Fish for Chicks

Puffin with fish July 4 3279

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks around intently with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

As we began to explore the Farne Islands in early July, we came across all the bird species seeking out food for their chicks.  From the boat, we could see the Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills floating on the water and diving down deep into the sea.  Occasionally, we saw a puffin come to the surface with a mouthful of sand eels far off in the distance.  When we got to shore, we were treated by these birds landing on the rocks, ready to begin the journey to feed their young.Puffin with fish July 8 7551

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks ahead intently with its fish, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

The puffins can hold a large number of small fish in their beaks due to the structure of its jaw.  There is a flexible hinge and fleshy part at the back of the jaws that allow it to open it’s beak wider than other birds.  This, in addition to spines on the upper jaw that hold fish securely, allows the puffin to make multiple dives underwater to collect dozens of fish.

Puffin with fish July 4 3157

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks around intently with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

When they arrive on land with their catch, they either dive into their burrows (future post with images) to get away from gulls trying to steal their catch or they pause on land for a bit.  Even when they rest, they are constantly on guard, looking in every direction, even behind them.

Puffin with fish July 4 3110

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks behind itself with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 340 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

The Razorbills also brought food for their young although their catch was not as plentiful as the puffins.  The Razorbill nests were also aboveground and guarded by one of the parents while the other fetched the fish.  I was able to witness this Razorbill below leave and bring back food 3 times in a row!

Razorbills with fish Juky 7 8238

Image: Razorbill arriving to the nest with fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 260 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

The Common Murres were also very active in feeding their young with fish although they often brought back one larger fish and had to fight off other murres attempting to steal their food.  They scurried along in attempt to get to their aboveground nest and feed their chick.

Murre with fish July 8 3535

Image: Common Murre walking on the rocks with a fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

They walked with a quickness that was surprising.  As this one jumped from rock to rock, I was able to catch it in many poses.

Murre with fish July 8 3518

Image: Common Murre landing on the rocks with a fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 280 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

It was hard to catch the actual feeding process as the chicks were often protected by the second parent.  In the case of the puffins, all the chicks were in underground burrows so we were not able to see them.  With the Razorbills and Common Murres, we often got a peek of the chicks but during the feeding process, the second parent typically covered the chick with a wing as other birds were always close by ready to steal the fish.

My settings for many of these images were not always ideal.  I should have had an aperture of f/8 or higher for many of the images since I was so close to the birds.  I was often shooting birds in flight further away and one of the above birds landed right in front of me.  In the excitement, I often didn’t change my settings or I didn’t have time.  Given the choice, I went for the shot instead of messing with the camera settings. 🙂

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

20 thoughts on “Fish for Chicks”

  1. Dear Amy,just to let you know me and my friend when we want to relax and enjoy our time we open your emails …we loved it we hardly believe that is just a picture…those are art work!!
    Miss you dear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww. It’s so good to hear from you Manar! I love that you and your friend are enjoying the posts and the photos. I miss talking to you and hope you are doing well. Hugs!

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  2. Amy, well of course you had me at Puffin…absolutely stunning Amy…nice to see new birds in the mix…sorry about changing the settings…yep very frustrating but what you have here is fantastic… 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol. Thanks so much Deb! I was so happy with that first puffin shot that I had to put it at the top. It’s one that I might print someday for my wall. Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

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  3. Amy, Your friend that said these are art is right on! You should consider doing a book when you return. Looking forward to future pics. Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww. Thanks Pam! I would love to do a book and give a caption of the “behind the shot!” When I process all these images, they are like individual pieces of art to me. It’s my creative outlet! 🙂

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  4. BEAUTIFUL Amy !!! Your images are all exceptional pieces of art ! And, after having admired all of these beautiful birds with sand eels … I’m craving French fries. I know, this is George, but if you allow me to explain. The name French fries is a name given by fallen in love American soldiers that were stationed in France during the war. The true origin of French fries is however a town in one of the neighboring countries. In medieval times he people there lived from sand eels that were cough in the neighboring river, and which were then fried in oil. In Winter, there was however always a big problem, as the river was frozen. So, someone came up with the idea to cut potatoes in the form of sand eels, and to serve them fried. Is pretty interesting isn’t it?
    Great job Amy, you’re an awesome photographer and writer.

    Liked by 1 person

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