Saturday, 22 September 2012

Juvenile Gannet sits it out at Dungeness

My first early morning birding trip down to Dungeness point for sometime was, I hoped, going to be a morning of rich pickings. However, the morning soon turned out to be dominated by just one lonesome and magnificent juvenile Gannet.

Walking the shingle ridge by the the fishing boats, there wasn't a great deal to see - just a dozen or so Gannets closely following a group of Porpoises was the only interest. But walking on, and in my path with camouflaged brown plumage and sleeping posture, a solitary Gannet awaited me. I wasn't far from nearly walking straight into it before it raised its ruffled head and stopped me in my tracks.

The young Gannet appeared weak and was going nowhere and I felt concerned for the bird's safety - especially as it wasn't going to be long before Saturday morning dog walkers would be wandering across the shingle ridges.

I sat with the bird for some time taking pictures and contemplated what I was going to do with it next. Looking back behind me a small group of fisherman were having breakfast on the beach after a long night's fishing. They kindly gave me an 8oz Whiting which I offered to the starving Gannet. As I approached the bird, holding the fish out, it immediately started begging for food with its beak open wide. Down dropped the Whiting, head first, swallowed in one move. I then offered Squid and Mackerel to the Gannet, neither of which it would swallow.

I decided that now with some food down it's neck I'd try and float it back to sea. With the help of a friendly visitor to Dungeness we caught the bird, clasped its beak tightly and took it down to the shoreline. Despite an incoming tide, our lonesome Gannet was quickly swimming out to sea and out of harm's way. In fact, within a minute, it was just a speck in the distance and back in the company of a passing party of feeding Gannets.

Interestingly, last weekend, 200 miles up in the North Sea and, to be more precise, in the Humber Estuary, my sister and birding buddies watched a large group of juvenile Gannets unusually flying off-course and close to the Humber Bridge.

Story and excellent photographs here: