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Wildlife Wonder the Bass Rock

The Bass Rock, just off the coast of North Berwick is home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets. Gannets are the UKs biggest seabird and have a wingspan of over 6ft. 150,000 of these majestic birds descend on the Bass Rock from March to October to breed and raise their young, known as gugas.

© Paul Hackett

The gugas start to fledge in September, which makes this an ideal time for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts to visit. The Scottish Seabird Centre has remote viewing cameras which allow visitors to watch the gannets with minimal disturbance to the colony. The Centre also runs boat trips around the Bass Rock giving visitors the chance to experience this incredible wildlife spectacle first hand.

This spring/summer has been a particularly unusual season on the Bass Rock. As with many other seabirds in the Firth of Forth, the breeding season was later than usual. Bass Rock landing guide for the Scottish Seabird Centre and gannet expert Maggie Sheddan, noted serious deficiencies in the nest sites this year. Maggie, who has already rescued x3 gugas displaced from their nests this season, observed that:

“Nest building is an important ritual for gannets affirming the site and the bond between the breeding pair. However, this season eggs were being laid on bare ground, with no protection. This was a significant cause for concern as the nest is vital to protect the chick and keep it warm and safe from the torrents of water that can pour down the rock and engulf it.

Poor nests and bad weather are the most likely the reasons our chicks had been displaced. Fortunately, we are now seeing more seaweed being brought into the existing nest sites, but it may be too late for some of this year’s young.”

The reason for the poor nests and the lower number of nesting birds is not yet known but could be linked to the extreme weather in early March and the severe storms brought by the Beast from the East. This may have had an impact on the availability of core nest building material such as seaweed.

Despite the challenging conditions many breeding pairs have successfully raised their young and these birds will begin to fledge this month. They and the rest of the birds in the colony will then make the long journey south to West Africa where they spend the winter.

For your chance to witness these incredible seabirds in their natural habitat before they leave for the winter visit the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Admission to the Discovery Centre: £8:95 per adult, £4:95 per child, £25 per family.

Open every day, except Christmas Day. Double boat trip and Discovery Centre tickets are also available.

For further information visit www.seabird.org

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