Handa, a Scottish bird island

SkuaSpray foam feet high. The air is impregnated to the saturation limit in puccinellia. Metre-high waves crash against the craggy, rocky shores that extend indomitable and majestic into the air. Just having left the small fishing port of Tarbet in County Lairg, Highland in a calm sea, a beautiful sound between a rocky coast and a rocky island enchants the visitor. The crossing to the bird island is short-lived. The landing site is an unaffected looking, lonely sandy beach. But this is the east side facing away from the Atlantic sea. On the west side, the world looks very different. Sun rays breaking through the cloud cover giving the wild scenery wrapped in warm colors a melancholy charm. The air is filled with the piercing cries of a countless multitude of seabirds. Despite cold, wind and water they have set their breeding colony on Scotland’s west coast.

The visitor is first simply overwhelmed when the first rays of the wild scenery of moss and rocks give off warm colors wrapped in melancholy charm. In the distance the oncoming breakers of the Atlantic can be heard. However, the dull roar of the breakwater is drowned out by the penetrating cries an innumerable crowd of wind, water and cold defying seabirds that have their nursery here in the roughest and most dangerous cliffs: that is the remote Handa Island, a wild, rugged island four square kilometers and 150 meters uphill. A few kilometers away from the bizarre rocky coastline of the North Western Highlands this bird island of the Scottish coast host one of the most densely populated seabird colonies and but is easily accessible by boats operated by local fishermen.

During the breeding season in early summer birders will not be disappointed. During right season, the summer weeks between early June and mid-July, excellent observations can be made when bird parents rear their hungry young. This unique typical atmosphere on Nordic bird islands is at its peak. Everywhere, on the cliffs, in the air and in the water many species of seabirds in impressive numbers can be observed. All sorts of behavior are shown: display in courtship, territorial fights, rearing the young, feeding and fishing.

Due to their diverse habitats especially the island of Handa offers most Nordic seabirds (except Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) and Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) optimal breeding conditions. Man, too, has played its role, that this small and easily accessible wonderland remains: Handa is a nature reserve of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds. Visitors must adhere to the designated routes, which make the birds get used to a discreet but permanent presence of man. That’s why you get unique natural encounters between humans and birds here. This is something, which is found only rarely elsewhere.

Handa is known, inter alia, for breeding Great Skuas (Stercorarius skua) and Arctic Skuas (Stercorarius parasiticus). It is impressive to observe Great Skuas pursue their smaller congeners Parasitic Jaegers always tight on toe. This provides great shots with lots of action. Skuas, standing in the air, against a blue sky are definitely a photographic highlight on Handa. Apparently weightlessly floating Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) on the way up to the cliff edge are another highlight. The top of the cliffs are eventually populated by large gulls. Here Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) and Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) are dominant.

Not only on Handa but also on other bird islands of the North Atlantic very good photo opportunities exist. Specially mentioned should be the southernmost breeding colony of seabirds in Norway on Runde, an island southwest of Ålesund. Other Norwegian bird cliffs are on Hornöya (Hornøya) east of Vardo and on Ekkeröy at Vadsoe. In the more northerly bird islands – like the bird cliffs at Ekkeröy Vadsoe – you might detect Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia), too. Otherwise Razorbills (Alca torda), Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica), Common Gulls (Larus canus), Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle), Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and finally the European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) are quite easy to observe and photograph.

In order to satisfy the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palaearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken targeted travel to near and distant bird areas. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic. The results in images even of rare Western Palaearctic birds is very good. Very nice images bird-lens.com could bring back home among others from Europe from Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark), from Holland, from England, Poland, Austria, France, Portugal, Spain and of course from Germany.

The beautiful image of the blog is only a first impression of what you will find in behind the rider “Picture- Shop” very soon. Simply enter bird-lens.com know if you need the image of a bird before new pictures are online.

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