December 12, 2017

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

Today’s species is usually a big crowd pleaser. I’ve seen them a few times on Ynys Môn (Anglesey), both on a boat trip to the aptly named Puffin Island near Baumarris, and at the fantastic RSPB reserve at South Stack, but it’s been very difficult to get close enough for a decent picture even with my 100-400mm lens.

This year we fulfilled an ambition of mine to visit the Farne Islands and arrived just in time for the Puffins, and many other birds, to be busying themselves with nesting. Many of the other birds choose to nest on the high cliffs around the island of Inner Farne, but these remarkable little auks use the old rabbit burrows, further back from those vertiginous drops.

I took a few pictures of them in flight, but seemed unable to get myself in the right position to find one prepared to pose for me on the ground. Until that is, I spotted another photographer who suddenly froze then very slowly advanced towards a nearby burrow. I caught his eye and he very generously hissed, “one just coming out over here” so we were both able to get some really nice close ups as the bird weighed up our potential as predators. Pretty soon s/he decided that we were safe enough, so fully emerged and waddled around to line up a decent flight path, out over the cliffs and back to the sea to feed.

Even by Northumbrian standards, the Farne Islands are a really magical place. We were luck enough to see a huge list of interesting wildlife and I even managed to take a satisfying amount of pictures of them.