Puffin Central


“Reflected in his Eyes”

Our second attempt at getting over to Westray (see “It’s gone technical”) was successful and we were blessed with fine sunny weather for most of the day. If you have the opportunity there are many reasons to visit Westray for a day or more and not for nothing is it known as “Queen o’ the Isles”. To name just a few: the sheer Noup Head cliffs at the top of the island are the breeding site for tens of thousands of seabirds where you will see kittiwake, fulmar, gannet, guillemot and razorbill. There is a major archaeological rescue dig underway at the Links of Noltland. Explore the substantial ruins of medieval Noltland Castle. The best fish and chips in the known Universe are to be found at the Pierowall Hotel (book ahead). The Castle o’ Burrian sea stack is home to the biggest colony of puffin in the Orkney Isles. The latter was our chief reason for visiting now, before the parent birds head back out to sea – which most do by the end of July and leave the chicks to fend for themselves.

Time for a photo gallery…

All of the puffins seen here were photographed at the Castle o’Burrian sea stack, the summit of which is also pictured.  Like some other Orcadian sea stacks, the Castle is comfortingly encircled by the natural amphitheatre of the parent cliffs.  The imposing distant hill is Wideford Hill (225m) on Orkney Mainland which stands guard over Kirkwall.  The peedie fishing boat is (I think) an example of the increasingly scarce “Stromness flattie”, a traditional local design. Look closely and you will see a gratuitous passenger on the aft gunwale.  Finally, I have included shots of two gannets – one adult bird and one juvenile in its characteristic mottled pattern which we find very striking.  I shot over 100 puffin images; more will be found on my Facebook page if your appetite is not yet satiated.

Footnote: The puffin pictured at the head of this post was a huge show-off.  It is therefore assumed he was a male.  He approached us so closely that you can see Tish and the photographer reflected in his eye!  More than that however, the caption is a tribute to the lovely song of the same title, written and sung by our friend Jo Philby.


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