Three factors have led to this post. The first is a memory search, that has been going on in my mind for some time now, to present another few images that help to convey my enthusiastic optimism as this new year starts unfolding. The second is my excitement at the prospect of my travel back to New Zealand in just four days. The third is an inspiring image posted yesterday [here] by my talented friend Adrian (aka the FATman) of young gulls having taken sudden flight. Adrian’s gulls immediately brought back to mind my delight on the occasions when I’ve been able to spend some unforgettable time observing some of my very favorite seabirds, the gannets (they belong to the genus Morus and the family Sulidae). I’ve watched them from watercraft a few times, but nothing in my experience can compare with the vantage point that’s available near the community of Muriwai, about an hour’s drive and a short hike northwest of Auckland, New Zealand. The action of the hungry sea has mostly separated a section of the cliff from the mainland, and a permanent gannet colony resides there, some on the flat-topped rocky stack and the rest on the adjacent grassy and sandy, sloping land. The path along the cliff’s edge leads to a wonderful overlook platform, which you can just glimpse at the far left in my first image.
My first visit to this magical spot, when my fascination with gannets was kindled, was on April 13, 1996. I was using a film camera then, and I shot 33 frames, trying to catch one silhouetted against the fading light of the late afternoon. One of these was successful.
I feel very privileged to have had several opportunities to return to what has become my favorite of the 50 countries that I’ve visited so far and, whenever possible, I try to arrange another excursion to Muriwai. I invariably feel a thrill of exhilaration as I watch these lovely and magnificent birds riding the gusty winds that swirl around the craggy outcrops so elegantly and (apparently) effortlessly—truly the stuff of dreams.