Flighty Puffins: Falling with Style!

After a post a while back saying flying puffins were impossible to photograph, I’ll swiftly contradict myself by showing some shots where I’m actually pretty happy with my results.  It might also get the Puffin photos out of my system, and then I can get on with my season of looking at other seabirds!

Puffin Flying

This guy above was gliding slowly down to his burrow, hanging on the strong updraught from the onshore winds, obviously with enough time to take a look at me and wonder what I was doing there.

Puffin Landing Frontal

A lot of the time when watching puffins flying they look like they are completely out of control.  They don’t really land on the water, more stop flying above it and let gravity do the rest (if an auk is far out to sea but you see a nice big splash as it lands then it is usually a Puffin!).  But when they do come in to land on a crowded slope they do seem to manage not to land on each other at least.

Puffin Landing

Because of their relatively small wings, Puffins have to work pretty hard to take off and manoeuvre.  When landing this shows itself as the wings go as far forward as they can, slowing down the plummeting birds alongside a splayed tail and feet held out as flaps/rudders until the last second.  In normal flight the wings are a blur of motion and it takes a quick shutter to freeze the action.

Puffin Missing

And after all that the bird usually lands fairly close to the burrow… but can sometimes get swept off course by a last second gust, or they may just overshoot in their haste to get back to their burrow.  Normally when this happens the bird will land and hold a submissive posture before wandering back to its burrow.  But if its chick feeding time the gulls will immediately move in to mug the parent and steal its hard earned sand eels, so during this time the parents will land and make a quick dash for the burrow- making last second acrobatic twists and turns to get safely home.

So hopefully that will be it for Puffins for now and I’ll get back to you with some posts about some the other amazing birds that Skomer has to offer- and you never know there might be a mammal or two in it for you!

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  1. Another Season | YatesPhotographic

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