The high cliffs of Troup Head on the north coast of Aberdeenshire provide a spectacular setting to photograph Scotland’s largest mainland gannet colony. There are also thousands of kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills, along with other species, including puffins breeding on the high sea cliffs. Most of the auks and Kittiwakes are well out of range for close-ups even with a long lens. The gannets however are much more accessible. Since first visiting Troup Head for the first time more than ten years ago gannet numbers have increased greatly. In places birds are now nesting much closer to the top of the cliffs.
Since our visit during the third week of May an outbreak of a new virulent strain avian influenza has been identified and is taking a heavy toll in seabird colonies throughout Scotland. Gannets and Great Skuas are species that are being particularly hard hit. Troup Head is among the sites where the disease has been identified. Thinking back we did see a dead gannet among the breeding birds but did think too much of it at the time. Given their very long breeding season and the close proximity of nesting birds long term outlook for Scotland’s Gannets could be devastating.