Wildlife Village 19th August 2011
Todays post is not a happy story. Even more so if you are a gannet chick (Guga). For hundreds of years an Island near the Isle of Lewis sees men arrive and club to death gannet chicks. this happens in August every year. The SSPCA are trying to have this source of food, yes the Guga are eaten, stopped saying it is barbaric. I’m not sure if its double standards as they have no campaign to stop the glorious 12th and the shooting that continues until December. I shall give you some information I have found and you can make your own mind up.
FROM THE BBC
An animal welfare charity has called the traditional harvesting of young seabirds on the Western Isles as “barbaric”.
The Scottish SPCA has written to the Scottish government asking for a ban on the annual guga hunt be put in place.
Thousands of gannet chicks are taken from the island of Sula Sgeir, north of Lewis, to be eaten as a delicacy.
The government said it was satisfied the methods used to kill the birds were not inhumane if done competently.
The Scottish SPCA said the birds were caught using a noose on the end of a pole and then beaten to death.
Other animal welfare groups have made previous calls for a ban.
Guga hunting is centuries old and takes place in late August.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said the tradition caused suffering.
He said: “A competent person may kill one or two birds outright with a single blow, but in our opinion most will take more than one blow to be killed.
“This has to be considered in the context of this particular species of bird as gannets have exceptionally strong necks and heavy skulls, which enable them to dive into the water for prey from very high heights and at great speeds.”
The Scottish government said there would not be any move to ban the hunt.
A spokesman said: “We are satisfied that there is no conservation risk to the local gannet population posed by this traditional hunt.
“We are also satisfied that, provided it is done effectively and competently, the method used to dispatch the birds is not inhumane.”
In Scotland, colonies of the large seabird are found at Troup Head, near Fraserburgh, on St Kilda, the Northern Isles and Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.
Two years ago, author Donald S Murray’s The Guga Hunters was published.
The former English teacher gathered tales from hunts and similar harvests on the Faroes, Iceland and Orkney.
Mr Murray also wrote a pamphlet of poems, called Praising the Guga.
About 2,000 birds are harvested a year. The meat is described as grey, strong smelling and salty.
GUGA by Scott Hatton – Guga le Scott Hatton
Some 40 miles north of Lewis lie two remote islands, North Rona and Sulasgeir. Rona is the larger of the two islands and boasts a green salt-seasoned sward. It was once populated mainly by residents who looked after sheep placed on the island for fattening. Sir James Matheson, who bought Lewis in 1844, once offered the island to the Government for use as a penal settlement, a kind of British Devil’s Island. The offer was refused. But it is Sulasgeir, which has a special place in the seafaring history of the men of Ness on the Isle of Lewis. Though often called an island it is, in fact, little more than a large sea rock. There is scarcely any soil on Sulasgeir. That lack is made up by the rock’s role as one of the most important breeding grounds for gannets, with some 9000 breeding pairs on Sulasgeir, which they share with other bird species such as kittiwakes, guillemots, puffins, Leach’s petrel and fulmars. The rock’s name sula (solan goose) and sgeir (rock) gives the clue for the importance for Ness.
One of the earliest accounts written about the Western Isles was by Dean Munro, who visited the islands in 1549. His description of Sulasgeir mentions that the men of Ness sailed in their small craft to “fetche hame thair boatful of dry wild fowls with wild fowl fedderis”. How long before 1549 the Nessmen sailed to Sulasgeir each year to collect the young gannets for food and feathers is not known, but it may be assumed that it was a tradition for centuries. That tradition is still carried on today. A report written in 1797 says: ‘There is in Ness a most venturous set of people who for a few years back, at the hazard of their lives, went there in an open six-oared boat without even the aid of a compass’. Excellent seamanship was certainly essential for the success of these expeditions – rowing across miles of turbulent Atlantic was no pleasure cruise.
The flesh of the young gannet or ‘guga’ is regarded as a delicacy in Ness today though, for others, it is an acquired taste. Even so, it was a popular meat in earlier times in Scotland. In the sixteenth century it was served at the tables of Scots kings and was a favourite with the wealthy as a ‘whet’ or appetizer before main meals. In the autumn of each year, a hardy team of Nessmen set sail for Sulasgeir to kill around 2000 young birds and bring home their catch about two weeks later, to meet an eager crowd of customers, who snap up as many of the birds as they can. The demand is often so great that the birds have to be rationed out to ensure that each person does not go without a taste of guga.
The annual cull of birds has been the focus of attention of bird protectionists, who recently have tried to ban the cull completely. But tradition dies hard and the Sulasgeir trip still goes on, with a special dispensation written into the 1954 Wild Birds Protection Act by a Statutory Order, which allows the Nessmen to continue their taste both for adventure and for the guga.
Nestcap for 18th August 201110.46am Look like Laird is still with us, sitting in the trees just now 10.48am Off he flies – looked like he went down towards the loch was he going for a fish. Cam did not follow 10.50am Camera now panning to see if they can find him, no luck, and now back to the empty nest 11.19am Large bird just lands on the tree 11.22am Geese making a racket in the background, nice to hear them though 11.23am Cam panning up at the sky again 11.25am Cam back to trees again poss Laird there, can see movement of large bird but that’s all 11.27am Wonder if Laird has a fish and that’s what the movement is, him eating it!!!! 11.31am I think he is eating something, you can just make out his head going up and down as though pulling at fish!!!!! 11.34am He’s just flown off 11.38am Cam pans back to the tree again. He’s back there, wonder what’s he’s doing. You don’t think he’s taking stick backs to there do you???? Frustration nest maybe 11.46am And he’s off yet again. Cam person doing a great job trying to keep up 11.46am And he’s straight back again 11.49am He’s off again
11.50am He’s back again, very curious!!!!! 11.55am That looked like him bringing a branch to that tree! 11.53am Off again
11.55am And he’s back, what on earth is he up to.
11.59am Off again
12.01pm And he’s back and had something in his talons 12.08pm Definitely a branch 12.09pm And he’s back yet again. Would love to see what he’s doing 12.11pm Off again. 12.12pm Just saw some movement on new nest, so there is an Osprey up there, as well as the one that just flew off. 12.17pm Osprey back with a BIG stick. Flew behind tree. .
12.18pm flew off again 12.22pm Looked down for minute to look up and see wings flapping on new nest, so didnt see him fly in. Mating????
12.24pm Mating again by the looks of things 12.26pm Osprey flew off to the right.
12.28pm And in he comes again. Are we certain its Laird? Def. ID`ed?
12.30pm And off he goes again 12.50pm Well that’s 20 minutes he`s been gone, so perhaps he is resting, or fishing 13.08pm Laird back on his ‘frustration nest’ how sad to see 13.09pm And away again….. 13.09pm Osprey to nest, didn’t see if anything was brought in, and then he flew off. 13.13pm Bird flew off nest, didn’t see it fly in!! 13.14pm Please stop building Laird….you are wasting energy, when you should be building up your muscles for your long flight. 13.15pm Osprey to nest from behind.
13.16pm Off again. 13.22pm Osprey to nest.
13.25pm Off again 13.24pm Osprey to nest from behind
13.25pm Off again 13.27pm Flew in from left hand side
13.28pm A lot of flapping of wings and appears to be another on right hand side of nest (behind)
13.29pm Flown off again. 13.32pm Osprey to nest
13.33pm Off again. 13.35pm On nest again and off 13.36pm Flew in from the left hand front with a large stick and there is definitely another one flying around behind in the distance 13.39pm On the nest.
13.41pm Off nest again 13.43pm Wow, that was a big stick just brought in.
13.44pm Lots of wing flapping.
13.46pm Has he flown off? Can see some movement on the nest.
13.47pm There he goes 13.52pm Camera panning around, now back to the tree, perhaps the operator`s hand went to sleep, now panning, ah, ducks on the Loch.
Still panning, now back to new nest tree. Sun is beginning to shine and lights up the nest better. I doubt they can actually see the nest proper from the VC and Hides, as I had a good look as they panned around. What we can see is the back of it. 13.58pm In he comes again with another stick. Major nest building going on there.
14.00pm Wing flapping again.
14.01pm And off he goes. 14.04pm Our lovely Jan calls Lowes and has just spoken to Jonathan at Lowes. He thinks it is probably Laird, but they cannot positively ID him, just cannot see the rings with the camera. He also said it is a frustration nest and not in a good location. Also there is no other osprey on the nest. Don’t think Lady will be taking up residence there!! 14.09PM As mentioned earlier, there was a second bird on the nest earlier, as I saw movement after the male (Laird or other) had flown the nest. I mentioned it at the time 14.30pm Is there a bird in that tree??? 17.20pm Well that’s the end of the show folks night cam has now cam on 20.22pm Night cam on JUST TO PROVE ITS NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM FROM ME HERE IS A FUNNY YOUTUBE CLIP. THANK YOU SUSAN FOR THE NEST CAP
The Dyfi Osprey Project and the Scottish wildlife Trust have kindly given their permission for us to post still and video images from their webcams. To visit their sites please click on the relevant link. Loch of the Lowes. Dyfi Osprey Project.