Puffin watching has been on my adventure list for a long time. Although I managed to spot one single puffin from far, far away at Holyhead earlier this year, that didn’t completely satisfy my puffin-watching cravings. So the other week, I set off to the Farne Islands, in Northumberland, where there are around 20,000 breeding pairs. I wanted to see puffins up close with a naked eye.
After spending the Saturday climbing in Bowden Doors, myself and the boyfriend drove to Seahouses. From there, we went on a boat trip to Staple Island, which included a stop on Inner Farne for about an hour. On the cruise, we saw lots of curious, playful seals and, as we got closer to the islands, we started spotting the first few puffins in the sky, along with gannets, razorbills, kittiwakes, and guillemots.
Getting close to the cliffs was a true spectacle – the birds were brooding their youngs a couple of inches from each other, and we could see the chicks peeking out of their nest with a sleepy face. We got close to guillemots, kittiwakes, gannets, and cormorants. We could definitely smell the big bird colony, but that added to the experience.
The guillemots were particularly funny to observe, as they are penguin-like, they fly very similarly to puffins by flapping their wings a lot, and they walk rather clumsily.
Finally, we got to Inner Farne and were allowed to dock.
On the island, a well-defined path marks the areas which we were allowed to visit. We followed the path, trying to escape from some very (rightly so) protective kittiwakes who nested very close to the walkway.
Finally, we reached the vegetation, where the puffins had dug their burrow nests. There were hundreds of them flying, resting, watching their burrow nest, or hiding in it while some were coming back from fishing and landing awkwardly. It was incredible. We were surrounded by these comical little birds.
The one sad thing to see was the puffins being mobbed by black-headed gulls trying to steal their sandeels. Although puffins can hold up to 60/62 sandeels in their beaks, they were probably ok losing a few.
For another of my wildlife watching adventures, check out my post about elephant seal watching in California.