England: Farne Island – Atlantic Puffins on Staple Island
Staple Island is home to a big breeding colony of Atlantic puffins – around 35,000 pairs. Puffin watching is amazing here – you literally stand next to the birds, see them fly with beaks full of fish, land, and walk into their burrows to feed the chicks inside. “Clowns of the sea”, “flying potatoes”, “sea parrots” – are all the names used to describe puffins with their colorful faces and clumsy behavior. Interestingly, puffins spend almost their entire life at sea but they are not very good fliers – they just bob on the water surface and dive and swim underwater. When it comes to swimming – they are like fat mini-torpedoes, Moving very rapidly under water and basically stuffing their mouth full of fish. In the summer, they come to nest on islands without predators and dig borrows or use old ones (occasionally aggressively evicting rabbits). You could see puffins fly with their beaks full of sand eels (which are actually not eels but just tiny anchovy-like fish) and walk into their borrows to feed the single chick that almost never comes out. The puffins coloration is seasonal only during the breeding season, and when it’s over – they molt and fly out to see to spend time alone until next year when they meet again and find their partners (they mate for life).