|Gannet - Champion of Diving in Action on
Sandy Hook Bay
In case if you see overlapped lines of text or some lines of text become obscured behind a picture on this web
page, please press these two keys "Ctrl +" simultaneously or these two keys "Ctrl -" simultaneously to change
the page magnification (zoom) factor to eliminate such problems.
Please press the F11 key on your keyboard to get full-screen view of photos and web page. Pressing F11 key
again will return to your normal screen with various tool bars.
This is a picture of a gannet in flight over the Bonaventure Island at the eastern end of the Gaspe Peninsula in
Quebec Province in eastern Canada. Gannet is a big seabird with a wingspan of 6 feet. I took this picture
during my tour of Bonaventure Island in July 2011. I drove my car for thousands of miles from New Jersey to
eastern end of the Gaspe Peninsula in eastern Canada in order to see concentrated 120,000 gannets in action
in their summer breeding/nesting ground on Bonaventure Island.
Recently, I am very happy to find that I need to drive only half hour to Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey to see
some gannets in action in the spring migration season. I came to Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook in Atlantic
Highlands in New Jersey in the afternoon of Thursday, March 22, 2012 and came to bay shore of northern part
of Sandy Hook in New Jersey on March 24, 2012 to see some gannets in action on Sandy Hook Bay in the
spring migration season. In these two trips, I took several movie clips of gannets in action on Sandy Hook Bay.
Please see the 3-minute movie clip, that I took, of many gannets in action flying and diving at very high speed
from mid air down into the water with a splash on Sandy Hook Bay as shown in the following YouTube website:
A gorgeous panoramic view of Sandy Hook Bay with New York Skyline as background as viewed from the
Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook at 460 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey 07716. I came to this
Scenic Overlook in the afternoon of Thursday, March 22, 2012 and of April 5, 2012 to see many gannets in
action on Sandy Hook Bay in the spring migration season and to enjoy the spectacular views.
A full scale panoramic view of Sandy Hook Bay with New York Skyline as background as viewed from the Mt.
Mitchill Scenic Overlook can be seen at:
Map: Click here to see an interactive Google Map showing location of Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey
It all starts with the sun in the early spring. The sun warms the water in the bay and the river, and the sun
thaws out the mud and soil in wetlands. Additionally, spring rains discharge nutrients and food into the water in
the river and the bay. All this activity helps to create vast populations of plankton in the water in the bay, which
in turn helps to feed many small fish, such as herring. Plankton rich food in the bay, along with warmer water
temperatures, attract large schools of fish, such as Alewife, Blueback Herring and Shad in Atlantic ocean, to
coast of New Jersey for just the right conditions to enter the bay, feed, and then head upstream to freshwater
portions of the rivers to spawn.
In spring season, the seabirds gannets are migrating north offshore along eastern seaboard of USA towards
their summer breeding/nesting grounds in eastern Canada. These large schools of fish in Sandy Hook Bay in
New Jersey in the spring season attract many migrating gannets to enter the bay in pursuit of herring,
mackerel, menhaden, squid, and other prey.
Therefore, this Scenic Overlook above the high cliff in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands over the Sandy Hook
Bay provides excellent opportunities for bird watchers to enjoy watching many gannets in action.
The view above indicates that Sandy Hook Bay is very large and many gannets are often very far (miles) away
from the bay shore. Therefore, bird watchers need good binoculars or spotting scopes to be able to see those
gannets in action. Photographers also need long zoom lens to be able to get good pictures of those gannets in
Coping with Fast Actions Far Away:
Since most gannets are very far (miles) away and flying or diving very fast, it was difficult to take good still
pictures of them with long zoom. Instead, I sat down plus using my monopod to gain sufficient stability for my
camera with 35X optical zoom, set the focus manually to infinity and took several movie clips. Such
arrangements enable me to track their fast actions as presented above. The monopod provides both
necessary stability and the necessary flexibility for me to track those fast moving gannets.
The benefits of using a compact super-zoom camera with a monopod are described in my web pages at:
In a previous year in 2010, a lucky guy who saw a swarm of hundreds of gannets in a spectacular plunge
diving feeding frenzy on Sandy Hook Bay took a picture as shown at the following website:
Since it takes me only half hour of driving to reach Sandy Hook Bay, I probably will come here more often in
the spring season hoping to see such spectacular big swarm of gannets over Sandy Hook Bay, similar to
what I saw near Pointe Saint Pierre in eastern Canada as shown on the following YouTube website:
In addition to the Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook, we also drove down to Highlands and Atlantic Highlands
Marina to get on the Henry Hudson (Hiking and Biking) Trail. This hiking trail is right on the shore of Sandy
Hook Bay and is also a good location for watching gannets in action in spring season.
Map: Click here to see an interactive Google Map for locations of Mt Mitchill Scenic Overlook, Bayside Drive
and Henry Hudson (Hiking) Trail in Atlantic Highlands.
Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook and Henry Hudson Trail are good for viewing gannet action over Sandy Hook
Bay in the afternoon when the afternoon sun is behind the afternoon viewers.
On the other hand, if one comes in the morning, the Sandy Hook side is a better location to view the actions
of gannets over Sandy Hook Bay because the morning sun is behind the morning viewers.
There is a ferry service, Seastreak, between the marina in Atlantic Highlands and Manhattan, New York. It
also provide a ferry service between the marina in Highlands and Manhattan.
It seems that these two ferry services, Seastreak, go right through the Sandy Hook Bay. I may consider
taking a ride on this Seastreak in the spring season to get closer views of gannets in action on Sandy Hook
Bay similar to what I did on Cape May-Lewes Ferry on April 2, 2006 watching many gannets in action on
A gannet started diving from mid air down into Sandy Hook Bay to catch fish on March 24, 2012 as viewed
from the bay shore of northern Sandy Hook. This is one of several gannet diving events that I got on the movie
clips taken on March 22 and March 24, 2012. Notice that gannet has black wing tips.
Gannet is known as the Champion of Diving because they often plunge-dive from mid air about 100 feet above
water at very high speed (90 miles per hour) down so that they dive very deep into the water to catch fish
under the water. During the beginning of diving in the air, they flap their wings to accelerate their diving speed.
In the following, I extracted sequential still pictures frame by frame from two of the movie clips of diving
events of gannet to show how gannet transforms its body and swung back wings into a highly streamlined
shape like a missile optimized for high speed diving deep into the water to catch fish.
One of many gannets in flight over Sandy Hook Bay on March 24, 2012.
Sandy Hook Bay is very large and most gannets in action on Sandy Hook Bay are often very far (miles) away
from the shore. Therefore, bird watchers need good binoculars or spotting scopes to be able to see those
gannets in action. Photographers also need long zoom lens to be able to get good pictures and movie of
those gannets in action.
I used my compact super-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX30-IS, with 35X optical zoom in taking these
pictures and movie clips of gannets on Sandy Hook Bay.
Picture D1 - Another gannet started diving from mid air down on March 24, 2012
Picture D2 - The diving gannet started pulling in its wings while diving.
Picture D3 - The diving gannet continued diving down and pulled in its wings in and back.
Picture D4 - The gannet continued its diving, but began to swing its wings back behind its tail.
Picture D5 - The gannet continued its dive, but was swinging and extending its wings further back behind its tail.
Picture D6 - Just before hitting the water, the gannet had transformed its body and extended wings behind into
a very streamlined shape almost like a missile shooting at very high speed into the water. The black wing tips
are the last part of such "missile". Therefore, gannet is also known as missile bird.
Picture D7 - The head of the highly streamlined gannet had plunged into the water now.
Picture D8 - Most of the gannet are into the water now except its black wing tips.
Picture D9 - The gannet had dived into the water at high speed with an initial small splash because of its highly
Picture D10 - The water splash became slightly larger after the gannet dived deep into the water to catch
Picture E1 - Another gannet diving in the air and pulling in its wings.
Picture E2 - The diving gannet swinging its wings behind its tail.
Picture E3 - The diving gannet is transforming into a streamlined shape preparing for penetrating at high
speed into the water.
Picture E4 - The gannet transformed into highly streamlined shape just before hitting water.
Picture E5 - The head of the streamlined gannet just reach the water surface.
Picture E6 - The streamlined gannet is plunging into the water.
Picture E7 - Continue plunging into the water.
Picture E8 - Most of the streamlined gannet are into the water except the black wing tips.
Picture E9 - A small splash after the streamlined gannet dived at high speed deep into the water.
Two pictures of dived gannets re-emerging to the water surface with big fish in their beaks on Delaware Bay
can be seen at the following web page:
In July 2011, I drove thousands of miles to Bonaventure Island in eastern Canada to see 120,000 gannets as
shown on my web page at:
In July 2005, I also traveled thousands of miles to Cape St. Mary in Newfoundland in northeastern maritime
Canada to see another large colony of gannets on their summer breeding/nesting grounds as shown on my web
On April 2, 2006, I drove south for 2 hours to Cape May in southern New Jersey to get on the Cape
May-Lewes Ferry to see many gannets in action over Delaware Bay as shown on my web page at:
Now I am happy to know that I need to drive only half hour to Sandy Hook Bay in New Jersey to see some
gannets in action in the spring migration season.
From Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, zoom in over Sandy Hook Bay for a closer and beautiful view of
Manhattan skyline, New York that is more than 20 miles away with Sandy Hook in the foreground.
From Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, zoom in over Sandy Hook Bay for a wonderful view of the majestic
Verrazano Bridge, New York that is about 15 miles away.
From Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, zoom in even more over Sandy Hook Bay for a much closer view of
Lower Manhattan, New York (more than 20 miles away) with northwest part (US Coast Guard) of Sandy
Hook, New Jersey in the foreground. (My compact super-zoom camera has 35X optical zoom)
From Mount Mitchell Scenic Overlook, zoom in even more over Sandy Hook Bay for a much closer view of
Manhattan, New York with the Empire State Building in the center that is more than 20 miles away.
Based on such experience at Sandy Hook Bay, I guess that we may also see similar action of gannets on
Raritan Bay in the spring season. Two good locations for viewing actions over Raritan Bay are Raritan Bay
Waterfront Park in South Amboy and Old Bridge Waterfront Park in Old Bridge/South Amboy as described on
my web page at:
On March 23, 2012, I did go to Raritan Bay Waterfront Park and Old Bridge Waterfront Park. We did see
some gannets in action very far away on Raritan Bay. Unfortunately, it was a very windy and cold day with very
rough waves on the bay. With long zoom on the camera, the strong wind gusts made it difficult to take good
still pictures or movie clips of those far away gannets in action. I probably will have to come here again on a
sunny spring day with no wind so that I can take better movies and pictures of those far away gannets.
The Henry Hudson (Biking and Hiking) Trail (or Bayshore Trail) along the southern shore of Sandy Hook Bay
between the big parking lot in Atlantic Highlands Marina and the smaller parking lot at the 369 Shore Drive at
the western end of Shore Drive in Highlands. This Bayshore Trail is about 1.5 miles between Atlantic Highlands
The parking lot and the Trailhead of Henry Hudson Trail at Popamora Point at the 369 Shore Drive at western
end of Shore Drive in Highlands, New Jersey.
Sign at the Trailhead of Henry Hudson Trail and the parking lot at western end of Shore Drive in Highlands.
The map showing two ferry routes: One from Atlantic Highlands Marina to Manhattan and another from the
marina in Highlands to Manhattan.
A view of Seastreak ferry in Atlantic Highlands Marina. There are couple large parking lots here for ferry
passengers and marina users with many fishing party boats.
A view of the Seastreak ferry coming back from Manhattan to Highlands.