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Puffins on Mykines

Lighthouse at Mykines, Faroe Islands

With just ten inhabitants, no shop, and no access from October to May other than by helicopter, we packed the camera gear, warm clothes, and what we thought was enough food to do us for three days on Mykines Island in the Faroes, and hopped on the helicopter.

We were staying in a little wooden house, right next to the tiny harbour, and had to pass by a few angry geese, and wild horses on our way from the helipad to our cottage.

On our first day, we couldn't wait to go and check out the famed puffins of Mykines - 6000 of them meet up here each summer to find a mate, and raise their young in the many burrows on the hills around the cliffs.

The walk out was spectacular, up a very steep hill, along the crest of the island, and then down some natural stone steps, carved out of the cliff. I'm just glad they now have a handrail! After walking along the path carved into the cliff for a couple of hundred metres, we pop out on the other side of the island, where we notice the hillside underfoot is covered in little burrows. Unfortunately there are no puffins to be seen.

Gannet colony at Mykines, Faroe Islands

We continue our walk across the bridge, and up the hill, and along the clifftop to the old lighthouse. Gannets are gliding past right on eye level, and we can see storm clouds brewing out to sea. We reach the gannet colony, and the seal colony, which almost makes up for the missing puffins.

On our way back, we notice lots of tiny little dots out to sea, thousands of small sea birds of some sort. Aaron takes out his camera to get a closer look, and it turns out to be the missing puffins! After spending the harsh winter alone, bobbing around in the North Atlantic, they spend a few days amassing on the waters around Mykines before coming back to settle at their burrows for the summer months. While this was a delight to witness, we are still disappointed that we won't get to see them any closer.

Puffin on Mykines, Faroe Islands

That night, after dinner, despite my early pregnancy exhaustion, we are off to do the same gruelling walk for a sunset shot of the village from the cliffs. Unfortunately, the clouds come in, and the shot we were after isn't happening. Disappointed again, we start the walk back to the cottage.

We are just heading down the steep hill back to the cottage, when we notice the skies are filled with thousands of little birds - It's the puffins!

And they are everywhere, swooping right past us, and then they begin to land. It is the most magical evening, starting to get dark, with a fierce wind, and these beautiful clumsy little birds are crash-landing no more than 10 feet away from us! We were totally transfixed, staying til it was almost dark.

We got up early the next day to get some shots in better light, but they were mostly gone back out to sea. They would be doing this for a day or two - socialising on the water during the day, and landing briefly at dusk.

We felt very lucky to have witnessed this once-a-year phenomenon entirely by accident. We'd no time to check them out again that evening - we had a helicopter to catch!

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