Puffins in the “News”

Hopefully not too bad...

Whats the outlook for Puffins this winter?

BBC News today has picked up on a story from last winter in the run up to this year’s first big storm.  The story is that the string of storms last year had a big impact on seabird mortality with large numbers of Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill dying at sea and washing up on French coasts.  This led to a big drop in numbers on Skomer and Skokholm Islands in Pembrokeshire, with up to a quarter of birds not returning to the islands this year.


This one had been sitting out in the wind and had had enough!

Puffins don’t always look their best- this shot was during a pretty gusty day where birds were mostly hunkered down in their burrows or out at sea.

When the thousands of of visitors to Skomer see the Puffins it is by default summer, the only time when they come to land to breed, so it is easy to forget that these stout little birds spend the rest of the year at sea.  Suddenly these jovial birds give up on their land based hi-jinx and spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at sea, often during stormy weather.  Imagine having to spend your days diving in almost freezing waters to catch ever decreasing numbers of fish to survive.  Then imagine that you have nowhere to sleep except on the surface of that chilly water, constantly being thrown about by waves and your feet never leaving the icy waters except for short flights between possible feeding waters.

This is why seabirds are tough.  Not only do they have amazing evolved adaptations such as insulating feathers, heat recovery built into their circulation system and amazing swimming abilities but imagine the mind that has had to evolve inside a Puffin.  This life of battling storm after storm in freezing conditions is the easiest one it knows- returning to land could mean starving or being eaten by land predators. So here are a couple of the more moody shots I have of Puffins, showing their tough side.  Which is every side.

Using an oil gland on their arse... who needs hair gel...?

But a quick bit of preening quickly gets the plumage back in tip top condition.



What are you looking at?!


Seabirds can look hardy even on a calm day

Puffin Flying

But just hanging out in a gale is where they look toughest.


The end of another season

So for the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about terns (and posting a lot about terns, and taking a lot of pictures of terns, and writing a lot about terns…!).  I’ve been carrying out a survey of the breeding terns of Rye Bay and although they mostly flew away a while ago I’ve been making graphs, charts and tables about what I saw.  But it’s now the actual end, even though it’s dragged out a little bit over the last few weeks, and the report is all written up.  It will be published online but it’s working its way through the admin. process so I’ll post again to let you know when its up.  Its just left to me to get it all out of my system now, so here are my favourite tern photos of this year…



It took me a while to get used to the speed of some tern dives…


…quite a while…

Little Tern with prey

But sometimes the Little terns were fishing so close together that you couldn’t miss getting at least one in shot.

Just before a dive

And watching the moment just before the dive showed the absolute focus of a hunting tern- head locked in position and body wavering in the wind like a cat about to ponce.

Little Tern with lunch

So when you saw a tern with a fish it made you appreciate just how hard it had to try to get every single one.

Little tern decoys and electric fence

When there weren’t any real terns around there were always the decoys on the shingle trying to tempt them to nest.

Adult coming in to land

The Common Terns were much more reliable to watch and produced a reasonable number of little fluff balls this season.

Common Tern with prey

Common Tern often had prey and seemed to find better hunting conditions than the other species.

So there you go, a handful of the hundreds of shots I took showing some of the amazing acrobatic skills of the “sea swallows” around Rye Bay.  This year has given me a new appreciation for the sheer effort it takes to produce a new tern.  Fishing seems to have become much harder for the birds and even then they face the risk of being predated on the ground, if they find a nesting spot on the small nature reserves which try and protect them.  I just hope that in the coming years our management of land and sea help these dwindling breeding populations rather than hinder them…

End of Season

Well it snuck up on me and literally came sooner than it should have but Skokholm island is shut for the winter so I have been evicted from Dream Island and slung back on the mainland.  Here’s a teeny tiny summary of my year and some of my better pictures! (more…)


A pictureless entry today as I just wanted to write a little bit about my camera, and more specifically its lenses.  Up til now I have owned exactly one lens and for a quite a while I didn’t own any!  This is because I’m a bit of a budget photographer.


New Kit!

Well it’s slightly old news for me, but a few weeks ago I splashed out and bought my first “proper” camera.  I got my first dSLR, a Canon 550D, and have spent the time since relearning a lot of my skills for taking pictures.




So it’s the new year and I’ve realised that once again I’ve gone quite a while without putting anything up here…



So a bit of a break from the nature photos, but I got a nice delivery today.  I had ordered some cards from MOO.com and they arrived this morning, in a rather uninspiring brown cardboard box.  But inside all my cards were beautifully printed and nicely packaged with envelopes and everything provided.

I’m only this excited bout things like envelopes because I am trying to make a bit of money from my photos and looking at my cards I think I might actually manage it.  Down here in the South East the unemployment is getting a bit silly and I tend to take seasonal jobs so the winter is a time when I go home to the ‘rentals and take any work I can.  My plan now is to develop a little bit of a photography business to see me through the winter months – selling images I take during my summer adventures!

So you might get some updates like these over the following weeks, hope you find them useful/interesting/not too annoying.  In the mean time if you are interested go take a look at MOO.com or even take a peep at my own company website in the making… YatesPhotographic