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Looking for Maximus!

Maximus the Gannet, Maggie Sheddon from Scottish Seabird Centre & HMS GannetAn alert is being sent out this month to birdwatchers up and down the country to be on the look-out for a very special gannet. The gannet, nicknamed Maximus, set a UK record two years ago as the latest chick ever recorded when he was plucked to safety by the Scottish Seabird Centre from the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. The largest single island gannet colony in the world, in summer 150,000 gannets crowd onto the island but by Christmas day in 2008 one solitary bird had been left alone, abandoned by its parents with little chance of survival in the harsh Scottish winter.

Young gannets migrate thousands of miles south in autumn, as far as West Africa and, having missed the mass migration, Maximus hit the headlines when Royal Navy Air Rescue Team HMS Gannet in Prestwick came to the rescue and transported the chick as far as Cornwall (as part of a routine exercise) where he was then taken by a Cornish fishing trawler and released into the Bay of Biscay.

After two years, fully grown Atlantic gannets usually return to where they were born and the Seabird Centre is hopeful that Maximus will be able to find his way back home to the Bass Rock. Chief Executive of the award-winning centre at North Berwick, Tom Brock OBE, comments,

“The first gannets are expected to return towards the end of this month, but because Maximus hitched a lift, it will be interesting to see if he can find his way home to the Bass Rock, under his own steam. Gannets usually mate for life and, once established, return year after year to the same mate and the same nest for up to 50 years. Maximus, who was exceptionally placid and good natured throughout his rescue, will have transformed from the dark brown juvenile of two years ago into the distinctive adult gannet plumage: brilliant white with black wingtips and a bright yellow head. As well as having a silver ID ring, Maximus will be identifiable by two large red rings on his right leg.”

“As a wildlife attraction and conservation charity, our aim is to inspire people to care for and appreciate wildlife and our natural environment and we hope that people around the country will take up the challenge to look out for Maximus who could be spotted anywhere around the UK coastline. We’ll be scanning the Bass Rock from our live cameras on the island, which are broadcast live at www.seabird.org, and also from our boat trips to try to spot him. New adult gannets arriving on the island are restricted to the fringes of the colony which should help to narrow down the search!”

The Seabird Centre would welcome any possible sightings of Maximus by email info@seabird.org or by calling 01620 890202.

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