16 February 2015
The Bass Rock, which in bygone days has been a fortress, prison and religious retreat, has been recognised as home to the world's largest collection of Northern Gannets. ...
The Bass Rock, which in bygone days has been a fortress, prison and religious retreat, has been recognised as home to the world's largest collection of Northern Gannets.
The Scottish Seabird Centre, East Lothian, has announced that a count of Northern gannets undertaken by Stuart Murray, in conjunction with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), has shown that the Bass Rock is now the world’s largest colony. Gannets have made their home on the imposing rock (which is an extinct volcano) since at least the fifteenth century.
Maggie Sheddan, the senior Bass Rock guide for the Scottish Seabird Centre, found 75,000 apparently occupied sites (AOS). This is an increase of 24% since a similar count made by Stuart Murray in 2009. Stuart Murray said: 'The colony was photographed from the air on 23 June 2014. Conditions were excellent, with no wind and a high cover of thick cloud which obscured the sun, reducing the glare from all these startlingly white birds. The images were later viewed on computer screens for counting and each occupied site was blocked-out as it was counted.
'Interestingly, the most dramatic increase is between the old lighthouse keepers’ garden and the summit of the Rock. We counted around 10,000 sites in this area compared with 6,500 five years ago.'
Visitors to the Scottish Seabird Centre can control the interactive live cameras and zoom in on the live gannet action on the Bass Rock. The gannets will start to return any day now and will stay until October. The Seabird Centre's boat trips to the Bass Rock will start at Easter.
BASS ROCK HERITAGE
The isolated position of Bass Rock makes it the perfect location for colonies of birds. The rock was formed 320 million years ago and is the core of an old volacno. During its history, it has been a fortress, a garrison, a religious retreat and a strategic stronghold during wars between England and Scotland. A lighthouse was built on the rock in 1902 and the last lighthouse keeper left in 1988 when the lighthouse was automated.
Scottish Seabird Centre, The Harbour, North Berwick, East Lothian EH39 4SS; tel: 01620 89020; website.
Bass Rock image copyright Stuart Murray; Gannet image copyright Gareth Easton.