Freeing gannets

Not only have we been using our gannet catching pole to good effect for deploying GPS loggers but we’ve also managed to free a couple of gannets from entanglement in fishing rope and netting.

During our first visit to Bass Rock, back in mid-June, we spotted a gannet looking like Captain Jack with 6 inches of thick, matted rope hanging from its lower bill. We had no way of knowing how long it had been living with its wasteful appendage but as happens with all the non-breeders, as we approached it, it simply jumped and flapped off out of reach amongst the breeders.

Despite its accessory, the gannet still appeared to be in good condition, and must have been able to feed, as we saw it again on a couple of occasions before we were able to get close enough to have a go at catching it.

Once in hand it was clear why it had been unable to free itself, the matted rope was wound incredibly tightly around and embedded in the end of lower bill. The inside of a gannets bill is lined with backwards facing serrations which meant that no matter how much the rope was pulled at by inquisitive gannets, it wasn’t going anywhere unless cut off.  A couple of minutes cutting and sawing at the rope and the bird was free. Happily it returned, probably a little bewildered by its experience, back to a territory, so hopefully if it returns next year it will have a chance of breeding.

At the time, we were so relieved to have caught it we forgot to take a before and after photo but here are a couple of pictures to show the rope in question and the bird post removal .

That wasn’t the only gannet we’ve managed to help. During our last trip we spotted a second gannet, this time with blue netting wrapped around the lower bill.

I can guarantee these won’t be the only seabirds that have and will become entangled in fishing debris this year but they were a couple of the lucky ones. I could write a whole new blog on the topic but for now, please remember, if you ever encounter a seabird caught up in fishing line, be extremely careful. Gannets will go for your eyes.

They will be frightened, so the best thing for you to do would be to alert the Scottish Seabird Centre, Scottish SPCA or RSPCA who will be able to take the appropriate action.

Next up … foraging in 3D!


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