More Seabirds

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.  

Puffin on a cliff shelf
Everyone loves the puffins

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.

Razorbill over a sparkling sea
Razorbill over a sparkling sea

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.

Two northern gannets on the cliffs at Bempton
Pair bonding.
Two gannets balancing on the wind.
‘Balancing’ on the updraft from the cliffs
Gannet in flight, checking out the strange human creatures on the cliff tops.
Adult checking out the crowds of humans on the cliff top.

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.


    • Thank you Regina. I love gannets. There is a phrase ‘to eat like a gannet’ as they have an enormous capacity for eating fish – though they don’t show any sign of obesity. They are marvellous to watch and if you are lucky you can see them plunge diving into the sea to catch fish. There are colonies on the east coast of the US/Canada.

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