During the spate of recent storms, spare a thought for the puffins spending the winter at sea on the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone loves puffins! It is one of the most loved bird species in the Hebrides and in around 6 weeks time, many thousands of puffins will be heading to the Scottish west coast islands to breed. Our guests all want to see puffins, with their distinct character and brightly coloured bills, and because they are not shy of humans, we can guarantee excellent close encounters during their nesting time from April to early August. Puffins can most easily be seen in huge numbers on Staffa and Lunga in the Treshnish Isles, on Canna on the Small Isles and on Skye, the Shiants and St Kilda. Many of our guests who see puffins for the first time are amazed at how small they are, weighing only around 400gm. But despite their size they are tougher than they look! From the surface of the sea puffins can dive to 60 metres in search of sandeels. They can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour. And even when they are just “pufflings” ready to leave the nest, they are deserted by their parents, leave the nest on their own under cover of darkness, often tumbling down a cliff to the sea, and then instinctively know how to fish and swim. Puffins spend two thirds of the year out on the Atlantic Ocean as individuals or in pairs and for some of that time they are flightless as their wing feathers moult. Puffins are amazingly tough and enduring and yet are on the RSPB red list for UK conservation status – this winter’s storms will have made life very difficult for puffins bobbing on the surface of the Atlantic. Climate change will also affect their numbers, as any increase in the temperature of the seas will affect the number of sandeels, the staple diet of puffins.
However there is some good news about the puffins on Staffa, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland which is a favourite stopover on our Mull cruises. A detailed survey carried out for the first time during the 2019 breeding season counted 637 populated burrows, much more than their estimate of 150 – 450 burrows. Read more here http://bit.ly/NTSPuffinCount There are reports of puffin numbers increasing elsewhere in Scotland and the UK, especially when rats have been eradicated from their nesting sites.
Our crews always ensure they never disturb the wildlife we encounter and in particular great care should be taken not to lean on the tops of burrows, endangering any puffin inside. Sometimes Lunga and Staffa can be busy with day trips but our vessels have the luxury of landing when it suits.Puffins at sunset - a wonderful sight!
We are now taking booking for 2021 – any of our cruises between April and early August will guarantee puffins! View the 2021 cruise calendar here>