It drops out of the sky like, what, a rocket, a missile; no sound, or very little, even when it enters the water, so perfectly streamlined is it, just a quick wet ‘zip’ of sea parted at extreme velocity. It’s a stunning sight; a breathtaking experience, to see one so close.
I tread water and wait for it to surface and soon it does, gulping a silver fish even as it beats its wings to climb back up into the blue where it silently circles before tucking its wings in again and becoming a bullet to plummet and feed on the small glittering sprats that are leaping about me and causing the waves to sparkle as they rise into the crests that let me bodysurf back onto the beach. It’s astounding.
I’ve never seen a gannet this close before, and I’m somewhat awed. I want to continue watching but the big waves take me towards the white sands which reach from sea-cliff to sea-cliff in a wide and, despite the heat of this Sunday, pleasantly sparsely-populated beach (nor, it pleases me to record, is the sea churned and oiled up by jet skis). I’m craving ice-cream, because that’s what being on holiday is all about, but once ashore I turn to look back out at the blue and lifting sea. I can’t see the gannet, and I don’t see him surface. Maybe he’s eaten his fill and flown off, back to his colony somewhere on the nearby crags.
We’ll both be back, though; this place, and the wider county to which it belongs, never ceases to astonish.
Niall Griffiths is a fantastically talented author from Penrhyncoch, near Aberystwyth.