Whilst we’ve barely scratched the surface of the seabird colonies across the UK, we wanted to share our experience on the ones we have visited. Lunga and the Farnes were solo trips for me but Kate and I go to the Isle of May together.
Feel free to have a look at our page on puffins to find out more about these comical little birds.
Next on the bucket list trip is a visit to Fair Isle and Shetland (who knows when though!) We would love to do a trip where you can photograph puffins at sunset but some investigation is required first.
Hope you enjoy this little summary and we’d love to hear about your favourite places.
Lunga - Treshnish Isles, Inner Hebrides
Last year I visited Lunga for the first time during the wonderful heatwave we had in early Summer 2018. It was glorious and warm, we had common and bottlenose dolphins playing in the waves, I only required a light jacket for the boat trip but the rest of the time I had a vest top, jeans, and my boots on.
This year, 4 layers later, some gloves, plus a headband to keep my ears warm and I was still very cold! It was as equally sunny though, which made for some tricky photography conditions. Apparently there is such a thing as too much light. The shadows were extremely harsh and there was no escape from it.
Lunga doesn’t have the most graceful of landings, with a pontoon being brought to the boat then a scramble across some rocks but the views and landscape more than make up for it. It’s also a lot quieter than the likes of the Farnes and most people get caught up with the first puffins they come across but if you head straight for Harp Rock you get a little bit of solitude. This year I had about 25 minutes or so with no-one else around meaning I got to enjoy the stunning views over the sea surrounded by puffins, razorbills, guilllemots, and shags by myself.
One of the reasons I prefer to go in May is because the island is carpeted in native bluebells and if the puffins play ball then you can get some beautiful shots of them surrounded by the flowers. Yes, you don’t get the classic sand eel shot at that time of year but it’s nice to have something a little different, especially with the backdrop of the turquoise waters.
There’s less birds than other islands but Lunga is a little bit special in that the puffins actively seek out human company. We provide much needed protection from bigger birds like ravens (of which there were plenty) and skuas. You see puffins flying back to the island in their hundreds as people arrive on the island and they’re very tolerant of people. As long as you’re careful of their burrows you can get some great close up encounters.
What do I love about it?
Scenery, close ups, and bluebells. There’s lots to see on the journey too. On a clear day you can see up to Muck, Rum, and Eigg.
What’s not so great?
There are no toilets! If that’s the only drawback though it won’t stop me visiting. You just need to make sure you go on the boat ;-)
Who did I travel with?
I’ve been with Turus Mara and Staffa Tours. If you’re looking to max out your time on Lunga then Turus Mara is your best bet as on their all day trip you get 4 hours on the island. Staffa Tours go from Tobermory so saves travelling time on either side of the trip depending where you’re staying.
Farne Islands (Inner and Staple) - Northumberland
The Farnes are an extremely popular set of islands off the Northumberland coast and a number of tour operators take people from all over the world out to the see the colonies of seabirds. This year I went as part of a trip with our camera club in mid June. My first highlight was the Starlings behind at the Seahouses harbour. I’ve never seen such friendly birds and they fed right out your hand! It was a great way to start the trip.
We’ve never spent any time in this part of England and I was a bit taken aback with the scenery as I drove through Bamburgh, it was just beautiful. Imagine living opposite that castle and being fortunate enough to see it everyday. It was a gorgeous day and I really enjoyed the drive down there. The return journey not so much but you know what it's like when you just want to get home.
As we landed on Staple Island we were greeted by a large Herring Gull attempting to swallow a dead Puffling. Unfortunately in the days preceding my trip the islands were hit by storms and a lot of puffin burrows flooded, causing a large number of pufflings to perish. It was hard to watch but it is nature and you only had to walk a bit further along the boardwalk to see the circle of life in full flow when you find a gulls nest with chicks who also need fed.