Posted 13th Apr 2018
Experiencing the sights and sounds of a seabird colony is a truly unique experience
The cliffs and rocky islands along our coastlines are home to some of Europe's most important seabird colonies. Guillemots and razorbills, gannets and puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, shags and cormorants - all will be gathering to cram onto the ledges. Making their nests amongst the jumble of rocks finding space on the clifftops, they look to make advantage of our rich seas over the summer.
The seabirds will spend the winter feeding far out to sea, but as summer arrives, they make a beeline for the nesting cliffs. Every species will have its own niche: shags will nest down near the base of the cliff amongst the boulders; razorbills find a space in a crack amongst the rocks where they can lay their eggs; guillemots and kittiwakes will line up in their thousands, cheek by jowl on the narrowest of ledges; fulmars will locate a wider space higher up the cliff, while puffins will make their homes in burrows amongst the short turf on the cliff top.
Thousands of birds will be in one place, with the air a whirring of wings as adults go back and forth, bringing their food to their sitting partner of growing chicks. It's a hive of life - birds will fight over nest sites, food and mates; chicks cry out for their parents; an egg hatches; a young bird will make its first flight; and then, the whole colony will be on the wing together, yelling in unison as a peregrine or marauding gull passes by.
How to do it
The best seabird colonies will be the cliffs of the north and west coasts and the islands offshore. Pack binoculars and a camera, and ensure you have plenty of time. Look for a comfortable, sheltered spot with a good view down over the colony, and then rest a while, taking it all in.
Magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs 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 provide stunning ocean panoramas.
Aberdeenshire, Longhaven Cliffs,
Antrim, Isle of Muck
Yorkshire, Flamborough Cliffs
Information courtesy of the Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Mike Snelle