Puffins, Seals and Other Wildlife
Puffins nest on both The Treshnish Isles and Staffa
“Coulterneb”, “Sea parrot”, “Tammynorie”, a few of the nicknames attributed by humans to this fascinating comic seabird. Puffins fly thousands of miles in migration, dive to over 60 metres quickly and with ease, move at surprising speed on dry land and can live to over 60 years of age. The most incredible facet of puffin behaviour is their tameness and, perhaps as a result, their therapeutic effect on humans, who can sit by the burrows and commune with one of the most fascinating, comic, unique, wild creatures.
They mass in huge rafts on the sea offshore from their breeding grounds during March/early April, gradually move to the vicinity of their burrow, performing extensive surveys coupled with tuft picking, squabbling and general business of great importance. They lay one egg and hatch one puffling during May/June. For about six weeks parents bring large quantities of neatly arranged sand eels in their beaks and after some showing off on the cliff edge, scuttle below ground to feed the chick. By early august the chick is abandoned and the adult puffins leave the colony. After a few days, instinctively during the hours of darkness, the little puffling takes to the sea and follows the mature birds out to the open ocean.
Other bird species nest alongside the several thousand iconic puffins that make the Treshnish Isles their home. The most numerous is the Common Guillemot, for the most part, nesting on the Harp Rock stack which is separated from Lunga by a narrow, but deep, gut alongside several thousand kittiwakes, razorbills, fulmars and shags. There are many other species also nesting throughout the Treshnish Isles including terns, great skuas, greylag geese, eider ducks, black guillemots, numerous gull, corvid and some raptor species. Both manx shearwaters and storm petrels also nest, but change over on their nests at night, so we are more likely to encounter these at sea. Corncrakes are heard regularly each season. We see gannets offshore on a daily basis and sea eagles are increasingly regular visitors from Mull, Gometra and Ulva. Arctic skuas visit from their nesting grounds on the island of Coll.