July 2016: I assisted Professor Keith Hamer and Jude Lane from the University of Leeds to deploy and retrieve tracking devices from northern gannets breeding on Bass Rock. The northern gannet colony at Bass Rock is the largest in the world and holds more than 70,000 breeding pairs. Whilst deploying devices we also collected measurements such as bill length and body mass in order to investigate the relationship between individual size and foraging behaviour.

Fig. 1. UK offshore wind and location of Bass Rock. Blue Polygons: operational and consented offshore wind farm sites; Hatched polygons: future zones (Round 3). Shape file: UK Crown Estate.

Offshore wind energy is set to play a central role in the European commitment to reducing global carbon emissions1, and northern gannets are highly vulnerable to increased mortality rates associated with turbine collision2. A large wind farm was recently consented for development less than 25km from Bass Rock, in the outer Firth of Forth, and this site is also part of a significantly larger Area of Search that has been highlighted for future development (Fig. 1). Northern gannets have large foraging ranges during the breeding season4, and therefore understanding how these birds utilise the proposed area of development is crucial for assessing how this population is likely to respond in the future.

Photos by Louise Gray
1UNFCCC. (2015) Adoption of the Paris agreement. FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1. (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
2Bradbury, G. et al. (2014) Mapping seabird sensitivity to offshore wind farms. PLoS One 9, 1–17.
3Wilkes, J., Pineda, I. & Corbetta, G. (2014) Wind energy scenarios for 2020. (Wind Europe/European Wind Energy Association).
4Wakefield, E. D. et al. (2013) Space partitioning without territoriality in gannets. Science 341, 68–70.