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Bass Rock

 The Bass Rock lies in the Firth of Forth about three miles to the north east of North Berwick.  It is home to the largest gannet colony in the world, with some 150,000 birds present in the spring and summer.  A short boat trip from North Berwick harbour took us to a landing point on the rock, and conditions were calm, ensuring that it was possible to get on the rock without difficulty.  The date was May 22nd 2017.

1.   Approaching the rock

2. Gannets everywhere, some with nests on the path up the rock.

3. Gannets looking for a spot to land

4. Gannet pair

5. Gannet pair in a courtship display

6. Not all is happy and friendly when space is limited

7. A gannet with seaweed for its nest


8. Another pair at their nest

9. A gannet in flight – there were many opportunities


10. Crowded skies - a gannet in flight with others in the background

Bempton Cliffs

Following the trip to the Bass Rock, we headed south to Bempton Cliffs, located on the Yorkshire coast a little to the north west of Flamborough Head.  The cliffs are host to nearly half a million seabirds in the breeding season of April to August.  An RSPB reserve offers several viewing platforms and on the sea below boat trips provide further opportunities to get close to the birds.  Species include the ubiquitous gannets, plus kittiwakes, fulmars, puffins and guillemots.

1. A general view of the cliffs from a boat

2. A gannet pair on the cliff edge with nest material

3. A gannet comes in to land

4. A kittiwake heads inland in search of mud to line its nest

5. Gannets appear overhead, aware that there might soon be some free fish…


The aforementioned boat trips include a session of ‘chumming’, i.e. where fish are thrown into the water to attract the gannets.  This works almost too well – there is a maelstrom of birds and needless to say the gannets’ table manners are terrible….

 After the gannet frenzy, the sea was calm and a small group of fulmars came close to the boat – see last image.

6. The squabbling begins

7. Queueing up

8. This is mine

9.  Getting on top of things

10. Fulmar close up