Heligoland and its Northern Gannets

BasstölpelA spectacular whitish bird almost effortless standing in the windy air on close distance. But also deafening screeching, biting fishy smell and occasionally a drop of bird droppings from the air. It is not a pure pleasure to photograph at the Heligoland bird cliffs.

But you can exploit a unique approach in aerial photography – at least for Germany. The most impressive birds are the Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus). Full-frame images are already possible with a 300 mm focal length lens. This focal length is even perfect for aerial photography. Only for shots of the nests with the seabirds, sometimes longer focal lengths are advised. During the breeding season from April to August, you have the best opportunities to get worthwhile shots. Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and Common Murre (Uria aalge) also prefer to breed in the steep, inaccessible cliffs at this time.

In the breeding colonies of the bird cliffs of Heligoland there is a constant coming and going. To my surprise, however, the birds barely notice the visitors after a few minutes. Presumably, this is because they have long feared no more attacks by predators. Perched high on the rocks these are the grey goose-sized birds sit on their nests. Alone, because of their considerable length of 90 centimeters and their weight, the largest sea birds in Europe claim the bigger rock ledges. There they crowd out more and more the Common Murres. These birds, with their black and white plumage, are all perched head-on in the rock walls. Even at the smallest available space, Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) can be found. A fist-sized area is already sufficient as a breeding ground. Admirable how these petite gulls even cope with such a tiny room with their chicks.

From the leisure walking path, which leads along the edge of the cliff at a good 60 meters, you will get a first-class insight into the entire social life of the Gannets and other seabirds. Whether courtship, nest building, brood, rearing boys, feeding or disputes between the birds – from here you can comfortably observe and take pictures. Effortlessly even less experienced photographers succeed in taking good aerial photographs. The Gannets perform their acrobatic “ballet” in front of the enthusiastic Heligoland visitors with fascinating elegance. At the same time, several birds sail over the open sea. Not infrequently, they have nesting material in their beaks. In order to precisely control their breeding and resting places in the North Sea wind, they are often in the air for a few seconds, carried by the updraft. And this spectacle takes place only a few meters from the rocks and the photographers gathered thereon. Hardly an island visitor can miss this opportunity. From April to October, the photographers are up there and taking pictures, if the weather is reasonably good.

The bird cliffs of Heligoland have been among the most popular destinations for ornithologists and other nature-loving people from all over the world for years. Especially since on the red cliffs next to Common Murre, Kittiwakes, Razorbills (Alca torda) and Norhtern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) even the most photogenic Northern Gannets breed in ever-increasing numbers. The island attracts more and more photographers on Germany’s only offshore island. Alone because of their impressive size and a wingspan of 1.80 meters, the gannets are the undisputed stars of Heligoland birdlife. The majestic aviators with their immaculate white plumage have long since become veritable “tourist magnets”. What began in 1991 with the first successful breeding of a gannet pair has become an unprecedented success story. Since then, the number of birds has increased year after year. Meanwhile, there are more than 1000 couples who build their nests in the Lummenfelsen and on the Lange Anna on narrow ledges.

However, they have to share the few suitable nesting sites there with thousands of Common Murres. No wonder that with such strong competition there is a crowded place. There is almost no space left that is not already occupied. As a result, Northern Gannets have recently been nesting on the small plateau in front of the Lange Anna, the famous landmark of Heligoland

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to remote places to capture images not only of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give bird-lens.com a message, if bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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