Monday, 12 August 2019

I hate this! .... but it needs to be seen! North Cornwall coast 2019.




"Looks like a dead Gannet on the port side" came the cry from the Cornwall Seal group spotters aboard the Atlantic Diver along the North Cornwall coast on a day that we'd all of been secretly happy if it'd been called off due to the weather conditions!

I grabbed the boathook whilst others grabbed cameras and armed with my camera & boathook waited for the skipper to bring the boat alongside the bird.

A fairly regular thing to spot a dead seabird in the Atlantic but I don't think any of us aboard were expecting the full horror of seeing this gorgeous Gannet with its garland of bright orange "chafe" netting.

I have a passion for watching & photographing Gannets, they are one of the most beautiful of our seabirds and a joy to watch whether flying, diving, nesting or generally just lazing on the water.

Sadly the story for this bird got stranger as we looked at it on board.
The netting looked to go down it's throat and was tightly held through it's beak and around the neck.

Then we noticed a mark on the top of its head which on closer inspection looked like an embedded air gun pellet, right in the middle of the crown.

Below is a link to the Cornwall Seal Group & Research Trust report on this bird which they sent for a post mortem and it does show that sure enough it had been shot in the head.

I'd like to think this was done by a well meaning person desperate to put this poor bird out of its misery and whoever did it was either an incredible shot or did it at point blank range probably in a boat. That then throws up the question of why would someone take an air rifle out to sea?

The pellet hadn't penetrated the skull very far as the gannet has a toughened skull to take the pressure from all the diving it does from great heights.

I guess we'll never know the true story but we do know that "Ghost fishing" gear is responsible for many seabird deaths and probably will be for ever as it doesn't seem to degrade, even in the North Atlantic.

My thanks to Sue Sayer and all involved in letting me link to her incredibly detailed report.

Cornwall Seal Group link to more details and data about this bird....



The air gun pellet lodged in the skull 


This is how we prefer to see a gannet!