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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. 🙂