Where are Gannets from? Where do they nest and rest? Are they seasonal visitors or permanent residents? No one I asked could ever answer these questions.
So, how gannet be, that these agile deep divers fly under our radar?
Fishermen replied: ‘When the Gannets are here, the ’Garies’ (Garfish) arrived’. Yeah right!? As if they didn’t know that already. The title says it all. Where else would gannets be from?
I have seen Gannets on my paddle adventures many times, but it was always only the odd one.
They are majestic to watch, gliding over Maniyak with their impressive wingspan.
If sizeable fish are spotted close to the surface from high above, they arrow with high speeds into the water. This splendid maneuver was always observed from a marginal distance. This was about to change.
Little did I expect the squadron of areal attack at Crowdy Head on New South Wales’ Mid North Coast. At least 4 birds were circling over Crowdy Head’s ‘hub’, a relatively small and shallow harbour.
Not only was it their impressive wingspan orbiting above my crowded head.
Their most extraordinary features are a spectacle for sore eyes and captured my fascination. The plunge.
The struggle to swallow fish.
And to finish the procedure off, the runway to get back in to the air. Eat and repeat times 4.
Unless a rest on calm waters is needed.
Shaking off excess water will help for take-off.
A quick comb through the plumage is never a bad idea.
Wow, who would have known about this action-packed scenario at this sleepy seaside community? I witnessed all this with my camera in hand.
Perfectly calm and sunny days added ideally to this photographic adventure.
This extraordinary behaviour will be shown in my next few posts. Let’s start on how it all begins.
The gannet’s aim to select and pick a fish from 20 meters above, is above average. They need gravitational speed to be able to dive underwater.
Their body complexion is too buoyant for diving underwater without propelled gravity.
Gannets can’t ’just’ dive underwater as cormorants do.
Whilst soaring through the air above, they keep an eye out for movements on the water surface.
Once possible prey has been spotted, their strategy kicks in automatically. A reflex turns into action within split seconds. Their sharp eyesight is focused on a fishy target.
As their neck points to the direction, their body turns immediately.
Their wings are positioned like a fighter jet.
This position provides the fastest projectile shape for maximum speed.
Once the impact location is chosen, their wings are set in missile shape and the rocket is on its way.
The body crouches to the most narrow formation just before impact. Darting into waters with minimal impact force. Wow! The Hub was under attack.
The bones in the gannet’s skull are strengthen. Their long neck extends gradually to an air-pumped plumage around the body, cushioning surface entrance. Feet and tail dive in last. Fishermen often get a fright when that plummeting sound appears out of nowhere right in front of them. Incoming!
Just writing these sentences does not make any ’normal’ sense for us humans. Darting from 20 meters above in to water, reaching up to 100 km/h!? Over and over again? I find that hard to comprehend.
Mother Nature is just spectacular, right under our nose. The locals have ’seen it too many times’ to care.
Fishermen get annoyed if they are chasing away their fish. Or even pinch it. And who knows what the locals thought about me? Haha, who cares? The looks on their faces were just priceless. Watching me, chasing these birds up and down the jetty with my camera in my hand. This I only noticed when I needed to readjust my position and had surprised eyes facing me.
To lift the mystery about gannets, I did some research. These nest preferably on rocky islands in cold southern waters. However, Australia and New Zealand host a few gannet colonies on isolated headlands. It takes about 5 years for a youngster to reach maturity.
Young gannets are easily recognised on their speckled plumage. They seem to prefer ‘easier’ fishing grounds around the coastline, often close to human contact.
Adult gannets glow in bright feathers.
The orange head looks fabulous on any ocean.
Gracefully exploring vast seas ahead.