After a rough night thanks to Storm Eleanor, it’s a choppy day out at sea with at least eight cargo vessels sheltering in Torbay. But I have been prompted to write, not by the ships but by the Gannets.
The storm has apparently coaxed large shoals of fish into the bay, and as always, they bring Gannets. Of all the seabirds around, these put on the most exciting show, with their long, slender, black-tipped wings of around two metres span, their brilliant white bodies and their delicately coloured yellow heads. With a greater wing span than the more pedestrian Herring Gulls which are our more familiar resident, their delicacy and grace coupled with a demonstration of their fishing skills never fails to make me gasp.
They cruise the skies at about 100 feet, looking down whilst scanning for fish (goodness knows how in these choppy waters) before suddenly flipping over like a dive bomber, pulling their long wings parallel to their body to create a “W” shape and then – whoosh – hit the water at speeds of up to 60mph (100kph). Once below the waves, they then pursue their target, being as agile in the water as the skies, before bobbing triumphantly to the surface complete with fish in their bills.
You can’t help but be impressed. It’s not an everyday sight so close inland, as they are normally fishers of more open waters, but when you see them – wow!