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.

 

IMG_8338

What are you looking at?!

puffin

Seabirds can look hardy even on a calm day

Puffin Flying

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

 

Puffins- the last ones honest… for now…

Puffin Lookout

After a pretty lengthy post about Puffins flying I thought it was only fair to show some pictures of ones not flying- when they don’t look quite so inept…  So to kick off here is one late last season looking out to sea, maybe wondering if it was time to leave yet.

(more…)

Pallid Harrier on Skomer

Pallid Harrier

Found an amazing bird today, a Pallid Harrier!  This is not only a new bird for me but a bird that has never been recorded on Skomer National Nature Reserve, so I was fairly happy this afternoon.  These are the best couple of pictures that I got (didn’t have my telephoto lens when I saw it close up) but when we caught up with it again later another Islander (Dave B) got some much better images.   These birds are pretty scarce in these parts, originally coming from Eastern Europe but starting to be seen slightly more frequently in recent years.  Unfortunately they look pretty similar to Hen Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier at first glance (I thought it was Hen…) but with a half decent photo and a bird book they can be told apart.Pallid Harrier2And after all that excitement we attempted a count of all the Puffins around the island, a good excuse to get right out on the coast and explore bits that you don’t normally get access to.  Wasn’t the biggest count (only around 500 on my section) but it was a lovely calm evening in the sun and a great way to finish a good birding day :)

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…)

Surprise Visitors

When you’re on an island a few miles off the coast of Wales, and haven’t seen anyone apart from the sole volunteer staying with you for two weeks, you tend to think you’re alone…

(more…)

Coming to an end…?

Well Autumn has well and truly started out here on the islands- the cold is setting in, the days are shorter and the birds are starting to head south in proper numbers.  This week we have had Red Kite, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, SWALLOWS, Goldcrest and many many more birds making their way through.

On top of this there has been the fourth seal pup of the season on North Haven beach, finding its feet (or flippers…) in the surf at high tide.

So it’s just three more weeks for me out on Skokholm and then it looks like my time on the Pembrokeshire islands has come to a close, back to the mainland and the great job hunt!  It’s been an amazing year or so out here and am just making the most of the time remaining- who knows when I’ll next be out here…

My Skokholm Marooning

Puffin

Well I’ve been back on the mainland for a few days now so thought I should write something about my travels in Pembrokeshire.  Recently an island called Skomer has got a lot of attention in the press with appearances on Springwatch, slots on the radio and even the news covering mass strandings of juvenile Manx Shearwaters (Welsh news at least…).  So I have obviously not been there at all, instead I spent almost three months on her sister island, Skokholm.

(more…)

Back on the mainland.

Made it safely off of Skokholm this morning, after helping not one but two film crews on the landing. So will be looking out for itv and BBC news pieces.

And made it all of 30 miles before I broke down… But soon back on the road.