I don’t know if it’s just me, but the seagulls I meet these days seem to be giants; overfed by well-intentioned tourists, I reckon. Bigger still, though, is the gannet. And they don’t steal your chips or ice cream, like the seagulls do.
In fact, the Northern Gannet is Britain’s largest seabird. Sixty percent of Europe’s gannets live in Scotland and the single largest colony makes its home on Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth. The rugged white rock is hard to miss. It takes on its white colour from late January until October as this albino effect is provided by the white bodies of the gannets. The huge white birds, with 1.8 metre wingspans and contrasting black wingtips, fly gracefully around the island, mounting high in the air and diving at up to 96 kmph to capture their food.
I cannot overstate the elegance of these birds, with long, slender necks, sharp beak and pointed tails. I can watch them for hours, with barely a blink.
For a good view, be sure to head to the Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick. Here you can control their interactive cameras, zooming in for a live reality show, bird-style. It looks a pretty chaotic life on that rock. In the air, they demonstrate speed, control, grace, power, beauty, domination. As I said, hyperbole is allowed.
If you fancy getting closer still, there are thrilling boat trips on offer from Easter until October. Be sure to book in advance.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 5 November 2016