Chuffin Puffins at Planet Gannet – The Return to Bass Rock

Just off the east coast of Scotland and only a few miles from the centre of Edinburgh is the largest breeding colony of Atlantic Gannets in the world.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock

Bass Rock is one of a group of volcanic islands  off the coast of North Berwick that also include Fidra and Craigleith and during the spring they are host to 300,000 pairs of nesting seabirds. On a previous visit I joined the Scottish Sea Bird Centre’s RIB boat excursion out to the island (read about it here), which was pretty exciting, but now the RIB has been joined by a high-speed catamaran which gets you as close to the birds as the RIB, but in much more comfort and with no need for those alluring oilskins! It’s also cheaper at £16 per adult.

It only took a few minutes to speed out to Craigleith where the puffins were perched along the heights, just like Red Indians in a Western movie,

Puffins

Puffins

while out on the sea rafts of puffins were fishing for sand eels

Puffins all at sea

Puffins all at sea

to take back to their island burrows and feed their young.

Puffins Craigleith

Puffins Craigleith

Further down the rock face guillemots were nesting upon the precarious cliff face,

Guillimots Craigleith

Gillemotts, Craigleith

along with kittiwakes, fulmar, cormarants, eider ducks and shags.

Shag, Craigleith

Shag, Craigleith

From Craigleith it was about ten minutes to Bass Rock.

Bass Rock

Bass Rock

As I’ve said before there is something pretty primal about Bass Rock. Every space on the rock surface is occupied by these majestic seabirds.

Gannets Bass Roak

Gannets Bass Rock

The noise of 300,000 birds is incredible, (as is the smell of their fishy poo).

Nice bit od seaweed for the home

Nice bit of seaweed for the home

The catamaran was soon surrounded by birds searching for nesting material and fishing. Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird with an eight foot wingspan and you really get to appreciate the size of these birds as they take to the air around you.

Gannets Bass rock

Gannets Bass Rock

As we rounded the island a small voice piped up ‘seals’ and there in a cave were a group of around five or six grey seals bobbing around in the water.

Seal

Seal

It was the icing on the cake for our trip and to think it was only half an hour from the centre of Edinburgh. (off peak Scotrail Day Return from Edinburgh Waverley £6.80)

Photos copyright QueenMab/Shipscook Photographic. contact simon.ball3@btopenworld.com for commercial reuse

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9 thoughts on “Chuffin Puffins at Planet Gannet – The Return to Bass Rock

  1. When my son was little, I used to read him a story about puffins and other wildlife in Alaska. (I lived there.) I kept hoping we’d see one, but never did. Perhaps a trip to Scotland is in order so that we can finally make that happen!

    • Best to come around this time of year when the birds are nesting and you are guaranteed to see them. The great thing about North Berwick is that you can get there and back from Edinburgh in a day with plenty of time for a boat trip, a visit to the Seabird Centre and a good pub lunch at the Ship Inn. The only thing that you have to watch out for is the weather if it’s bad the boat trips won’t run

    • I know, I think I like them almost as much as penguins. I think Craigmouth and Bass Rock are probably some of the easiest places to see puffins and gannets, but you do get them further south at Lundy for example, where the local currency is the puffin.

    • The puffins are more common on nearby Craigleith than Bass Rock and April, May and June are the best times to see them because they are nesting and out fishing for sand eels to feed their chicks. At this tiome of year if you take the boat out to the islands you are sure to see them. Or you can watch them on the birdcam at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick

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