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.



Just before the big freeze I took a wander along the shore and took a close look at some of the pools in the sand at low tide.  I was looking for interesting bits of seaweed and other living things attached to some of the sea defences but in the end my nicest images were the simplest- just the water.

ripples in the breeze

ripples in the breeze

The slight breeze was creating some really nice ripples in the water and they caught the winter light really nicely.  This was a bit of a risky shot though as it included holding my camera and macro lens just a centimetre or two from the surface.   I was paranoid of giving it a dunking in the cold and salty water, but luckily I didn’t ruin my kit and came home with a nice picture or two!

Re-Terning to Terns…

Back to the Common Tern, these smart birds deserve more than just a cursory mention- especially as they now nest so close to one of the birding hides at Rye Harbour that a good shot is guaranteed this time of year!

staring very hard at something... probably a stone.


I just liked this shot because it looks like the bird is extremely suspicious of a stone.  It’s surrounded by them the whole summer but that one must be dodgy, or maybe its that little bit of Stonecrop growing next to it…

Anyway, these birds always look good.  Their matching red beak and legs combined with the bold black cap and pointed wings and tail give the impression of a very smart bird, their dainty features suggest a fragility that simply doesn’t exist.  These birds travel huge distances over open sea, fish in the frigid saltiness of the open ocean and will mob birds much larger than themselves to protect their young.  Hopefully I’ll ctach a few passing by Pembrokeshire before I make it home for winter this year.

You’re doing it wrong…

Sometimes you come across slightly confused individuals out on Skomer, and it’s not even the Wardens after a sociable evening!  Out of thousands of birds there are inevitably a few that don’t quite get things right- whether it be bad parenting, trying to eat something out of the ordinary or their bodies not quite behaving.


Getting that photo

I’ve been focussing quite a lot on the subjects of some of my photographs recently so thought I’d write a bit more about getting the shots and why I do it.



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