It's the time of year that sees the arrival of thousands of Britain’s largest sea birds - and these ones are bucking the trend of declining numbers.

Some 60 per cent of Europe’s Northern Gannets, with their distinctive yellow heads and sand black wing tips, see Scotland as home.

And the Scottish Seabird Centre is welcoming their return this year with the installation of state-of-the-art live cameras which will help inspire the Sir David Attenboroughs of the future.

The world’s biggest gannet colony can be found on Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, with over 150,000 birds swarming every inch of the island during the breeding season.

They travel south for the winter, many as far as the coast of West Africa.

Over a dozen have already made their way to the 350ft high, steep-sided volcanic rock in North Berwick, marking the start of a mass arrival which is seen as a major event in the breeding season.

It is a particularly welcome sight given growing fears over falling seabird populations.

In December 2018 a University of Aberdeen study found that marine species are the most at risk due to competition they face from the fishing industry for food.

Researchers found there had been a 70 per cent drop in populations as a result of fishing , pollution and habitat destruction.

Other experts fear that one possible cause of the decrease is that waters around the UK have increased in temperature by more than 1C thanks to global warming.

In the wake of this change, seas have also seen a dramatic loss of zooplankton while sand eels – a critically important source of food for many birds – have disappeared from many parts of the Atlantic.

However, the gannet has been increasing in number at roughly two per cent a year since the early 1900s.

Some experts believe this trendbucking growth is largely thanks to their extensive feeding range.

The birds are known to fly in excess of 300 miles in search of food.

Experts who monitor the colonies also believe the gannets’ resilience is because they are adaptable in what they eat and so rarely encounter food shortages.

Maggie Sheddan, Bass Rock guide for the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “At this time of year we begin to see the gannets circling Bass Rock in small numbers and waiting for their partners to return.

“By the end of the month, weather dependent, we hope to see thousands vying for nesting sites on the island.

“This sighting is a significant milestone in the start of the breeding season on the Firth of Forth islands.”

The Scottish Seabird Centre’s interactive live cameras are located on the Firth of Forth islands, including the Bass Rock. From the centre’s interactive Discovery Experience attraction in North Berwick, visitors will be able to take control of the cameras for themselves to observe the fascinating behaviour of the Northern Gannet colony.

The new cameras replace outdated devices on the island and will provide much clearer images of the area’s marine wildlife.

Visitors to the centre can also use them to zoom in on animals without causing disturbance.

Mal Watson, science communication at the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “The sight of thousands of gannets nesting on Bass Rock is always amazing to witness – even for those who have worked here for many years.”

The first records of gannets on the Bass Rock date back to the 15th century. As Britain’s largest seabird, they have a wing span of over 6ft, dive at speeds of up to 60mph and can live for over 30 years.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow discovered that travelling as part of a flock appeared to be about more than just gaining aerodynamic benefits.

The more experienced adult birds were often found at the front of commuting flocks, the younger birds following behind.

The results add weight to the theory that young gannets learn to hunt by following their elders, with knowledge of the best feeding grounds passed down from generation to generation.

Bass Rock, formed 320 million years ago from an old volcano, has been owned by the Hamilton-Dalrymple family for the last 300 years. It has famously been described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world”.