PHOTO- & VIDEO-REPORT: Facing Northern gannets on German Island Helgoland

Approaching the Lummenfelsen, one of Germany’s smallest wildlife preserves located on Helgoland, you can already see the first northern gannets flying above you. The closer you get, the louder become the continuous calls of the large seabirds.

The high cliffs of Germany’s only deep-sea island offer perfect conditions for northern gannets, as they nest densely packed along the cliffs where they are safe from predators. More than 780 breeding pairs were counted this year on Helgoland.

With their blue eyes surrounded by black rings and their white plumage featuring black tips, the beautiful birds are a popular subject for numerous nature photographers and tourists every year. Fledglings, in comparison, have very dark feathers and slowly change their appearance until they have reached adulthood.

But like some other seabirds on Helgoland, northern gannets tend to use old fishnets to build their nests. As a result, many of them get entangled or swallow threads of the net and end up dying in agony. When diving into the water at a high-speed to hunt for fish, the seabirds often get tangled up in nets with their beaks, as well.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for animal conservationists to rescue the birds in such a situation, as it is difficult to reach the northern gannets on the sheer cliffs. Environmental organizations like “Greenpeace” and “Verein Jordsand”, which is involved in the protection of seabirds and shorebirds, therefore demand that fishery becomes more ecological by for example using bio-degradable nets as an alternative.

On location report by Nadine Carstens.

More about that:
Helgoland website