Puffins arrive at Sumburgh Head

Published: 09 April, 2019

April 2019

Incoming Puffin by Gary Bell

Our anticipation increases as we reach the beginning of April. We speculate “could it be tonight, is the weather calm enough?” and “the Guillemots are in, could this be a sign?” until eventually the wait is over and our first Puffins are sighted. Our Natural Heritage Officer Paul Harvey reported eight bobbing about on the water on Thursday evening (4th April). With this exciting news we arrived especially early on Friday morning, hoping to see them on the grassy banks. There were lots flying about, sweeping ever closer to the cliffs with each fly-by. Finally, we watched as our first Puffin landed at 7pm. The following day there were a few on the cliffs and more in the sky but then Sunday arrived accompanied by a bitterly cold wind and no Puffins were seen. It appears Puffins do not like sitting on the cliffs in a cold wind; they prefer to return to the water to sit out the poor weather before returning. It means viewing Puffins can be a bit unpredictable at the start of the season but perhaps this transition period should be expected as they’ve spent the last 8 months living on the sea.

It’s the breeding adults that return first. They breed from the age of 4 or 5 and the juveniles return later in the season. Although Puffins pair for life they spend the winter apart. In the coming days we will be watching closely for bill rubbing between adult Puffins; this is how they re-establish the pair bond after a long winter apart, the equivalent of Puffin romance!