Puffins of Lunga
Puffins have been on my wish list of birds to see and photograph for many years. But it wasn’t until I was over in Scotland earlier this year (June 2016) organizing a Scottish Highland Tour for 2017 that my wish came true.
Puffins are such characterful little birds, and are delightful to watch as they come and go from the weather-beaten cliffs of small islands off the West coast of Scotland. I caught up with them on Lunga, which is the largest of the Treshnish Isles forming part of the Inner Hebrides, and is about an hour west of Mull by boat.
People have been visiting these wonderful little birds on Lunga for many years but I was still a bit concerned that our presence might disturb them. However, I was informed that visiting humans seem to have had a positive effect and the puffins are quite happy for us to be there. Why? A Puffin’s diet consists of mainly small fish, which they catch out at sea. When their bills are full, they return to their burrows, in order to feed their hungry waiting chicks. It’s on their return that the gulls strike, mobbing them in order to steal their catch. However this behaviour is less common when humans are around -giving the puffins a welcome break.
The key to puffin watching is to sit back away from the cliff edges, where the puffins’ burrows are, so you don’t collapse any of them and just wait and watch their comings and goings. Sometimes they may even waddle up to you, and when they do they remind me penguins – not in the way they move but more when they stand up straight.
Photographing them all comes down to focus (excuse the pun), no, not the focusing of your lens but of your attention. It’s very easy to get distracted with so many puffins around you but if you keep focused you will get some great shots, and on top of that you will have a constant grin on your face even after you leave the island. It truly is a wonderful experience. Catching them in flight can also be tricky as they dart around quite quickly, but its great fun trying. One of the puffins was also practicing his superman impression, can you guess which one?
The puffins are the first birds you come across as you leave the boat and walk up onto the cliffs and it can be very difficult to pull yourself away from their captivating appeal, but if you can I do recommend it. Lunga is the home of many other sea birds in the breeding season including razorbills, shags, guillemots and gulls so if you don’t pull yourself away from the puffins you may miss out.
If you live in Scotland I highly recommend visiting Lunga; and if you live further afield, including New Zealand, why not join me on my Scotland Adventure in 2017 where Lunga will be on our itinerary.