The Atlantic Puffin is also known as the Common Puffin but there is nothing common about this little bird. They are also known as Sea Parrots because of their colorful breeding colors. Atlantic Puffin are incredible fliers despite their short wing span. Because of their short wingspan they have to flap their wings 3-400 times a minute but can fly up to 55 Miles per hour! They are also excellent swimmers and can dive to around 60 meters and use their wings to fly through the water. I will never tire of watching these beautiful, colorful creatures but it takes effort and lots of planning to photograph them on Machias Seal Island.
Atlantic Puffins are pelagic for most of the year, spending their time alone in the cold open northern ocean a long way off shore. They dig a burrow or tunnel on an island to lay their one solitary egg. Puffins only come onto land to breed in colonies, usually with the same partner in the same burrow, every spring and summer. They bring fish back to the burrows to feed the little “puffling”. The Atlantic Puffin are brightly colored only during breeding season and since breeding season is the only time they are visible it works out perfectly for photographers!
The Mute Swan is apparently an introduced species from Europe to North America. They are one of the heaviest flying birds and can weigh 30-32 pounds! I found this adult with four cygnets swimming behind him or her at Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge. These babies can’t fly for five months so the adults better plan ahead so the family can get out before the water freezes!
The adult Arctic Tern breed and nest mostly in the Arctic but fortunately a few breed and nest on Machias Seal Island. They have beautiful breeding colors with bright red beaks and feet. These Terns mate for life and have the longest migrations of any animal, sometimes with a round trip of 40-50,000 miles. They nest on the ground and are fiercely defensive of their nests and chicks. These two were aggressively defending their chicks and will peck you on the head if they think you are too close to their nest or chicks!
The Arctic Tern is one amazing bird. They are well known for their exhaustive migrations. These trips are from northern breeding grounds to the Antarctic coast for the summer and then back again six months later. They are rarely seen near land except for breeding. They nest every one to 3 years and lay only 1-2 eggs.
The Arctic Tern chicks are downy when they hatch and start to wander around on the ground and explore within 1-2 days of hatching. I photographed these two chicks on Machias Seal Island. These little fluff balls are probably only 1-3 days old!