The Magic of Puffins

19th June 2014
Puffins are very charismatic little birds, their brightly coloured beaks during the breeding season, and their fantastically curious and accommodating personalities make them a joy to photograph. They accept people into their little world, seemingly without complaint, especially when there is only one of you sitting in the middle of the cliffs.


Mating Puffins

The past month I have made a couple of trips to Skomer Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales. It's a 15 minute boat crossing, weather dependant, a steep climb and then you're surrounded by nature, pure and simple. I had secured one of the coveted spots to stay on the islands old farmhouse accommodation, so I had the luxury of time on my side. this also meant I was able to photograph in the golden light of sunset, should I be fortunate enough to witness a rare Welsh sunset!(I had two!)
In all honesty, even in the rain puffins look beautiful, a bit of cloud brings out their colours and the detail in the feathers beautifully.

During the day, a small number of day visitors are allowed on the island, and they seem to almost disappear, absorbed by the island and her wildlife so that it hardly feels busy at all. that is, until they all leave by 5pm, and there are only a handful of people left- wardens, researchers and a few lucky guests. Then it feels quite deserted, but for the sound of hundreds and thousands of squawking, screeching, energetic seabirds!


Puffin with a stolen gulls feather

I was there for the puffins, although there is great opportunity for Guillemots, Gulls, Short Eared Owls and Razorbills. Each evening I would sit down a 'The Wick' and photograph the puffins as they arrived in their droves back from a day of fishing.The cliffs literally come alive, hundreds of the little characters pottering around about their business.


Bonding Puffin Pair

They are smaller than expected- think of a puffin, then halve the size you expect and you're close! Although we shouldn't anthropomorphise animals (give them human attributes or emotions), it's really difficult when you see them pick a flower and take it down their burrow to line their nests, or watch them sneak up and pull the tail feather of another before running off sheepishly.


Flower Gift

They mate for life (more or less) and return to their partners and the same burrow year on year where they spend a few weeks bonding before mating and laying a solitary egg- a chick who will demand their full attention and devotion if it is to survive and fledge. In any case, I could watch their interaction for hours, which I did! Sometimes 7 hours at a time, hand holding my ever heavier lens, and waiting for that perfect moment- the moment a bird picked a flower and looks straight at me, or landed near enough to photograph in flight.



One of those amazing Skomer sunsets
It is a special place to be, that is undoubtedly true. Something that needs to be experienced to be believed...


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Comments

Photo comment By Joey Nel: Wow Laura... shooting the puffins has moved up on my bucket list seeing these images of yours. Stunning and you can be so proud of your photography! xx
Photo comment By Ivan Cordero: Wow you are so lucky. Amazing photos. Love the wild colors on the puffins. Perfect subjects for wildlife photography. Ivan Cordero WildAtPalmas.com

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