Northern Gannet::Morus bassanus
I've been using the iphone app Instagram for some months now, and I love it. One of the reasons is that it has connected me with the photographic work of many people that share my passion for birds and nature. Of these photographers, there is an individual that I follow that is a birder in the Netherlands. He regularly posts photos of gannets, and as a result I was inspired to do a little painting of these amazing sea birds.
Northern Gannets are a plunge diving sea bird that breeds in large, gregarious colonies on steep cliffs. Gannet pair bonds usually last for life, with both male and female engaging in parental duties. The female will lay a single egg, and this is kept warm by using the webbing on their feet rather than a brood patch. Nestlings fledge at an age of 13 weeks, at which point they will glide up to 500 meters down to the water below their colony site. If the birds survive their first year, they often return to the colony where they were born to breed. To think of everything that they must learn to survive in that first year of life, it is a wonder that any make it at all.
I found this amazing footage of gannets diving. These are Cape Gannets, as these were birds diving off of the coast of South Africa. Anyway, you get the idea. There must be a tremendous learning curve for young gannets to become proficient in this foraging technique.