Northern Gannets on Lundy

Published on 09 May 2011 in Letters

There was an omission in the fine paper ‘Seabirds on Lundy’ (Brit. Birds 104: 139-158) when describing the fortunes of the former Northern Gannet Morus bassanus colony on the island. In 1938, the then owner of the island, Martin Coles Harman, sought the co-operation of R. M. Lockley, then resident on Skokholm, to obtain Gannet eggs from Grassholm. Grassholm had been purchased in 1937 by Harman for his son John, who was killed in April 1944 during the siege of Kohima, Nagaland, India, his actions resulting in the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

Martin Harman, in a letter of 11th January 1939 to James Fisher, then Honorary Treasurer of the BTO, described how ‘Lockley, good fellow, sent me twenty Gannet eggs by arrangement, and will do the same next year.’ These were placed into the nests of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo. Although the eggs arrived rather late, Harman reports in the same letter that he later saw what he believed to be two young Gannets, and although others confirmed that view, he remained uncertain. He concluded his letter by saying ‘in 1939 we will try to be a little more scientific. I am quite set upon re-introducing gannets.’

In 1939 there was a second attempt. Martin Harman reported that the scheme was a complete failure, the Cormorants ‘having for the most part thrown out the eggs or deserted them’ (Fisher & Vevers 1943). The outbreak of the Second World War put paid to any further plans to continue these efforts.

Reference Fisher, J., & Vevers, H. G. 1943. The breeding distribution, history and population of the North Atlantic Gannet (Sula bassana). J. Anim. Ecol. 12: 173-213.

David Saunders, School House, 75 Laws Street, Pembroke Dock, SA72 6DQ; e-mail islandnaturalist@tesco.net