Monday, 18 February 2008

Pining for the. . .

Listening to: Farming Today podcast (really - they're talking about eggs)
Barn: full to bursting with straw
Weather: dry, bright, but cloudy
Surf: not bad, 4ft, although a little messy

Orkney in general - and Westray in particular - is outstanding birdwatching country. Don't come here without a pair of binoculars, you'll miss the show.

We're heading into an exciting time. Fulmars are nesting on the cliffs, oystercatchers are crowding onto the rocks and three squadrons of 30 or 40 barnacle geese were doing the Red Arrows thing over the farm this morning.

Stars of the show for many people are the puffins. They congregate in large numbers on the cliffs at Castle of Burrian (not a real castle, a rock stack) about a mile south of our farm.

They are due to arrive in a month or two, but I discovered an early arrival on nearby Taft End beach the other day.

Nature's a bit of a bastard and I'm not about to get all sentimental - just to prove it my first thought was "he's resting - tired and shagged out after a long squwak". . . "he's pining". But clearly he couldn't "vwooom" if you put 20,000 volts through him. (I apologise to non-Python fans).

Seriously, I hope it's not an omen. Sandeels have been decreasing in the seas up here for some years thanks to global warming and Danish industrial fishing methods and, although adult puffins have been eating pipefish instead, they seem to be too bony for the young.


elizabethm said...

Saw thousands of puffins in Newfoundland last year - cartoon birds, although perhaps not when dead, obviously.

Anonymous said...

You have birds there I have only seen pictures of! I am jealous.

Dave said...

Lovely plumage, though.

Betty said...

The early arrival no doubt set off too soon.

Saw lots of puffins on Skolme Island off the Welsh coast. You imagine them to be a lot larger than they actually are.

Malc said...


You just want to tell them that the bill is a bit much and just doesn't go with the black and white outfit.


Yeah, but you've got California sunshine and - I assume - Mexican food.


At least I didn't have to nail him to the perch.


This fella was about eight or nine inches. It's a real treat to sit on top of the cliffs near their burrows and, if you're quiet enough they will toddle out a couple of yards away.

Homo Escapeons said...

But the Danes are the happiest people in the world according to the Beeb. How could they achieve that enviable position knowing that they are decimating those cute little Puffins!?

mig bardsley said...

Oh what a shame. (I'm tempted to say what an idiot but weather being what it is these days you can see how a puffin might have got confused about his start dates).
I hope your puffins survive the damage to the habitat and reappear and multiply and all that.

Ginni Dee said...

Oh Malc, do get some photos of puffins (the electrified kind) when you can!! I'd love to see them. Never saw a puffin before, but they are so cute!!