There are plenty of islands around to visit but our favourite place is a very quiet, peaceful and remote location – Shetland Islands. This year we decided to spend some time in Fair Isle which is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. It has some stunning views and a very healthy population of Atlantic puffins what was very important for us.
Fair Isle can be reached from the Shetland mainland either by a cargo ship Good Shepherd for 12 passengers or by 8 - seater “Islander” aircraft. For more adventurous journey we have chosen a ferry. Looking back we can say that it was not clever at all… Seasickness turned our trip to a pure misery. It was 2.5 hours of torture. When we felt the ground under our feet the first words were: “We are not going back to Mainland by ferry. We could pay £1000 for the plane ticket if need but nobody will put us back to “Good Shepherd”. Obviously we booked plane tickets for our return trip.
With the return journey sorted and stomachs getting happier our full attention was focused on adorable puffins - “little brothers of the north" as their Latin name “Fratercula arctica” means.
The main puffin colonies are located in the North of Fair Isle. As we stayed in South Lighthouse it meant we had to walk ~ 2.5 miles each way, which to be honest we quite enjoyed; especially very early mornings in cool and mystic atmosphere.
Fair Isle is not the warmest and sunniest place. With the average 136 hours (~ 6 days) of sun in July we were very lucky to have beautiful golden light, great sunrises and sunsets.
Atlantic Puffins are true seabirds considering they spend most of their lives at sea, returning to land at the start of the breeding season in late spring. The birds line their nests, which are at the end of the burrow, with grasses, seaweed and feathers. Of course all the necessary material is carried in the beak.
We are not sure what this puffin intended to do with a bone but other puffins seemed to be interested in it too…
Puffins raise one chick at a time and feed it up to eight times daily. Obviously it is a very busy season for them and great time for us photographing birds with the beaks full of sand eels. Waters around Fair Isle seem to be rich in fish.
Puffins with a mouthful of sand eels mean only one good thing - pufflings will not stay hungry.
During the middle of the day the life in the colony is quiet; some puffins spend time preening, others are down in the burrows or out at sea feeding, some stand by their burrow entrances and interact with other birds.
Pairs of puffins strengthen their bond by preening each other and tossing their heads.
Puffin colonies vary. Some are big, some are small; some are easy approachable, others are difficult to reach but in all of them puffins seemed to be very curious.
Photographing puffins in flight is very challenging as they fly up to 55 mph. Fast 300 mm f2.8 lens, good wind direction and light enables to capture some flight images. In our case the light could have been a bit better, but still it was a nice feeling photographing this charismatic bird.
The days we have spent with cute puffins were full of joy. They always bring smile to our faces and it’s such a pleasure to photograph such a nice bird. We would never get bored in spending time on this island in a company of puffins.
As it was a part of our photography holidays in Shetland Islands, we planed to continue our journey in and around Lerwick. In the morning of our departure we had to face a delay for 3 hours because the island simply disappeared in the mist and fog. The island is full of surprises.
Amazing scenery, sense of wilderness and freedom will always draw us back to Shetland Islands.