The gannet was observed carefully constructing a nest for his chosen mate, grooming her chilly, concrete feathers, and chatting to her – one-sided – year after year after year.
This sounds remarkably like my efforts in Madison nightclub in Newcastle, every Monday (student night) between 1992 and 1995. We’ve all been there, mate.
Sadly, Nigel died alone, although there is hope in the fact that three real-life, flesh and blood, absolutely not concrete gannets arrived on Mana Island just before Nigel shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible.
Obviously, it’s not one of mine. First off, that would surely be the best photograph I’ve ever taken (although I suppose that technically it could fall into both categories if I was feeling particularly boastful) and secondly, it’s laughable anyway because mine aren’t anywhere near this standard. I am merely a microbiologist with a camera.
And I didn’t come up with this title on a whim, either. Sure, I was wowed when I first saw the photo, but it’s taken me a while to realise that I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen anything better.
So, step forward Steve Ward, nature photographer, and his mind-blowing photo of a diving gannet (Morus bassanus) just microseconds before it hits the water:
What you might not realise is that this guy (the gannet, not Steve) is moving at anywhere up to 100kph. That’s 27.78 metres per second. And so I really wasn’t joking when I said that it was literally microseconds away from entering that glassy ocean. That’s what makes the photo all the more incredible for me: it’s not like the bird saw the camera and was like:
A photo? No, sure, that’s fine. Happy to help. I’ll just defy the forces of gravity for a while until you get your setup absolutely right. Must I smile? No? OK. Any time you’re ready then.
Because gannets are known to be particularly uncooperative in that regard.
That link above will take you to much more of Steve’s amazing work, lots of birds (some amazing owl pics) hares, voles and some lovely landscapes too. But this gannet still stands out as something rather special.
Many thanks to Steve for his permission to share this photo.
This is a fine example of a Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), off the coast of the Isle of Man. Chris describes this as “pretty much just a bread and butter shot”, so I look forward to seeing some of his “fine dining” work at some point.
You may see close relatives of this fellow (the bird, not Chris) off the Cape coast too. But those, like just every other bird found around here, take the title ‘Cape’ – Cape Gannet (Morus capensis). And whereas there are loads of Northern Gannets to go around, our local species is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, so don’t go poaching them, ok?
There are some pretty cool facts about gannets. They are cleverly adapted (Evolution FTW!) to be able to dive from a great height to catch fish. Because they can hit the water at up to 100kph, special air-sacs within their skull protect them from the massive impact, like biological bubble wrap. Additionally, their nostrils are inside their mouths, preventing that awkward unintentional nasal lavage that can all too often ruin a good dive. It must make things pretty nasty when they get a cold though. Eww.
Photo credit: Many thanks to Chris for his permission to use his photo.