I know I love puffins, but it's easy to forget just how much until I see them again. They're always smaller than you think they're going to be, and then they act so cute - for example, we spent ages watching one little fella who really didn't want to jump, though he kept shuffling along to the edge and looking down in a slightly nervous manner. He just went back to his burrow in the end!
Yesterday we drove a 100-mile round trip at the end of our holiday (in the opposite direction to home) just to make sure we went to an island with puffins. The island, Handa, is a short boat trip from the north coast of Scotland (costs GBP10 return) and is a really lovely spot in its own right. As well as the puffins, they have plenty of other breeding birds like guillemots, razorbills, and skuas.
We went for a great walk around the island, although we then got caught in a spectacular thunderstorm. My husband has a 'completist' element to his personality, and wanted to make sure that we finished the loop of the island when we saw the storm coming, rather than coming back the (shorter) way we'd come, so we walked about twice as far in the rain! I'm not complaining, though, because I secretly love that kind of thing... shh, don't tell the people at the asylum.
I first saw puffins in Iceland in 2006, and I've been wanting to see them again ever since. Having a better camera was also an incentive because my puffin photos from Iceland are very poor because I obviously couldn't get that close to them. While we were cycling round Iceland, we kept learning new little facts about these cutest of birds, each of which made us love them even more. For example, did you know:
- Puffins are monogomous for life.
- They go back to the same burrow every year to breed. Indeed (warning: this made me cry) after the volcanic erruptions on the island of Heimay, a lot of pairs tried to re-make their lost burrows in the same place, and ended up burrowing into the boiling lava.
- Childless couples will adopt an orphaned puffling (the word for a baby puffin) so that it doesn't starve.
- Despite looking a little bit ungainly on land, and very precarious when they fly (they have tiny wings and have to beat them like mad to fly), they can dive over 50m below the surface.