Posted 27th Jun 2017
The cliffs and rocky islands that are dotted along our coastline are home to some of our most important seabird colonies in Europe
A whole host of birds, from guillemots to razorbills, gannets to puffins, shags to cormorants, will gather to cram onto ledges, making their nests amongst the jumble of rocks or finding their space on clifftops to take advantage of our rich seas during the summer months.
Our seabirds will spend the winter months feeding far out to sea, but as summer arrives, they begin to make a beeline for nesting cliffs. Each species will have it's own niche: shags nest down near the base of the cliff amongst the boulders; razorbills find spaces in cracks amongst rocks in which they lay their eggs; guillemots and kittiwakes line up in their thousands, cheek by jowl on the narrowest of ledges; fulmars will look for a wider space higher up the cliff; and puffins will make their home in burrows amongst the short turf on the cliff top.
Thousands of birds will be found in one place. The air will be full of whirring wings, with adults going back and forth, bringing food to their sitting partner or growing chicks. All life will be found here, with birds fighting over nest sites, food and mates. Chicks will be heard crying out for their parents, while elsewhere, an egg will hatch, and a young bird will be make its first flight. Suddenly, the whole colony is on the wing together, yelling in unison as a peregrine or marauding gull passes by.
How to do it
You will find the best seabird colonies on the cliffs of our north and west coasts and the offshore islands. Be sure to pack your binoculars and camera, and give yourself plenty of time. Find a comfortable, sheltered area which provides a good view down over the colony, and the rest for a while - however, be sure to take care near the cliff top.
If you are unable to get to the locations listed below, you can always watch the comings and goings of the seabirds at several colonies around the country on Wildlife Trust webcams.
Magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs will rise from the Atlantic on the north west coast of Handa Island, Highlands. Each summer, nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here, including internationally important numbers of guillemots, razorbills and great skuas.
These dramatic cliffs will offer stunning ocean panoramas.
Aberdeenshire, Longhaven Cliffs
Antrim, Isle of Muck
Yorkshire, Flamborough Cliffs
Lead image courtesy of Mike Snelle
Information courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts