Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Atlantic Puffins

At Bull's Bay, we checked in at Mullowney's Puffin and Whale Tours.  We were the only ones there for the next cruise, but they agreed to take us!  Since our time in Newfoundland was limited, it was such a blessing to get to do the puffin tour without having to come back the next day.

I've been fascinated with puffins since I saw tufted puffins along the Oregon coast.

Off the Newfoundland coast on rocky islands, Atlantic puffins nest in small burrows surrounded by grass.  One parent stands guard.

Puffins nest as far south as Maine and on islands across the North Atlantic from Iceland to Ireland and from northern France to Norway.

Excellent fishers, they float in the water until our boat startles them.  Puffins are fast flyers.  If I could go back, I would use a faster shutterspeed - 1/250 sec wasn't fast enough! They are challenging to photograph because you must lock on for focus before they startle into flight. 

Puffins can carry as many as 30 small fish to bring back to the nest, but usually only carry up to 10.

Atlantic Puffins can live to be 30 years old. They choose their life mate when 3 to 5 years old.  They only come to land to breed and raise their chicks, surviving well far out into the ocean.  Strong swimmers they can dive to 200 feet. In flight they can fly up to 55 miles per hour.

Their greatest enemies are the great black-backed gull which can capture a puffin in flight or on the ground and herring gulls who steal the fish and pull chicks and eggs from the nests.