Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Gannets at Muriwai

with 39 comments

Six years ago today I took many pictures of Australasian gannetsMorus serrator, at their colony in Muriwai on the west side of New Zealand’s North Island. While we don’t usually get to see birds in flight by looking down, this is one place where we do. The Māori name for these gannets is tākapu, and in English we call a breeding colony of them a gannetry. Rest assured that during courtship there’s gallantry in a gannetry.

And here’s a tip for those of you interested in science and history (presumably anyone who’s reading this): for just $20 you can get a whole year’s subscription to Curiosity Stream, which offers thousands of programs to watch on your computer, tablet, or phone; with appropriate cables or equipment (Apple TV in our case), you can stream from those devices to a full-size television. We spent a good chunk of yesterday learning about the ancient ruins at Mes Anyak in Afghanistan; genetic engineering’s promises and perils; finding and exploring ancient shipwrecks in the Black Sea, along with evidence that only gradually did it change from a smaller fresh-water lake into its current larger saline state; the British artist and humanitarian Lilias Trotter, whom we’d never heard of.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

39 Responses

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  1. I love the composition of your picture! Curiosity Stream sounds like good value.

    Ann Mackay

    February 7, 2021 at 4:41 AM

    • I was panning along with flying birds as best I could, so I couldn’t control composition, and I got what I got. That said, this frame happened to come out with strong diagonal elements and with the lower gannet fortunately separated from the border of the rocks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 6:31 AM

  2. Absolutely gorgeous … love this pic!

    Ms. Liz

    February 7, 2021 at 4:41 AM

    • Thanks. This frame was one of my successes that day so I’m glad I went back, rediscovered it in my archive, and pulled it out of oblivion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 6:36 AM

  3. I thought I recalled that these birds dive for fish, like our brown pelicans, and they certainly do. Diving into the middle of Galveston Bay is one thing; diving around those rocks is something else. It’s amazing to consider how they’ve evolved both the physical characteristics to protect them during dives, and the ‘radar’ to avoid danger. Apart from the beauty of the birds, the surface of that water would make a wonderful abstract photo. The threads of spume are lovely.

    Curiosity Stream has been advertising on radio here, and I’d wondered about it. Thanks for the tip.


    February 7, 2021 at 6:28 AM

  4. Great capture of the gannets in flight, Steve! It looks to me like it was taken at a very high shutter speed as both the birds and the waves look frozen in time. I wonder if one could subscribe to the documentary channel in Canada?

    Peter Klopp

    February 7, 2021 at 7:51 AM

  5. It’s interesting how localized some streaming services can be. I recall a few years ago being surprised that I could not use my Netflix account in Brazil. They now have Netflix, but still last time I was there I had to use mother’s account.

    Alessandra Chaves

    February 7, 2021 at 8:13 AM

    • I assume every streaming service started out in one place. Expansion plans may get limited by the company’s ability to handle more customers and by regulations in other places. In the worst cases, a dictatorship like North Korea blocks its people from almost all contact with other countries.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 8:23 AM

      • By the way, I just added a second reply to Peter’s question about whether Curiosity Stream is available to people outside the United States.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 7, 2021 at 8:25 AM

  6. I really love the movement of the water and abundant number of gannets in this image. Were there any difficulties in achieving this shot? Perhaps wind or mist from the churning water? Were you perched high above the ledge the gannets were gathered on?


    February 7, 2021 at 8:29 AM

    • The main difficulty was the movement of the birds in flight. To deal with it I used a fast shutter speed of 1/800 of a second for the photograph shown here. Visitors view the colony from above, as you can see in the humorous first picture at


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 8:35 AM

      • All you have to do is imagine me as the person with the camera leaning over the railing at the far right edge of the platform.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 7, 2021 at 8:41 AM

      • Wow! Good heavens, how does one compete with throngs of people like that, trying to get a decent photograph? Sheesh. I’m even more impressed with your work and I appreciate even more for what you dealt with in getting the shot!


        February 7, 2021 at 8:51 AM

        • It is a bit crazy, isn’t it? I had to wait for a space to open up at the railing, given that everyone wanted to take pictures. I stayed at the railing longer than most people and took more pictures than most people.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2021 at 9:14 AM

  7. I really like the angle you chose. It’s like flying over the birds.


    February 7, 2021 at 8:55 AM

    • Fortunately there’s a viewing platform (even if it’s often crowded) that let me get that downward-looking angle. It was the closest I could come to flying over birds in flight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 9:23 AM

  8. A great flashback. I love Muriwai, as you very well know. If the spread of the two gannets’ tails weren’t so different, it would appear that you had cloned and shrunk the upper one and copied it below–their positions are very nearly identical.


    February 7, 2021 at 2:25 PM

    • I’m glad I looked back at the large set of gannet pictures I made that day. I came away with so many images because, given the uncertainties of catching a bird in flight, I set the camera to rapid-fire mode, taking several pictures a second for as long as I held the shutter release button down (at least until the camera’s memory buffer filled up). What you say about cloning is interesting. I hadn’t appreciated how similar the configurations of the two airborne gannets are to each other.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 4:13 PM

  9. I don’t know whether you follow Su Leslie who lives in Auckland, but she often photographs the gannets at Muriwai – here is one link to her blog which you might enjoy.



    February 7, 2021 at 7:12 PM

    • Thanks for the link. The Muriwai colony is a popular place, and if I lived in Auckland I’d go there periodically, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 9:00 PM

  10. Neat view of the gannets and the ocean. Another place I’d love to visit. Thanks for the tip about Curiosity Stream!


    February 7, 2021 at 7:16 PM

    • New Zealand’s a fantastic place for nature photographers. I’m fortunate to have spent several weeks there in 2015 and again two years later. I do hope you’ll make it there. As for Curiosity Stream, we watched a bunch more programs on it today. It’s better than a lot of what’s shown on television, and you can watch what you want when you want it, and without commercials.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2021 at 9:03 PM

  11. Great angle … feels a little precarious!


    February 8, 2021 at 9:29 AM

  12. What a great sighting! I’ve only seen one Gannet from a boat with my long lens. It was a lone Gannet on one of the Farallon Islands outside of San Francisco. I’d love to see more of them someday.


    February 8, 2021 at 2:17 PM

    • If gannets are what you’re after, New Zealand’s a great place to go. Even bigger than Muriwai, the largest mainland NZ gannetry is at Cape Kidnappers, with around 5,000 breeding pairs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2021 at 2:21 PM

      • I am so looking forward to traveling without all these cumbersome restrictions! Thanks for the info!


        February 8, 2021 at 2:22 PM

        • We’re all looking forward to that, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 8, 2021 at 2:26 PM

  13. Love your POV


    February 10, 2021 at 8:26 PM

    • Downward is the direction I least often aim in, but in this case it was the right direction.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 11, 2021 at 7:02 AM

  14. I have yet to see a gannet, Steve, and a gallant gannet would be a bonus. One of these days, but I suspect my first sighting will be of a Eurasian rather than an Australasian gannet.


    February 18, 2021 at 2:15 PM

  15. Baseball Fan

    March 9, 2021 at 7:05 PM

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