Thursday, 2 January 2014

Achiltibuie June 2013 post 3: Handa Island. Puffins, razorbills etc etc

For the fifth day of the Achiltibuie trip we decided on a big day out: Handa Island. This produced our best photos of 2013. Heading up, there were large numbers of sandpipers along the banks of sea lochs, as well as several cuckoos and woodcock:

We did some paddling around the coastal islands before setting out for (and after getting back from) Handa by ferry. These coastal islands are wonderfully complex, with lots to see including little flotillas of black guillemots:

 And several male eider:

There were rocks populated by the most poetic of gulls, kittiwakes (see Austin Clark or Basil Bunting):
 and guillemots poised like comical police men on every spare outcrop:

Once on the island there was lots more to see. As well as various varieties of skuas and snipe, there were Wheaters hanging above the grasses at about head height, making lots of noise:
There were Grouse with tiny black ball-of-fluff chicks:
and Fulmars with beaks full of stinking fluid:
But beautiful on the wing:
This was all quite impressive.
But then we arrived at this spot:
Here, large numbers of puffins and razorbills were flying in and out from the cliff-face. As you can see from the picture above, many of the places they chose to perch were in perfect sunlight, providing a superb photo opportunity. The most surprising thing here was the extraordinary colour inside the razorbills' beaks (below)!

See what I mean? Who would have expected this bling?
This action shot is probably the photo I'm most pleased with:

After spending quite some time at this spot with the camera...
...we continued around the jagged coastline, where there were more razorbills:
 ...and some fine views:
Then there was a spot of snorkelling:
And back, past some terns, hard at work fishing, some bridled guillemots, and a red throated diver:

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