Friday, 5 July 2013

Terns, puffins and photographers

We have a challenge on our hands at the moment. It is peak time for photographers to come to the island. In fact the Isle of May is one of the top photographic destinations in the world, highlighted by the Crown Prince of Dubai's trip half way across the world just to wield a camera. The challenge is enabling photographers to get the image they want without impacting the birds. Many want that iconic image of puffins carrying a beak full of sand eels and the puffins duly oblige by sitting at view points on rocks posing to be snapped. What is hard to explain to the photographers is that the puffins are usually waiting for people to move out of the way so that the puffins can take the fish to their burrow and feed their chicks. A long line of people lingering at a view point means that chicks get fed more infrequently and therefore don't grow as fast. Growing fast is all important as the pufflings need to fledge before the sand eels disappear from around the island. For the terns it is similar, the longer they are disturbed by people the less food the chicks get, the slower they grow, the more likely it is that they get eaten by gulls.But some disturbance for the terns is beneficial as it keep the predatory gulls away. So as with much of managing a nature reserve, a balance is required where the birds can breed successfully and the visitors get to take home a special image of the island. But it does take a lot of work from the island staff and volunteers to achieve so if you are coming onto the island please keep moving if asked as otherwise you might be putting your photographs as more important that the birds that you have come to see.

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