Gannets in breeding season

An Australasian Gannet comes in for a landing.

Birds in our World with Keith Ireland

Of all the memorable occasions that I have had over the years I have been photographing, a bus tour to a Gannet breeding colony would have to be one of the best.

In their breeding season, the Australasian Gannet heads across the Tasman Sea. Some do remain and nest in Southern Australia but the majority congregate in breeding colonies on coastal islands or rocky outcrops of New Zealand.

As soon as we stopped in Napier, I went to the Information Centre. The very helpful volunteer rang the tour company and was able to book me in for that afternoon’s tour.

The Gannet colony was on a rocky outcrop which was a part of a nature reserve. The only vehicles allowed in were Park Rangers’ who were the ones organising the tours with all proceeds going back to looking after the birds and the environment.

We were able to stand just outside a low fence really close to the birds without actually entering their rookery. The place was a hive of activity with birds circling above, taking off, landing, tending and feeding the babies, squabbling and being generally noisy.

What a fantastic afternoon. The light was in perfect position coming from behind us, which it wouldn’t have been, had I gone there in the morning. It was also the ideal time of the year with many of the young almost ready to leave .

Before and after the breeding season there were no tours as the majority of birds would be residing back in Australia with only a handful of stragglers remaining. Had our cruise been at a different time of the year I would have missed what was to me, the highlight of the whole trip.