Gannets

Gannets at Bempton Cliffs


Two gannets displaying courtship behaviour on Bempton Cliffs

Two gannets displaying courtship behaviour on Bempton Cliffs

I was lucky enough to visit Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire recently. Apparently the highest coastal cliffs in England, they are home to thousands of seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and of course, gannets.

Gannets {Morus bassanus} at Bempton Cliffs. May (Toby Gibson)

Gannet sky pointing at Bempton Cliffs with a gannet in flight in the background.  (Copyright Toby Gibson Photography)

Bempton cliffs is an RSPB nature reserve, and with clear paths and platforms, it’s a great way to get very close to the seabirds without needing to get on a boat. When I arrived, I could see the gannets over the tops of the cliffs from quite a distance. They seemed to be the only birds coming over the top, as the wind was not very strong. Approaching the cliffs you are greeted by an awesome spectacle of thousands and thousands of birds. Most of them have managed to grab a nesting space on the tiniest of ledges on the cliff.

Gannets {Morus bassanus} at Bempton Cliffs. May (Toby Gibson)

Gannet performing a Usain Bolt pose at Bempton Cliffs. (Copyright Toby Gibson Photography)

Gannets are immediately recognisable with the yellow head and long sleek pointed wings with black tips. Incredibly photogenic birds, Bempton Cliffs allows you to get very close to them without disrupting them during the nesting season.

Gannets at Bempton Cliffs

A gannet stretches its wings at Bempton Cliffs.

I had been told that the optimum conditions for photographing the sea birds in flight was with a stiff offshore breeze, where they hang in the same position at eyelevel for long enough to get a photo. My luck wasn’t in today, and the fast moving birds proved difficult to capture with a long lens, so I focussed mainly on the sitting birds. One or two were exhibiting courtship behaviour, including the classic sky-pointing.

It was great to hear that although gannets are IUCN red-listed they are classified Least Concern, and the population is thought to be increasing.

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About Toby Gibson

Toby Gibson is a conservationist, marine biologist and photographer, with a degree in Aquatic Biology and a master's degree in Biological Photography. Toby has worked as website manager for international conservation charity World Land Trust.