Saturday, 29 October 2011

BASS ROCK

When I started this blog I made a conscious decision not to include any uninhabited islands - I had enough to be going on with with the inhabited ones! However, I have decided to make an exception in the case of Bass Rock, because it is of such significance for its amazing bird population that it would be a crime to leave it out. In actual fact, Bass Rock has not always been uninhabited. A Lindisfarne monk called Baldred who was sent to convert the heathen Lothians to Christianity in the 8th century used the island as a retreat for prayer and meditation. There is a chapel on the Rock dedicated to him. Later, in the 15th century, a castle was built which was where James, later to become James I, was sent to wait for a vessel to transport him to France. James later used the rock as a place of incarceration for his political enemies. Later still, Mary Queen of Scots had a garrison of 100 men stationed on the rock.

The people who occupied this rock at various times in history would have needed earplugs during the nesting season. There are 80,000 occupied nest sites on the island. The island is best known for its gannet population, in fact the ornithologists who came to study the birds in the 19th century bestowed the gannets with the scientific name Sula Bassana, the Latin version of the rock’s name. Another statistic to conjure with: Bass Rock holds 10% of the population of North Atlantic Gannets. Such is the significance of the Rock that David Attenborough, no less, described it as “one of the wildlife wonders of the world”. You would think that with all these gannets there would be no room for any other birds on this little island, but the gannets share their space with a number of other species, including puffins, guillemots and eider ducks. The Scottish Sea Bird Centre in North Berwick offers boat trips out to the Rock, including some with the possiblity of landing there. The Seabird Centre also has some webcams on its website for those wanting to get up close and personal with the birds from the comfort of their living room.

'Bass Rock from Law' photo (c) 2007, easylocum - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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