages
over other sea birds as they can forage over wide area.
The Bass Gannets
are known to fish as far away as Norway, and feed on wide range of species, diving
deep to hunt for them.
This means that while other seabird populations
fluctuate, Gannet populations keep on growing.
The larger the population,
the bigger the increase in numbers each year.
Gannets' nests are densely packed with about three per square metre, just beyond
Usually the birds mate for life and recognise sound of
their mates, ensuring they don't land on the wrong nest and get attacked.
adult birds return to Bass in January or February while the weather is still poor
but they want to ensure that no bird has pinched his territory.
for the gannet equivalent of kissing - bill fencing, which pairs do to reaffirm
their own bond.
If a Gannet is about to leave its nest, it adopts a peculiar
posture pointing its beak towards the sky which signals its intention.
mate then remains on the nest.
Also look out for
Peregrines on Fidra and Puffins in May.