Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Puffin Islands

I had been wanting to return to the Farne Islands in the North Sea for some time now and I was particularly keen to photograph some of the birds that winter in our area and breed up there. The problem was getting good weather at the right time of the year so we kept our decision open until the last minute. When the weather forecast seemed promising Geraldine and I booked our flights from Malaga to Newcastle and flew last Friday. We were met on arrival by our good friends and superb hosts Steve and Julie Holliday -thanks guys! We got perfect weather (flat calm seas and sunny) on Saturday which we spent on two of the Farnes: Staple Island and Inner Farne.

Staple Island

Inner Farne

These islands are veritable seabird strongholds, none moreso than of the colourful Puffin with around 20 thousand pairs nesting, more or less evenly spread between the two islands.

These birds nest in burrows in the soft earth which they dig themselves although, where available, they will take over those made by rabbits.

The timing was perfect as the birds now had young in the burrows and were busy transporting back bunches of sand eels and other fish that they were catching offshore. Trying to get the birds in flight was no easy task though as they are veritable little bullets in flight!

They feed in flocks, forming rafts on the water, and seem to return in groups to particular areas of the colony. It is safety in numbers as marauding gulls await them to try and steal their catch.

So the Puffins are just one of a range of breeding seabirds, many of which winter along our coasts and others did so during the colder periods of the Pleistocene. We will see others in the following posts.


The following day, Sunday, the splendid weather was gone - a howling wind and rain reminded us of how lucky we had been to get to see these fantastic birds the day before. Well worth the flight!

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