There were Puffins dotted around the cliffs close to where we sat so after enjoying the heart attack inducing pork pie, I set to work in trying to get some nice images. Mrs Caley was happy watching the seabird comings and goings and in the clear conditions we could both see the Outer Hebrides on the horizon, a place we'd enjoyed so much last summer and where we'd definitely revisit soon. A Puffin was stood on a nearby outcrop and was looking out to sea. When I looked at the photos later it was apparent that the bird had been seemingly mesmerised by a small fly that passed it by. I mused that (as I often do) maybe the Puffin was thinking "what the hell do those little birds get out of eating that?" and "give me a nice Sand-eel any day".
|"Give me a sand-eel any day!"|
|One very hot Fulmar!|
Once we had cleared away from the Oystercatchers "no go zone" and they had calmed themselves another Puffin was spotted on the cliff top. This Puffin stood on his own little rock and looked to all the world as if he owned the whole island. Staring all around he appeared very noble indeed. Until he stooped to "smell" the flowers that was. Maybe his ancestors were of French aristocratic lineage.
Great Skuas were still bombing about all around us and one flew just feet away from us, the shadow cast and the breeze as the huge bird sailed overhead was palpable. But we were safe since the low flying bomber was merely on its way out to sea to harass some poor unfortunate fellow seabird.
|Razorbills in formation flight|
I had secured some really nice flying Puffin shots from the boat out to Coquet Island a week ago (was it really that long) so didn't waste too much time in trying to emulate those here but the dark background of the cliffs made for some interesting exposures. At Handa most flight views of seabirds are of birds below your feet owing to the cliff top vantage point. We'd found a spot slightly underneath the Puffins flight path, a bit too far away, but enabled some level shots to be achieved as the birds also took to displaying. Even though I try to stay cool and pretend that Puffins are nothing special, in truth I can't resist them any more than anyone else can! They are brilliant little birds and the one that everybody comes to see when they visit a seabird colony. I could sit and photograph them all day if allowed but there were still other birds to (hopefully) see and about half the walk still ahead of us so we had to move on.
The path away from the seabird cliffs and back towards the landing beach winds gradually downhill but hugs the coast so, at least for the next mile or so, the sounds and sights of auks, gulls and skuas accompanied us on our way. The SWT are doing a lot of work rebuilding the worn paths by building many steps into the slopes and by gritting the way much in the same fashion that's been done on popular walks in the mountains. They appear to be utilising the rocks that are in abundance throughout the island to make the steps which certainly gets my admiration but I also have a reservation that the paths are changing the natural look of the island. Increased visitor numbers are leading to increased damage to the grass and plants so I guess that such work is essential. Also if there is a well marked path then people will be more inclined to keep to it which alleviates the disturbance to breeding birds that are just off it. On one section of the new path we followed a pair of Skylarks as they grubbed around presumably for grit although they could have been finding small insects that we couldn't see.
....continued in Handa Island, Part 4....