We are home and I have spent a good few hours going through the many many images on the camera. Lots of them are not in focus as it did take me a while to get back into the swing of capturing birds on the wing, but I am happy with some of them. So without too much discussion here they are.
There are about 1000 Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) on the cliffs, they are not easy to spot as there are around 250,000 other seabirds in residence too. We had our best numbers ever over the 3 days we visited with between 30 – 40 of them. They are adorable and cute looking with their odd looking ‘beak’ that isn’t a beak but an extra bit that they grow for the breeding season. Their numbers have fallen drastically over the last few years with suggestions that their preferred food, sand eels are moving northwards due to warming seas.
All the birds on the cliffs are palegic in that they only come to the land to breen and spend the rest of their year at sea. So it’s worth taking the opportunity to visit in the spring and early summer if you are at all interested.
There are three types of auks that nest there, puffins already mentioned, guillemots and razorbills. The razorbills (Alca torda), look like they are auditioning for a part in a Zorro movie with their deep black coat with sleek white lines from their eyes to the end of their bill. They are the closest living relative to the Great Auk that became extinct in the middle of the 19th century.
The gannets are by far my favourites. Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) are large birds with huge wingspans of almost 2m. They are sleek and skillful fliers and we saw a range of flight patterns over the 3 days as the wind changed direction. I make no excuse for lots of photos of them – they are stunning.
Just watching them negotiate the variations in the wind, and use their big feet at wind breaks as well as their wings and tails to turn, soar and descend is a sight to behold.