It was a sunny bank holiday Monday afternoon in early May when we arrived in North Berwick with the intention of kayaking out to Bass Rock to see the gannets. We hadn't quite got the measure of exactly how busy the road along the seafront would be. But somehow, only slightly cheekishly, we squeezed ourselves a place to park and unloaded the kayaks. As we paddled off into the wind it was a big relief to be out of the car and on the water away from all the hustle and bustle of people.
On the way we got good views of Tantallon Castle which was apparently built during the 1300's and held by the Red Douglas dynasty until it was besieged for the third time by Oliver Cromwell's army 300 years later. It is most notable architecturally due to its massive red sandstone curtain wall. Keen to learn more about it, I tried to go and visit but it wasn't open while I was there.
As we neared the Bass Rock the only other vessel there perhaps a sightseeing tour boat moved on and we had the rock to ourselves .. well apart from all the gannets..!! The latin name for the Gannet was originally Sana Bassana but has now been changed to Morus Basannas. It was named after this rock that is reputedly home to about 40,000 pairs. Quite deserved!
With significant clapotis (wave refraction) on the far side decided not to take photos just there, but once round the corner and below the steep North cliff the conditions eased off again and the cameras came out.
There seemed to be a few squabbles going on between the gannets on the rock and off the rock. They communicate by how they hold or move their head and neck when approached by other birds. It appears that this bird body language is especially important when it comes to breeding! We stayed for a while watching some of the to-ing and fro-ing and generally just watching their behaviour whilst on the rock. Then two caught my eye, they seemed to be having a good tussle whilst in the sea; time for a little video clip. If anyone could give me a good explanation of this behaviour I would be very grateful!
We completed our circuit back to the lighthouse which showed it's first light shown on the 1st November 1902. Long before this though the island has been home to a chapel and a prison, it was even captured and held by Jacobite prisoners for three years.
As we moved onto explore the other nearby island Craigleith (where we saw puffins, guillemots and razorbills) we seemed to move into a cloud of gannets.
Thanks to Zoe for her company on a fab paddle.... and the chips!
Below are some links to where I found out more about gannets and the area:
Also thanks for the useful and interesting information go to
Cooper,D & Reid G (2005) Scottish Sea Kayaking: Fifty Great sea Kayak Voyages and
Cooper,D (2014) North and East Coasts of Scotland Sea Kayaking. Both Pesda Press.