Atlantic Puffin - Treshnish Isles
Breeding season on the Isle of Lunga (one of the Treshnish Isles) starts in the middle of April. To make sure to have thousands of them on Lunga Island I recommend a visit not before May. They stay on this island until the beginning of August. I went there at the end of June, and besides puffins, I saw chicks from the guillemot, razorbill, and shag. The puffin chicks are hidden in the burrows, and you may encounter them only when they leave the nest.
Where to Stay (Season Lodging Tip)
Your best bet is to stay in Oban. Actually, to get to the Hebrides (islands), you need to go through Oban, as it is the main ferry port! There are lovely B&B's. Our favorite one with the very best location is Glenburnie House dating from the 19th century.
Lunga Island the largest of the Treshnish Isles and a photographers and birdwatchers dream. There are thousands of puffins and guillemots. The guillemots are nesting on a huge rock opposite to Lunga. You can't miss them follow the noise. Also, razorbill and shags are common here, but the population is much smaller.
You can either book a tour in Oban, or from one of the islands. Mostly Lunga is combined with Staffa, Fingal's Cave. We spent two hours on Lunga and in my opinion, this was not enough to take excellent pics and to enjoy puffins coming back to their burrows with fish in their beak. Depending on what you want to experience there are combined tours and just birding tours offered. Tour operators are: Staffa Tours and Turus Mara
- Book the trip in advance, but only a couple of days because of the unpredictable weather.
- Check the weather forecast before booking. Rain and strong wind can spoil your trip.
- Don't forget to bring a wind- and rainproof jacket, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Puffin couple stay together for life. They start to breed when they are about 5-6 years old and often live for 20 years. Puffins lay only one single egg in burrows. Parents incubate it for 36-45 days and another 34-60 days for fledging. The fledging period is depending on the area and year. They have short wings which are good for flying reaching 50 mph and also good for swimming/diving up to 60 meters deep to catch fish, especially sandeel. The sandeel is reach in nutrition and has a huge impact on the breeding success and their survival. Main predators are gulls and peregrine falcons. Puffins lose their bright beak and also the eye ornamentation in winter, but it grows again in early spring in time for courtship.
There is a huge colony of guillemots which are closely related to the Puffin. They also lay one single egg. Here it is the father who is taking care of the chicks for about two months; the mother remains two weeks only. They can dive more than 30 meters deep to catch fish. When you reach a massive rock at the end of the trail, you can already hear the loud noise of the Guillemots.
The razorbill is also a species of the Auk family like puffins and guillemot. Also, they lay one single egg. They can dive very deep more than 100 meters but usually around 25 meters. Their beaks are wider and white stripe rum from eye to beak.
The shag is similar to cormorants but smaller with a thinner beak. Their breeding season is from June to August. The shag dives at least 45 meters deep and has the same preferred food like the puffin.