Plastic in the Hermaness Gannet Colony

Turning the corner the wind hits your face. The most northerly part of the United Kingdom is buffeted by winds that can take your breathe away in a moment.

The smell of guano, the legacy of generations of gannets wafts in the air. Waves of this unique fragrance hit your nostrils, pungent but earthy in equal measure.

White feathers move upwards, caught in the updrafts that circulate the cliff face, a frost like dusting of white along the sheep grazed cliff top.

The noise, the movement and the sheer scale of the colony makes the mind buzz. Thousands of lives lived out during the summer months on this remote cliff face. 

Designed and built by the male he makes a 2metre nest which is ‘home’ for the 30weeks it takes to incubate and raise their young. Gradually expanding and rising as excrement is removed from the nest some can be 2metres above the rock they are perched on as the years pass.

However looking closer the modern reality of life comes into focus.  The nests of these huge birds usually made from seaweed, twigs and mud used to contain small amounts of debris collected from the sea.   This is changing and a close look at the white dots of each nest shows the change in materials.

Appearing blue and green encased in mud and twigs then topped with a layer of excrement, these nests are more man made than natural.  Built from discarded fishing nets and plastic debris the sad reality of our destruction of the planet is apparent even here, 400 miles from the Arctic Circle on the cliffs of Hermaness on the island of Unst in the Shetland archipelago.

 The cliffs at Hermaness in Shetland are home to 25580 breeding pairs of gannets. Their nests used to be made from twigs and mud but are becoming more man made

 

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