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Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet the Gannets

You don't like crowds and all those loud holiday entertainments? The answer to avoiding all that is to drive North all along the unspoiled West Coast. As my blog is now stretching to distant places we need to stay overnight at our destinations. So off we went to spend a weekend at my favourite place, Lambert's Bay. As we arrived, the whole area spelt out the theme of quiet restfulness. A leasurely meal of one big crayfish with lovely Cape wine dealt with Friday evening.

With what excitement I crossed the foot bridge to Bird Island the next morning! There is a very modern but tastefully built hide at the end of the pathway. "We have 24,000 gannets here" a friendly lady told us. Apparently these precious birds are counted continuously. I spent hours observing them from the hide and will have much to tell (and paint) over the next few posts.

There is a strange story playing out in this painting! The island is also the home of Cape fur seals, introduced to the area in 1985. These fur seals, as we know, have had a hard time in the past and are now furiously protected. And in Lambert's Bay it is not the cats and dogs fighting but the gannet lovers and the seal lovers. Seals greedily devour gannet eggs and chicks, and this may lead to dwindling numbers of gannets.

But the seals have a right of living space too. The solution at the moment is but a simple plan. The seals are carefully watched and chased away by shouting at them if they go near eggs or chicks, and here you see it: a man keeps watch from a boat rowed by his team-mate, and the gannets can breed in peace. Can you see the seals in my third image? I wonder what one calls this man? Not a "horse whisperer", but a seal shouter maybe?

The painting ended up being bought by a customer in faraway America!


  1. Marie, this is an interesting story. I guess in 1985, the fur seals discovered their food here and now they stay. I wonder where they originally came from? Your painting is great and I can't wait to see more from this excursion!

  2. Love your painting, Marie!

    The seal/gannet story gets one to thinking, doesn't it? Sharks dine on seal...seal on eggs and chicks...gannets on fish, crab, etc. the food chain keeps circling around. All so sad but so necessary...
    Still the human attempts at help should be applauded.

  3. What an interesting solution to the problem - I guess sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective! Like your painting very much and it looks like a place for lots more :)

  4. Love the top painting and explanation of why the boat was so near to the gannets. You could put all your west coast posts and paintings together to create a wonderful historical local book. I am sure it would sell really well.

  5. Thank you for sharing
    This fabulous work with us
    Good creations

  6. I really enjoy this tour of the West Coast through your paintings, photos and stories. It brings back very good and pleasant memories from my childhood.

  7. Liana, that must be how it works! There are many small islands where seals and seabirds co-exist, but always with the danger of one species overpowering the other. Thank you for your interest in the stories! That is what keeps me going!

    Thank you for the very thought-provoking comments, Dean. No-one saves the little buck from the lion, of course. But here at Bird Island humans have to try and protect the gannets as there are only 6 such breeding colonies in the world.

    I am thrilled that you like my painting, Tracy as I am an admirer of you work! Yes, more to come as gannets have such very interesting habits!

    Thank you Joan! I seem to have fallen into the habit of placing two photos with each painting to elaborate on the main story. As for the book, I am still waiting to be "discovered" by a publisher!!!!I Really have no energy at 66 to search around....

    Skizo, how nice of you to visit and leave such a nice poetic compliment. I hope I can find your blog again, was it about your own musical compositions?

    Hi Anita, you grew up here, I forgot! We must chat about that one day! I have used a few guest photographers for something different to paint when it was too cold to travel. Maybe I can use one of your photos for inspiration one day? With all due credit given, of course!

  8. Oh gosh but you do get around! What a wonderful trip and what a great painting of an everyday life event. Gannets! I remember washing them during an oil spill! Vicious beaks, I'm surprised the seals are still there!

  9. I love this painting, Marie. I love the low tech method of handling the problems as well. I am so looking forward to this series! Your little trip sounds like it is so much fun too!

  10. Marie, your gannets look happy and cheerful, the scene looks very energetic.Nice to note that attempts are being made to protect them. Sad that the ecological balance happens on its own with one creature depending on another for food, wish there was some other way so, every creature lived in peace without fearing any other.

  11. Liz, I am pleased that you were involved with the wonderful SANCOB projects. I know about the beaks and will show their effect in the next post.

    Sherry, did you see my request for your address, which I lost when I went onto a new e-mail program?

    Padmaja, luckily the seals can eat fish, so they do not really suffer by being kept away from the eggs and chicks. Yes the gannets are terribly valuable and are being counted continiously.

  12. Lovely job on your painting. Love the little heads popping up from the bottom.

  13. This painting tells such a great story. One would think that they are fishermen, just out for a pleasant afternoon, when in reality they are looking after these great sea birds. Gannets are such a beautiful bird. Looking forward to more paintings and informative stories!

  14. Thank you, Karen! Yes, I must agree the whole colony of gannets is quite a spectacle!

    Thank you, Catherine.I loved the story too of this guy who had the respect of the robber seals! It one gets a "horse whisperer", I suppose there is a job like "seal shouter" too!


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