Sunday 11 March 2012

Day 343: Gannets at Kidnapper's Bay

Young gannets
 At the end of Kidnapper's Bay, near Napier is a gannet colony.  There are several ways of getting there:  you can take a minibus right up to the colony, you can take a tractor along the beach at low tide and walk up the last hill.  Alternatively, you can walk along the same beach at low tide.  Obviously, we chose the latter option.  We set off just as soon as the tide made it possible, with angry waves lapping at our ankles.  To the far end of the bay it took about two hours of walking.  At the point where we had to turn to the next bay we began seeing gannet chicks then a few adults nesting on rocks and we thought that was pretty cool.  It isn't the main colony however.  To get to that, you have to continue along the beach, then climb a steep hill to the top of a cliff.  My Mum and Antonia stayed on the beach while my Dad, Mike and I climbed the hill. 

When we got to the colony, there was an overwhelming stench of ammonia and a whole lot of gannets, nesting in an orderly way on their side of a small chain fence.  We visitors kept to ours, where we could sit on benches with clothes pegs over our noses and look at them.  The highlight for me was seeing one of the young gannets make its maiden flight.  For the first few moments, it acted rather astonished that its wing flapping exercises had somehow launched it into the air.  After that, it manifestly realised it had better concentrate on keeping an even keel and steering.  It wasn't very good at it, and I kept thinking it would get flipped on its back. It was the only young bird in the sky and all the adults were flying around so gracefully it really stood out.  Its third problem was trying to land again without being blown off the edge of the cliff.  It had to circle several times before it managed this and when it did it made contact with the ground like a falling meteorite.  That does seem to the normal technique for gannet adults as well.  After this, we had to rush back to get along the bay before the tide came in again.  We arrived just in time, with angry waves lapping at our ankles.

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