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Darling, that's SO you...

Last modified: 21 July 2012

Gannets with 'necklace'

Steve Race © -

Image: Yorkshire Coast Nature

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but a simple necklace of wildflowers is enough to woo your sweetheart when you live on the ledges at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Around 8,000 pairs of gannets return every year to the nature reserve between Bridlington and Filey in Yorkshire – and this pair were caught billing and cooing on camera by wildlife photographer Steve Race.

Gannets are renowned for their faithfulness, usually returning to the same nesting site with the same partner for many years and regularly re-decorating their summer home with grasses, flowers – and even bits of rope and rubbish.  

Younger birds, like these two, that haven’t quite got the hang of being grown-ups, are often seen presenting each other with flowers and feathers, as they appear to work on their chat-up lines.

“The reserve is awash with colour at this time of the year, with red campion, birds foot trefoil and clover stretching as far as the eye can see,” said Bempton Cliffs manager Ian Kendall. 

“We watched one of these birds bring in the red campion and pass it on to its would-be mate, which looks for all the world to be wearing it as a necklace. If the pair return next year and have a family, we’ll find out whether their adolescent romancing has paid off.

“The long spell of wet weather certainly doesn’t seem to have dampened their ardour. The gannets and other seabirds at Bempton Cliffs continue to put on an amazing show for our visitors, whatever the weather.”

Bempton Cliffs has England’s only mainland gannet colony.  In 1967 there were just 22 breeding pairs, but that figure has shot up to around 8,000, as recorded in 2009. The UK’s coastline is crucial for Northern gannets with roughly 60% of the world’s population nesting here.

Gannets will be around on the reserve until late September and staff and volunteers are organising a programme of Planet Gannet events throughout the summer, including family activities, walks, photographic workshops and even tea with the gannets. For more information, go to

Photo: Steve Race © -

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