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Fred & Ginger - Project Gannet update

20th July 2015
For 3 years now I have been following and studying one specific pair of Gannets at Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire..

I spotted the perfect couple in 2013 when i was with a fellow photographer and friend Daniel Jarvis who had come to visit the cliffs for the first time. Having only watched them for a short time I instantly fell for them, I felt the connection straight away and named them Fred & Ginger and turned to Daniel and said, “I’ve found my new project”. Why the name Fred & Ginger came straight to me I’ll never know, but just like the real Fred & Ginger these two love birds had that same finesse, they had an aura about them, when watching them you didn’t want to take your eyes off them they were so captivating, like when F&G took to the dance floor, totally captivating and full of grace.
The Cliff tops were covered in sea birds and hundreds of other Gannets that would of done just as well maybe, but F&G just captured my heart..

This was one of the first images I captured that very first day, can you see why I love them so much?

The year went on and the bond just got stronger, I got to know them more and their individual characters, I got to recognise which one was which after time and the more I watched them the more I learnt about Gannets in general.
I have probably cataloged over 1500 images of F&G alone, but I hate to think how many images I have of Gannets in total, some just record shots for my studies.

After my good friend Tracey suggested it (and after plenty of gentle persuasion), I plucked up the courage to enter F&G into the documentary category in BWPA this year. To my surprise I got shortlisted, I had to enter 6 images that documented the story, unfortunately I didn’t make the final cut, but being shortlisted for two successive years I’m very proud of, maybe third time lucky next year ;-)

Now into my third season after waiting what always seems like forever, but only a few short months, a Gannet returned to the stack. My initial thoughts were that it was Ginger, but after a few weeks when the nest building started I had a different feeling about them. A little thing but I know how proud F&G were about their nest, it was always quite large and kept very tidy, this nest was small and not tidy at all. I put these feelings aside and carried on. This year though I hadn’t been able to get up to the cliffs as much as the last years due to other projects.

Time went on and an egg was laid, but then a couple of weeks ago something else confirmed my suspicions, their characters were not shining through like they normally do, something def did not feel right. I continued to watch them, the female was on the nest (note I did not call her Ginger), all other Gannets around her had quite large chicks all at a few weeks old. I could not see anything at this point, a number of possibilities could of happened, gannets only lay one egg but if that egg fails or gets predated they could lay another, so it was possible that this had happened and she was on another egg.. But then she proceeded to stand up and do a wing stretch, still I couldn’t see anything beneath her and then to my shock she walked to the edge of the platform. What was she doing, if there was an egg or chick present the parent would never leave the nest. Then before my eyes she stretches up her neck and takes to the wing..

This is her leaving..

My suspicions were correct, this is not Ginger, I believe this couple is a first time breeding pair, hence the difference in characters, nest building, their inexperience etc..
After chatting to a RSPB staff member the other day telling them about my project as they couldn’t understand why this pair hadn’t successfully bred either, they had come to the same possible conclusion that it was in fact a new breeding pair…

Does this mean that my Gannet project is over? No

What happened to Fred & Ginger? That, I can’t really answer, I do hope they are breeding on another part of the cliffs, that’s something that I will never know.. But, they will always be with me, they are most certainly in my heart and memories, plus I probably have hundreds if not thousands of images to put together my own book.. ;-)

What happens now? Well, I will continue to monitor the pair that are here now and Gannets in general and then see what happens next year and probably start to get to know this pair all over again..

As for a name? Watch this space, names have been put forward already lol but I will get to know them first and I’m looking forward to the new challenge..

Fred & Ginger, I thank you for giving me an amazing two years, for teaching me about patience and everything I need to know about Gannets, you will be missed, you gave me so much pleasure and memories I will treasure, you were a labour of Love.. !!


Photo comment By Svetlana Pertovic: Beautiful Indeed
Photo comment By Iain P: Amazing story Marie, and stunning images hopefully you will all meet again :-)
Photo comment By Kerry Jackson: What a lovely love story . I hope you see them again .

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