My website map
I've been travelling.
I've been to see some new seabird friends in Ireland. I thought you'd like to see some of my pictures. I've made them all quick to download.
Welcome to SkelligThis is me on an amazing island right out in the Atlantic Ocean. It's called Skellig Michael. It's incredibly steep and difficult for a penguin to walk on but I managed... just. Some people came here to live about 1,500 years ago, but no-one lives here now. The little island in the distance is called Little Skellig. It's home to tens of thousands of big beautiful gannets, huge white seabirds with yellow heads and black wingtips. Like me, they live on fish.
Meet some puffinsPuffins nest on Skellig Michael. They lay their eggs in burrows on the steep flowery cliff and are very friendly. They had never seen a penguin before. Not surprising really since penguins don't live in the northern half of the planet at all. The birds nesting on the cliffs behind the puffins are kittiwakes. They make a lot of noise (like some penguins) - the sounds they make are just like their names: 'kitty wa-a-a-ke, kitty wa-a-a-ke'. These lovely birds spend most of the year out on the ocean. Fulmars also nest here. Fulmars have nostrils on their beaks and are brilliant flyers. They are generally silent except when they grunt to each other in a friendly way, when sitting on their nest ledges. They like to fly past very close and have a good look at you.
Nests, enemies and fishThese two puffins were gathering bits of grassy stuff in their big parrot-like beaks to build nests for their eggs, down inside the burrow. Puffins are very affectionate birds. They like to rattle their beaks together, almost like kissing. There are thousands of them on Skellig Michael, and many more on other islands in western Ireland. They have two big enemies. The first are great black-backed gulls. These huge birds will kill and eat puffins if they can catch them. Their second enemy is, I'm sorry to say, people. This is because fishing fleets (not local fishermen) are catching millions of tonnes of fish every year and destroying the birds' feeding grounds. Sadly, this problem is now worldwide - affecting all seabirds. Overfishing by people means that there are almost no fish today where a few years ago the sea was full of them. The Grand Banks fishing grounds east of Newfoundland in Canada is the best known example. All the local fishermen lost their jobs because big modern boats from other countries came and helped themselves until the fish were all gone. No adult fish means no baby fish. And no baby fish means no adult fish... and no fish. Birds and local people go hungry.
Gannets - supreme fishersHappily, the Irish seas still have fish - both for the puffins and for these gannets. These huge graceful birds live all around the world. I've seen them in New Zealand as well as in the North Atlantic. On this jagged island called Little Skellig, the gannets breed in their thousands. Every white dot you can see is a gannet. They're all lined up in rows along rock ledges which is where they have their nests. Watching gannets fishing is exciting for me. They fly high over the sea, spot a fish, fold their wings and dive straight into the sea with a big splash.
Puffin pin-upI asked this puffin if she would stand still while I took her photo. She did and this is the result. Isn't she beautiful? During the breeding season (summer), puffins have bright red and yellow stripes on their beaks. My human friend Val, who came with me, said it looked as though they had eye-makeup on.
Monks, beehives and flowersChristian monks came to this steep and rocky island about 1,500 years ago. They lived here for hundreds of years, a very simple life. They built these wonderful beehive houses which are just as good today as they were then. How many modern houses are like that? You can still walk inside them. At least I can, because I'm small. Val had to squat down to get through the doorway of some. The island is dramatic and beautiful because of the steep jagged rocks and also because of the flowers. The slopes are covered in a purple flower called spurrey and loads of white-flowered sea campion. There are even some rabbits, descendants of those brought by the monks for food.
Puffin friendsHere's Val with our puffin friends. The snakey path behind runs right around to a lighthouse on the west tip of the island. A lot of people come to visit this island and so the puffins are quite used to seeing them. They know the visitors won't hurt them.
This puffin showed me his burrow. His mate was inside, busy laying the first of her eggs. I didn't disturb her.
All's well here... more or lessI hope you've enjoyed looking at my snaps. I was very happy to see so many healthy, well-fed seabirds. It reminds me, if I need reminding, that this planet and its resources belong to all of us: penguins, people, porcupines... It's good to see that humans haven't messed up everything - yet. Remember, it's only you folks who can put matters to right by stopping your terrible damage to the oceans, the lands and the air of our home planet. Please do something to help.
Here's a useful link to visit if you like the seas and the creatures that live in them: Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust