I twisted my neck to the correct slightly excruciating angle and looked down as the little aeroplane left the lovely island of Alderney and swept out over the sea. I did this so that I could look for gannets. And of course, I found some. Couldn’t miss, really.
A week on Alderney is a week with gannets. They’re everywhere you look – but that’s because you’re always looking out to sea. There are two big nesting colonies here, one very close to shore and the other a few miles further out: thousands of gannets currently getting on with the crucial business of making more gannets.
Gannets define this place. Alderney is a rock in a notoriously turbulent bit of sea: and so far as a gannets is concerned, rocks in the sea are the only bits of dry – or dryish—land that matter. For them, everything else is a waste of good space where there might have been a decent ocean.
We’ve spent on awful lot of the past week sitting out on the cliffs with the colony of Les Etacs in sight: the air full of the sound of gannet greetings and gannet quarrels. Look through binoculars and you can watch their sky-pointing pas de deux, in which an individual celebrates the glory and perfection of being half a pair of gannets.
You can observe all the stresses of city life on these rocks: but every now and then they take a break. All around there are gannets loafing and idling on the bouncing waters, not fishing, just revelling in a brief hour of luxurious solitude – before getting back to the tasks of brooding the eggs and now – just about now — starting to feed the new and fluffy chick from the deep larder of the sea.
Gannets need a bit of hard standing to rest an egg and rear a chick: but land has no other function at all in gannet life. The reality is in the wet immensities that surround the island of Alderney. The gannets fly around their rocks on wings as wide as a tall man is tall until it seems that the ground you’re sitting on has no meaning whatsoever. Perhaps that’s what it’s like when you’re watching angels in the vaults of heaven.
Here’s Eddie’s blog: