“Gan­nets scud stiffly and whirl in lux­u­ri­ous arcs around their gleam­ing fortress,” says Chris of the wildlife won­der that is Bass Rock,

This gan­net-drenched stone king­dom in the Firth of Forth tops all, says Chris Pack­ham

Countryfile Magazine - - Editor’s Letter - Chris Pack­ham

It sits like a great cake, iced in birds, float­ing in wet sky, wrapped in a drift­ing shawl of fine mist stained lemon by the yawn­ing sun. And over its crest floats a busy dust, and on the nip of the morn­ing is a per­fume of stale pas­try.

The boat cuts a wake from Dun­bar’s kit­ti­wake wide-awake club and is es­corted by a few big gulls; the swirling cloud above the Bass be­comes avian and the sug­ar­coat­ing gran­u­lates into bick­er­ing birds and the heady smack of their guano wipes the salt from my nose and the sheer sides of bird­land rock and roll as we pitch on deep blue, watch­ing the gnash­ing waves. Gan­nets scud stiffly and whirl in lux­u­ri­ous arcs around their gleam­ing fortress; art-deco glid­ers with cof­fee-washed napes and blue mas­cara. El­e­gant and de­ter­mined and foul-tem­pered and jeal­ous, they jeer at the squadrons and growl at their neigh­bours or ca­vort lov­ingly with their aged mates, their bills point­ing at the twin­kling wings wheel­ing across the sky bowl. It’s breath­tak­ing and beau­ti­ful.

I once landed in the com­pany of ‘Mr Gan­net’, the re­mark­able Dr Bryan Nel­son, who, while I was be­ing born, was camped on here with his wife in a small wooden hut. He made a bril­liant study of gan­net be­hav­iour, wrote a mono­graph and was a great host, re­gal­ing us with tales of gan­netry and fas­ci­nat­ing science. The sun shone, the birds plunged, posed and pooed and we sweated in or­nitho­log­i­cal nir­vana. We took pho­to­graphs and then re­tired to the Scot­tish Seabird Cen­tre’s café for cake. It was pretty much the per­fect day – a 9.9. Well, you’ve got to save the 10, just in case.

All about the Bass: this vol­canic is­land off the coast of North Ber­wick is the largest sin­gle rock gan­netry in the world. More than 150,000 birds in­habit the rock in breed­ing sea­son

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