Puffin Island

The somewhat worried look is typical for puffins. They’re the cutest birds!

On the west coast of Norway, not far from Ålesund, a small island called Runde braves the elements. Populated by 100+ permanent human residents and +500.000 birds, it is the birds that capture the attention of any visitor. Most famous among them are the charming puffins, a small member of the alcid family which also comprises the auks and the razorbills (these are also present on Runde, albeit in much more modest concentrations).

The puffin species encountered in European waters is the Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica. It is a spectacular bird to behold, with its black-and-white plumage and bold, colourful beak. The scientific family name Fratercula means “Little brother”, a reference to the monk-like appearance of these unlikely birds. The beaks are only this bold and bright during breeding season – offseason is spent far offshore and in more modest attire, although little is known regarding the precise whereabouts of the Atlantic puffins during winter. Runde holds perhaps as many as 200.000 breeding pairs, and is the southernmost colony in mainland Europe – the UK has colonies further south.

I wasn’t really on a birding trip, rather a combined sea-kayak/nature/paragliding/birding trip with a friend – and spent a few hours trying to capture some of the birding spectacle at the cliffs of Runde. Prominent among the birds were the many White-tailed sea eagles Haeliatus albicilla which patrol the cliffs looking for easy meals. After rowing around the island in the kayaks, and hiking to the cliffs a few times, we moved to the nearby Nerlandsøya to have a go at paragliding with the eagles, and sure enough a young individual came over to check us out, and we got to soar with this magnificent bird for a few precious minutes. Once that box had been ticked we moved inland to the famous flying site of Grøndalen, near Hemsedal, and flew around there for a few hours before driving home through Sweden.

This mix of objectives and activities means that there are pictures of more than just birds in this gallery. I hope to continue that trend, to make the photoblog less monomaniacal, more interesting for a broader audience.

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As usual, the gallery opens with a click on the first image here below, and is best viewed on big monitors. If on a Windows machine, hit f11 to see nothing but photograps in your screen. Enjoy.