Puffins are Lundy’s most famous birds, with many keen visitors and bird watchers coming to the island to catch a glimpse of this charismatic bird. These birds have a history with the island, as shown by the island’s name “Lundy” is derived from the Norse meaning Puffin (Lund) Island (-ey).
The nesting period for puffins on Lundy is between April and July, although sightings outside of this time are not uncommon. Jenny’s Cove and St. Phillip’s Stone have proved to be two of the best locations for puffin viewing, however, puffins can be seen along much of the island’s west and north coasts.
To find the puffins look out for white faces with orange triangular beaks and bright orange legs with paddle shaped feet. The presence of puffin chicks, or “pufflings” in the burrow can be assumed if adults have been seen entering the burrow with sand eels in their beak with which to feed the hidden puffling.
Whilst many of the island’s seabird colonies are observable throughout the day during the breeding season, Manx Shearwaters remain more elusive. By day, one of the breeding pair will feed out at sea, skimming the waves between Lundy and the mainland. At night they return to the island’s cliffs under the cover of darkness, where they join their partner in their nest concealed within a burrow. In order to locate the correct burrow, the shearwaters will call to their mate who will return the call. This call is a very eerie, throaty sound, which you may hear if you listen out at midnight on dark nights. Although to some listeners it may sound more like a drunken seagull.
Manx Shearwaters are present on the island during the breeding season of April to September, after which they migrate to South America for the winter. However, it is possible that you may hear the eerie calls in November and December when some individuals return to the island. We are not presently sure why this happens, and there is some thought that these individuals are non-breeding juveniles who return to the island rather than migrate.
Research into the movements of Manx Shearwaters around the island is ongoing.
Puffins are usually found in company with other auk species such as Guillemots (pictured left) and Razorbills (pictured bottom right). These closely related auks are found along the west coast, with favourite viewing locations being Jenny’s Cove and St. Mark’s Stone. Razorbills are identified by their black backs and white chests, as well as their broad black bills patterned with white. In comparison, Guillemots have chocolate brown backs with white plumage, and pointed uniformly coloured bills. Differences can also be seen in the nesting behaviour of these two auk species. Whilst razorbills nest in seabird colonies, they do not appear to nest in very close proximity. In comparison, guillemots are usually seen high densities, with large groups packing together on narrow ledges. The nesting period for Razorbills and Guillemots is between March and July, during which they are usually observed both on land and rafting or fishing at sea.
Gulls & Fulmars
Lundy is home to a number of gull species which use the island during the nesting period. The most frequently observed gull species include Herring gulls, Lesser Black-Backed gulls and Greater Black-Backed gulls. These species will nest on the cliffs of both the west and east coasts, but they are also seen around Pondsbury and the farm. Also found along the west coast are the island’s black legged Kittiwake colonies.
Kittiwakes are a small gull species which are recognized by its black wing tips, black legs and yellow bill. Present between February and August, kittiwakes nest on sheer cliff edges such as those found in Aztec Zawn, Kittiwake Gully and Long Roost. When observing the colonies, you may notice that Kittiwakes are very vocal, with their raucous, cackling calls being audible in many locations along the west coast.
Another species that is a common sight along the west coast during the breeding season is the Fulmar. Although similar in appearance to gulls, Fulmars are in fact more closely related to shearwaters and petrels. In flight the fulmars have stiffer wing beats, and are usually seen gliding over the water in Jenny’s Cove. Although Fulmars have been recorded year round, they appear in their greatest abundance between March and September, during the breeding season.