Young country diary: the puffins had their lunch, then I had mine
Lundy, Devon: From the ferry we saw a festival of seabirds, but the puffins were the luckiest spot of all
Aboard the MS Oldenburg to Lundy, I sat next to Jamie, an ornithologist studying the island’s sparrow population. Jamie helped me spot and identify birds from the ferry. I have always been fascinated by birds so had my binoculars poised. The first seabirds to appear were puffins, bobbing past us and into the distance. As the breeding season was over, puffins were almost impossible to see from the island, so this was a lucky interaction. The next birds we spotted were guillemots, – a group of five or six which, like puffins, are part of the auk family (no, not the ones from The Lord of the Rings).
Then the gannets soared into sight, the largest seabirds in the north Atlantic, with a wingspan of two metres! Their fishing technique is simple – find another colony that has located fish and join the party. I watched them fly high into the cloudless sky, and then, without warning, dive down, making their bodies as streamlined as possible. A Manx shearwater glided into view – black from above and white from below. It skimmed the surface of the water until – whoosh! – it disappeared beneath the waves. It had caught a fish. As we docked on the island, a head appeared: a seal searching for its lunch. We set off up the hill in search of ours.