Monday, July 12, 2010

Pic of the Day, and more

Northern Gannet soaring over ocean
Northern Gannet landing with nesting materia
Northern Gannet flying over gannetry

Northern Gannet 
Gannetry on Bonaventure Island looking South

Northern Gannet pair bonding behavior
     Northern Gannet  • Morus bassanus – Bonaventure Island, Quebec, Canada:  My first trip to Bonaventure Island off the Gaspe’ Peninsula of Quebec, Canada was in 1983. My visit was prompted by a book by George Harrison titled Roger Tory Peterson’s Favorite Birding Hotspots. I was stunned by the number of birds I saw, which at the time numbered 35,000 pairs. In 1984 while visiting with RTP in his studio I showed him slides from that trip. When I told him that 35,000 pairs of Gannets nested on the island. He seemed surprised and told me the story of when he had visited the island in the early 60’s. At that time he told me, only 15,000 pair of Gannet nest on the island. Roger was pleased to here that the birds had increased and told me he would like to return and see the colony again. I’m not sure if he made it back, but if he did he would have had a great time shooting photos.
I returned to Bonaventure again in the summer of 2003 and the number had increased to 55,000 pairs of birds. Now, on my recent trip this summer I discovered that the number of Gannets has grown to more than 65,000 pair of birds. It’s hard to imagine the scene and the photos here do not give justice to the number of birds on the island. The Gannets nest on the ocean side of the island, and the rookery stretches at least three-quarters of a mile. The two group photos shown here, stretches only a quarter of a mile or less. The air is constantly filled with Gannets and the noise of the squawking birds is deafening. Yet worse, and depending on the direction of the wind, the smell can be stifling.
The trip to the island takes only about 15 minutes if you take the direct boat from the mainland, but the walk over the island to the rookery takes about 45 minutes (according to the park service personal). It took me an hour and fifteen minutes with a fifty pound camera pack on my back and carrying an eight pound tripod to cross the island. It seems that the entire trip was up hill. The funny thing about this is that, the return trip seemed uphill as well. At one point I thought I was in an Escher drawing!
My first day out was a bust. I landed. Then walked across (1 1/4 hour trip) the island. When I arrived at the rookery the ranger told me I would have to go back to the dock (on the other side of the island) because the island was being closed due to high waves. So it was back across the island to return to the mainland.
The next day I was back on the island. It was a beautiful day and I shot tons of photos. The colony was unbelievable and is a must see for anyone interested in birds. I can truly see why Roger Tory Peterson called it one of his favorite birding hotspots. It is certainly one of mine!

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