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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Northern Gannet Bonanza

Spectacular Northern Gannets were flying by in large numbers. It can take 4-5 years for them to reach their white adult plumage. Younger birds have dark on their bodies.

We moved over to the breakwater on Captiva, just north of Sanibel because they were closest to shore there. 

Such a dramatic bird, this one is almost an adult.

They were stacked up but did not touch.

They went up above the horizon then roller-coastered down low to the waves.

We climbed out onto the breakwater, I stood on the rocks above Don. He counted, I photographed the gannets. (photo of us by Meade Cadot.)

On Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida, today, Northern Gannets, dramatic, large seabirds, were migrating past at the rate of about 900 per hour!! We went with our visiting NH birding friends, Meade and Sandy, to the beach at Blind Pass and could not believe the numbers. Strong storms had come through and there was a WNW wind blowing hard, pushing these birds, who normally are out farther in the Gulf of Mexico, closer to shore. The birds were heading south and will eventually go around the Florida peninsula and up the Atlantic Coast to their colonial breeding grounds in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
These birds are incredible flyers and spend most of their life at sea. They fly in lines, undulating up and then down, skimming along in the wave troughs. The eat fish and can plunge dive as deep as 72 feet.
We had a fabulous time watching them.


Bryan said...

Lovely gannet pictures. There has seemed to be an abundance of Gannets at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay this winter. I estimated over a thousand when I was out there and heard reports of 10,000. You can see some of my photos at

LNMP298 said...

Beautiful photos! I never knew that young gannets were dark like that!

Kevin said...

Wow, that must have been such an incredible experience! It's easy to imagine the excitement just viewing your beautiful photos.

Diane and Gary said...

Beautiful, beautiful photos, Lillian. Wish so much we could have been there. You both know that we are there in spirit. So happy you have Cocoplum all of this glorius time on Sanibel and Captiva! Can't wait to see what's next!

David Jeffrey said...

I saw them, too. The procession went on at least four hours as they flew south into the teeth of a strong wind out of the southwest. When the wind shifted and started coming from the north the gannets were gone. Wonderful photos!

David Jeffrey