A Passion For Puffins
Added 05/06/2011 to Whisperer Blogs, Features & Articles
It is little wonder that the Atlantic Puffin is one of the most popular, admired and even adored species of bird in Britain and even perhaps beyond. For a would-be admirer and or observer the ‘Tamie Norrie’, as we call them here in Shetland really does have it all; charisma, beauty and better still they are notoriously obliging and also confiding!
The fact that these hardened little seafarers spend the entire winter far out to sea, probably never even coming anywhere near the sight of land from August to April surely commands respect. Yes it’s a tuff life for a Tammie Norrie and that’s for sure, imagine riding out those North Atlantic mid-winter storms in conditions that the safest of seagoing vessels couldn’t even go near.
During this period they are almost unrecognisable in their none- breeding plumage having lost their bright and beautiful tri coloured bill shields. The circular whitish area’s to each side of their head and face also is quite different and becomes quite drab and dusky. They are even flightless for much of it whilst they are in moult!
The first of our ‘Norries’ typically arrive back during the last few days of March when they often begin to gather in small numbers on the sea close inshore but are rarely seen on the cliff tops until the first week of April. By this time they are in their fully attired dapper dress. Like most seabirds they typically pair for life and in most pairs will return to the same nesting burrow summer after summer. Whether or not a pair have any idea where each other is during the off shore months is simply not known.
This summer our local tourism promoters Promote Shetland are once again running the ‘Puffin Cam’ in association with the RSPB. Last year the innovative underground web cam was broadcast live all day every day from inside the nesting burrow throughout the season. Other than checking this fabulous webcam out for yourself, the only possible way to possibly come close to pleasing your passion for Puffins is to get yourself face to face with them on a cliff top, but if you can’t this is a must see PUFFIN WEBCAM.
Following this webcam you can follow the most intimate and unique insights into a pair of Puffins and their real life story of (all going well) raising of a chick.
From a photographer’s point of view, Tammie Norries offer endless opportunities far and way beyond the classic Puffin portrait. I’ve attached a few of my efforts into this posting, I can’t wait for the opportunity to add more to the Puffin portfolio during the coming months…
Hermaness Norrie: Overlooking the well known Gannel colony of Muckle Flugga from Hermaness cliff tops.
Puffin Gape: Incedibly the record number of sand eels in a Puffins beak was 62!! The secret to this achievement is shown in this gape shot, the fish are held in place by the tiny pin sharp 'teeth' which are angled backward so the Puffin can keep on grabbing during a dive for fish.
Puffin In Flight: In coming! Perhaps surprisingly Puffins are actually quite clumsy on land and when returning to a cliff may circle a few times before literally throwing themselves onto the grassy clifftops. Up to a rapid 400 wing beats per minute in flight, locking focus is no easy task and a very fast aperture is a must!
Tammie Norries Together: Displays of affection such as these two 'bill tapping' play a key role in pair bonding and breeding success.
Tammie Norrie Atlantic Sunset: A Puffin can always make a portrait but the photographic opportunities they offer are endless. I had this particular silhouetted sunset composition in mind for some time, capturing one with the wings raised like this was quite challenging.
Posted by Brydon Thomason