• partwaythere

Gannets

I've just spent the week on placement at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, famous for being the place you can see the world's largest colony of a bird called a 'Gannet'. With a 2m wingspan and a habit of diving vertically into the sea at up to 90mph to catch fish from above, a gannet can live for around 20 years. They mate for life but fly to NW Africa separately from their partner, meeting back at the exact location of their nest each breeding season to rear young. This involves taking turns to either guard their egg (later chick) or to go out foraging, and raising their chick. You can watch them on webcam here:

https://www.seabird.org/webcams/bassrock



As part of the placement, I was sent on the boat trip, which was spectacular: thousands of glossy black and white birds preening, dancing, fighting and sleeping.







And yet over the week, I watched on the cameras as the gaps between the birds grew and bare earth appeared where previously there had been birds nesting. Each day saw more and more gannets sprawled dead on the ground. At the start of the week they estimated that 10% had already died of avian flu. On top of this, when one parent dies, the other has no choice but to forage for food, leaving the egg/chick to be eaten by gulls almost immediately. The photo below shows a comparison between April 2021 and June 2022:



I want to note that avian flu's are spread through chicken factory farms. This is not being emphasised in the news. Intensive farming provides the perfect conditions for viruses to mutate and new diseases to emerge and spread: warm, overcrowded spaces that rely on antibiotics to keep animals alive. Every time we buy chicken, eggs or derivative products, that is not labelled as 'free range' or 'organic', we are personally funding the spread of these viruses. Myself included - we are all responsible.


Change is desperately needed. The EU plans to phase out caged animal farming practices by 2027, a decision taken after 1.4 million people signed a petition. To be honest, I have low faith in goverment petitions, but in case you fancy signing one, you can do so here. Will the UK follow suit?


And in the meantime, we watch.



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