We traveled to The Tresnish Isles to see the puffins as part of an organised day trip from Oban which also took in Tobermory and Staffa.
The Treshnish Isles are a group of islands to the North West corner of Mull in the Outer Hebrides. There are a handful of larger islands, together with countless small skerries. Lunga is the main destination for boat trips to see puffins in their natural habitat.
The isle is accessed via a floating pontoon which takes you on to the seashore before a steep climb up a path up the cliffside. I’ll be honest I found it a real struggle and was assisted up and down my two rather strong supportive men. Good walking boots are essential as the path is rather steep and due to the rain over three previous two days was also rather muddy and slippery.
Early in the breeding season, generally between April and late July with the peak breeding season being in May and June, the puffins come in off the sea and hang about, just off their breeding colonies. Sometimes they wheel around in great flocks.
Then they get down to the serious business of decorating their burrows with a single large egg.
The most recognisable feature of a puffin is probably their stunning colourful bill, with its bright splashes of red, deep orange and yellow. However they’re not like this the whole year round. In winter, puffins actually shed their outer bills, leaving smaller, duller ones behind. Their bright orange feet fade noticeably at this time too. The brighter red and grey horny plates of the bill are grown in again ahead of the breeding season.
Puffins respond to increasing light levels and put on their breeding ‘dress’ in anticipation of the breading season. The orange on the legs and bill is a concentration of carotenoid pigments, built up from a diet of carotenoid-rich fish that makes up their diet,
Puffins dig out these burrows which are approximately two feet long, using their feet and bills, kicking the excess soil behind them as they dig. Once they have dug deep enough, they construct a soft nest of feathers and grass at the back, where they can safely incubate a single egg and raise their chick.
Puffins are stunning birds to look at and if I’m honest I could have stayed there all day watching their quirky personalities. It really was a honour to see them in their natural habitat.
The natural rock formation and lay of Lunga means that it isn’t suitable for wheelchairs, however, passengers with limited mobility will be made welcome on boats even if they aren’t able to go ashore.
Our trip to see the puffins was part of an organised day trip from Oban to Tobermory, Staffa, and The Treshnish Isles. You can read more about the day here.
There are also a colony of puffins very close to where I am now living in Wales. Due to COVID-19 the breeding season will be well over by the time I could visit but it’s now on my travel bucket list for 2021!