Waiting for the Gannets

June 28, 2014 

COURTESY OF RONNIE BLACKWELL A beautiful Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Today in Hattiesburg, it's hot, and the birds in the yard are fussing over whose turn it is to feed the young'uns.

I'm grumpy, too. It's hard to be sitting on wrong side of spring. I won't make the trip to Bonaventure Island this year.

Once again, I will miss visiting with 100,000 of my closest friends. Eighty thousand of these are Gannets. They share the high crags with Murres and Kittiwakes, and the Eagles and Falcons that feast on the smorgasbord of avian delicacies displayed on the rock. To sit in a rocking boat off the point is simply breathtaking. The entire colony seems to breathe in unison.

You should go. You can catch a trout in a pristine pool, track a moose and maybe find the moose stalking you. Go see the Flower Pot Rocks in the Bay of Fundy and wait for the tide to turn and float the fishing boats in the world's highest tides.

Come back and tell me about it. I truly wish I could make the trip to Canada this year. I've always had a great time north of the border, and I expect you will, too.

But I do know a trick or two. Sometimes, if you can't go to Canada, you can wait for Canada to come to you. Already some of this year's Northern Gannets have jumped off the ledges on which they were hatched. These young birds weigh more than they will ever weigh again, so it wasn't a graceful dive.

They tumbled for hundreds of feet before plunging into the inky water below the cliffs. The first time I saw this phenomenon was amazing. The fledgling birds plummeted to the water and seemed to disappear. My heart stopped. Could they be drowning? A veteran Gannet watcher showed me the young Gannets are almost solid black, so they were disappearing ONTO the water, not under it.

After the chicks take the plunge, they never knowingly see their parents again. And almost as amazing their fall to the ocean is that they cannot fly at all when they reach the surface.

The fat chicks form into rafts and start swimming south. So I'll bide my time and wait for this year's flock to arrive.

Ronnie Blackwell, can be reached by email at RonnieBlackwell@gmail.com.

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