Atlantic Puffin – Machais Seal Island, Maine: A two and a half hour trip into the Gulf of Maine and I find myself on Machais Seal Island. The treeless island is little more than a few acres in size and the only thing found there is a lighthouse and seabirds. Puffins are the star of the island. The bird that brings most birders from the mainland.
The Atlantic Puffins spent nine months of the year at sea, coming ashore only to breed. They can dive to 200 feet, and will fly more than thirty miles from the nest site to catch prey. With their short stubby wings puffins are not the best fliers in the air, but when it comes to flying underwater, puffins are at the top of the list.
The pigeon sized bird feed on herring, sprats and sand eels. Puffins swim (flies through the water) from behind a school of fish and grab fish on the left then right of the school, which lines-up the fishes heads facing alternate directions. Puffins can hold up to a dozen fish in its beak. Rows of spines in the upper beak (close-up photo) holds each fish in place as the puffin catches another fish.
Nikon D300, Nikkor 500 f4, Digital Capture, ISO 200;
Note: The top photo of this post, puffin with fish, was shot with a Nikon D3, Nikkor 300 f2.8, Digital Capture, ISO 200