Photographer's Note

Since I have only realized that those beautiful creatures may be seen in Ireland I dreamed about watching them. One of the best places to see them here is most probably the Rathlin Island not far from the Giants Causeway in the Northern Ireland. There are several ferries per day from Ballycastle. Passenger ferry takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the island. There are buses which take you straight from the ferry to the RSPB Seabird Centre (about 5 miles). RSPB volunteers are very kind and helpful. They are there to help you, you can use their telescopes and binoculars for free and you can chat with them asking about the birds whatever you want all they long. It was raining in the morning and we were not sure if it is a good idea to go there but all locals were telling us that this is actually a good weather as for Northern Ireland.
They say the bird colony hosts 80,000 guillemots, 20,000 kittiwakes, 10,000 razorbills, 1,000 fulmars, and 700 puffins. Volunteers will teach you how to distinguish between them and they can teach you respective bird’s name in your own language (!) Keep in mind that the birds are just visitors here. Puffins may be spotted here April-July. Rest of the time they spent at sea and we heard they lose feathers in that time.

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a seabird species in the auk family. It is a pelagic bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish, but also eats other sea creatures, such as squid and crustaceans. Its most obvious characteristic during the breeding season is its brightly coloured bill. Also known as the Common Puffin, it is the only puffin species which is found in the Atlantic Ocean. The curious appearance of the bird, with its colourful huge bill and its striking piebald plumage, has given rise to nicknames such as "clown of the ocean" and "sea parrot"

The Atlantic Puffin is 26–29 centimetres in length (bill 3–4 cm), with a 47–63 centimetres wingspan. The male is generally slightly larger than the female, but they are coloured alike. This bird is mainly black above and white below, with grey to white cheeks and red-orange legs. The bill is large and triangular and during the breeding season is bright orange with a patch of blue bordered by yellow at the rear. The characteristic bright orange bill plates grow before the breeding season and are shed after breeding. The bills are used in courtship rituals, such as the pair tapping their bills together. During flight, it appears to have grey round underwings and a white body; it has a direct flight low over the water. The related Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) from the North Pacific looks very similar but has slightly different head ornaments.

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Additional Photos by Mariusz Kamionka (mkamionka) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7402 W: 106 N: 19443] (74447)
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