On Friday I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours on the Isle of Lunga. Lunga is in a small group of islands and Skerries called the Treshnish Isles. Lying west of Mull, Lunga is a breeding ground for certain types of sea birds. The most well known bird here is the Atlantic Puffin. Included in this group of Islands is ‘Bac Mor’ The Dutchman’s Cap (due to it’s shape),
The Treshnish Isles are formed from 8 principal islands varying in size from less than 4 hectares to 60 hectares. The islands are uninhabited but that wasn’t always the case, hill forts, medieval chapels and castles prove that humans were once permanently living on these remote and unsheltered islands. Lunga has one of the most varied and accessible seabird colonies on the Western Seaboard. Dun Cruit (the Harp Rock stack), is home to more than 6,000 guillemot, razorbill, puffin, kittiwake, fulmar, shag, skua and many more. Puffins spend most of the year at sea and breed from April to July and leave again in early August. The puffins on Lunga are not afraid of people which gives ideal opportunities for photography.
A group of us headed off from the Isle of Coll and were taken there by ‘Tiree Sea Tours’. Tiree is Coll’s neighbouring Island and the service was fantastic. The guys were great and we got to Lunga in just over 20 minutes or so. If you are on Coll or Tiree, I’d recommend the trip. It’s well worth it.
The Lunga Puffin population seems very healthy, but the little bird’s good fortune isn’t mirrored at some other colonies around the coast of the British Isles. Indeed, declining numbers elsewhere have prompted scientists to investigate and try to remedy their decline. One theory is that the Parent birds are having to travel further out to sea to obtain their food. Due to this, the young Pufflings cant build up enough strength to survive long after leaving their burrows.
Although they don’t look it, Puffins are great at flying, and are also expert divers and swimmers. They flap their wings to swim underwater and can dive to depths of 60 metres (200 feet) in search of sand eels and fish.
Puffins spend 8 months of the year at sea and only come to land to mate and nest. Their return to nesting grounds generally takes place in mid-April each year and they depart for another winter at sea by the end of August.
Parent Puffins mate for life and take turns fishing and delivering their catch back to the nest for their little ones. Their beaks are notched so that the birds can hang on to their catch even while diving back in, open-mouthed for more. One little puffin can carry up to 10 fish in its beak at any one time.
The young are reared in a nest under the ground and when ready to fledge, they do so at night when there are no predators about. These predators include Skuas and Greater Black Backed Gulls.
It’s very easy to get carried away watching these little guys but if you get the chance head a bit further on to Harp Rock. This large Harp shaped rock (from the sea side) is covered in nesting Guillemots and Razorbills. it really is a sight to behold, with thousands of nesting birds taking up residence.
Here are some shots from my short but brilliant time there. The Treshnish Isles are absolutely awe inspiring and I look forward to returning again.
Cheers for now,
What You lookin at?