When Callie and I made the long, bumpy (vicious gravel roads going winding up and down mountains and around fjords) drive out to Látrabjarg in late May, it was my third visit to that magical place.
Látrabjarg is the westernmost point in Iceland. This isolated promontory is known for it’s flourish populations of puffins, razor bills, guillemots, and other migratory sea birds. It is a breeding ground vital to the global survival of many species living there. It is also Europe’s longest bird cliff at 14km long and 440m high at certain points. In peak season puffins sit on the cliff edge and tucked into crannies within arm’s reach, calmly watching you and looking out to sea.Atlantic puffins are the only puffins native to the Atlantic Ocean- wait….I just realized that if you say ‘puffin’ a lot, the word just gets cuter and cuter until your face is all scrunched up in a big ‘awwwww.’ Anyway, the Atlantic puffin breeds inIceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland, and islands in the North Atlantic, going no farther south than Maine. They mainly fish from the sea by diving into the water, using their wings as underwater propulsion. These adorable and incredible relatives of the auk spend the autumn and winter out at sea, flying along the water’s surface for easy hunting. However, other than “out to sea in the north,” we don’t really know where they go. It’s a delightful mystery. In the late spring and summer, they dig burrows into cliffs in order to lay a single egg, which takes six weeks to hatch.
Their small wings are a compromise between what they need for flying and for navigating in and under water. As such, they have to flap their wings very fast in order to stay in the air, which makes for a very comical sight (I captured it on an instagram video which you can see here) [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more pictures of puffins in Iceland.]