26 January 2011

Newfoundland part 2: 20.000 gannets

Cape St. Mary: 10.000 pair of gannets in a relative small place! Spectacular, especially when at first you just hear a lot of screeching noises and there isn't much to see but a thick fog.

We were travelling with a magnificent RV, so at first I just stayed in the car reading about the gannets I was supposed to see at the cape. But after a while I just had to go.
The first half hour I just heard them, but then the fog became thinner and the clouds got higher. And a spectacular view was revealed: every white spot is a (or two or three) gannet.

Getting closer there is a promontory with nestling gannets. You can get as close as 25 meter. Between them and you is a 100 meters deep gap. That keeps the foxes and coyotes (yes coyotes!) and especially people at bay.

So the gannets aren't afraid and are just doing their business. Courting their partner, bill fencing, feeding their chick (just one), being a bit agressive to the neighbour and rearranging or renovating the nest.
The next morning at 8.00 AM we had beautiful weather: sun and unclouded. That's rather untypical for Cape St. Mary. Chris, a nature supervisor of Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, told us that the cape is shrouded in mist for 2/3th of the year. So we were very lucky. He was very enthusiastic and pleased about his work, but imagine working such a period in a foggy place. And maybe the rest of the season is rain and snow....
A lot of noise, a bit smelly but not as much as I expected. A perfect spot where you can sit for hours.
If a chick falls off the cliff its chances of survival are almost none.
This is the northern gannet (NL: jan-van-gent), Morus bassanus. The same species you can observe in the Netherlands - albeit rare and surely not in thousands - gliding over the sea with their typical 'sharp' wings. They are excellent fliers.
Flying upside down. Just for fun or excercise?

In the afternoon the fog reappeared. Perfect for nice soft toned pictures.
The gannet is one of my favorite birds. They are social (partners for life), the way they court each other, their beautiful appearance and the way they float in the air. One of the things I really like to photograph in the future under water: gannets 'dive bombing' in the sea to catch fish.