Razorbills (c) Mike Snelle
Experience the sights and sounds (and smells) of a seabird colony!
The best seabird colonies are on the cliffs of our north and west coasts and the islands offshore.
The cliffs and rocky islands of our coastline are home to some of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Guillemots and razorbills, gannets and puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, shags and cormorants, all gather to cram onto the ledges, make their nests amongst the jumble of rocks or find their space on the clifftops to take advantage of our rich seas during the summer.
Our seabirds spend the winter feeding far out to sea, but as the warmth of the summer arrives they all make a beeline for the nesting cliffs. Each species has its own niche: shags nest down near the base of the cliff amongst the boulders; razorbills find a space in a crack amongst the rocks in which to lay their eggs; guillemots and kittiwakes line up in their thousands, cheek by jowl on the narrowest of ledges; fulmars find a wider space higher up the cliff, while puffins make their homes in burrows amongst the short turf on the cliff top.
With thousands of birds in one place, the air is full of whirring wings as adults go back and forth, bringing food to their sitting partner or growing chicks. All life is here: birds fight over nest sites, food and mates; chicks cry for their parents; an egg hatches; a young bird makes its first flight; and suddenly the whole colony is on the wing together, yelling in unison as a peregrine or marauding gull passes by.
How to do it
The best seabird colonies are on the cliffs of our north and west coasts and the islands offshore. Pack the binoculars and camera, and make sure you have plenty of time. Find a comfortable, sheltered spot with a good view down over the colony and then rest a while, taking it all in.
But of course, take care near the cliff top!
If you can’t get to the special places listed below…You can watch the comings and goings of the seabirds at several colonies around the country, on live Wildlife Trust webcams. Click here to watch the action, including puffins and gannets in Alderney, kittiwakes in Gateshead and gulls and terns on Brownsea Island.
Magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs rise from the Atlantic on the north west coast of Handa Island, Highlands. Each summer, nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here, including internationally important numbers of guillemots, razorbills and great skuas. These dramatic cliffs provide stunning ocean panoramas.
Aberdeenshire, Longhaven Cliffs,
Antrim, Isle of Muck
Yorkshire, Flamborough Cliffs
Gannets © Mike Snelle