For gannets, dinner can quickly turn into a fierce battle. These duelling seabirds brave the turbulent waters of the North Sea to dive for mackerel thrown overboard by the photographer. They need to be fast: once the food source becomes widely known, it’s every gannet for itself.
“Gannets are masters of flight, but they’re also efficient hunters below the water,” says Dr Ewan Wakefield, a biologist at the University of Glasgow. “They have eyes which function well above and below water, and bodies protected by air sacs which can compress on impact with water, allowing them to plunge dive into the sea.
“Gannets from different colonies tend to forage in mutually exclusive areas,” he continues. “If a bird has flown a smaller distance, it’s going to be in better condition than a bird from a more distant colony.” .