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  • Writer's pictureMike Curtis

Puffins & Kites in wonderful West Wales

That's the last of the alliteration.

If there's a more spectacular bill on a British Bird I'd quite like to see it. The Puffins of Skommer Island, Pembrokeshire are a real spectacle. This year there were nearly 23,000 individuals nesting on the island and when we visited, early June, the first chicks were hatching with the result that the adults were beginning to return to the nest burrow carrying sand eels.

However, I spectacularly failed to catch any flying shots of puffins with sand eels. The best I managed was this individual coming into land with an unidentified morsel in its bill.

With flight shots evading me I spent a little time just concentrating on catching portraits of this spectacular bird, in particular the subtle feather colouration on the face which is not all-white but a gradation of smoky grey.

Puffins are certainly not difficult to photograph on the ground. At this time of year, however, if they are not flying to and from the burrow they are standing around, which does not make for the most interesting image. In the absence of easily seen behaviour I think this was my best effort at a portrait. Yes the sun could have been at a better angle but try explaining that to a puffin.

West Wales is the spiritual home of the British Red Kite, even if its not the ancestoral home of the English and Scottish Kites which were reintroduced from Spanish birds. As an undergraduate at Aberystwyth University in the late 1980s, Red Kites were incredibly rare even in remote parts of Mid and West Wales. Thankfully, they can now be seen all over the region (also common over my house in the East Midlands). This image was taken at Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre, east of Aberystwyth, where meat is scattered at 3pm each day. There are more than 50 kites in this image and there were at least another 50 more out of shot. It was a truly spectacular sight, particularly watching Kites picking meat off the surface of the lake.

One of my better images taken at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

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