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Jay Levin | profile | all galleries >> Some Photographs Taken In Newfoundland >> Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland

The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in southern Newfoundland is located just off the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula near Witless Bay. It contains four islands—Gull, Green, Great, and Pee Pee—that teem with bird life during the seabird breeding season. The reserve contains North America's largest Atlantic puffin colony. More than 260,000 pairs of the province's official bird nest here during the late spring and summer.

Ms. Judy Yaker, a well-known wildlife photographer in southeast Michigan, and I were fortunate to obtain a special permit to photograph puffins on Gull Island with the help of biologist Tina Leonard and Mr. Tony Power, an extremely experienced government guide and the manager of the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. (Only 20 permits are given each year.) However, getting to Gull Island involved a very difficult boat landing on treacherous rocks. This was followed by a 20 minute precarious climb up the rocks with Tony's help. He literally held my hand all the way! Thanks also to Michael O'Brien of O'Brien's Boat Tours who got us to and from Gull Island safely.

The decision to go to Newfoundland and photograph puffins was inspired by Lise De Serres and her puffin gallery on Pbase. Lise's photographs were taken on an island in the St. Lawrence River. I am grateful to Lise for very helpful discussions concerning her trip and her photography. Please see her gallery:

http://www.pbase.com/lizzee/macareux_moines__atlantic_puffins

A few facts about Atlantic puffins. The Atlantic Puffin may live to be more than 20 years old, but most do not breed until they are five years old. An Atlantic puffin is about 10 inches tall (about the height of a quart of milk), weighs about 17.5 ounces (similar to a can of soda), and has a wingspan of 20-24 inches. Males and females look alike although the male is slightly larger. Atlantic puffins land on North Atlantic seacoasts and islands to form breeding colonies each spring and summer. The birds often select precipitous, rocky cliff tops to build their nests in burrows, which they line with feathers, seaweed, and grasses. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it. When a chick hatches, its parents take turns feeding it by carrying small fish back to the nest in their relatively spacious bills. Puffin couples often reunite at the same burrow site each year. They are pelagic birds living in the open ocean except during breeding season.

Puffin originally meant "fatling." The name was used to describe the chubby chicks of the Manx Shearwater, with which puffin chicks were confused since they nest on some of the same islands in Europe that the puffins do.

Finally, note the yellow rosette behind the puffin's bill. Stephen Kress, Director of Project Puffin of the Audubon Society, has kindly provided me with the following information: "The yellow rosette is believed to be part of the puffin’s ‘courtship’ ornamentation. Like the horny plates above and below the eye, the rosette is prominent only during the summer breeding season- it shrinks in winter and loses color. Probably it functions as a signal of maturity and like most such coloration (like a turkey’s waddle and face colors) serves to indicate vitality to prospective mates."

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Atlantic Puffin At Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland
Atlantic Puffin At Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland
Atlantic Puffin #2
Atlantic Puffin #2
Atlantic Puffins #3
Atlantic Puffins #3
Atlantic Puffin #4
Atlantic Puffin #4
Atlantic Puffin #5 With Fish
Atlantic Puffin #5 With Fish
Atlantic Puffin #6 Sitting And Contemplating
Atlantic Puffin #6 Sitting And Contemplating
Atlantic Puffins #7
Atlantic Puffins #7
Atlantic Puffin #8
Atlantic Puffin #8
Atlantic Puffin #9
Atlantic Puffin #9
Atlantic Puffin #10 On The Hillside
Atlantic Puffin #10 On The Hillside
Atlantic Puffin #11
Atlantic Puffin #11
Atlantic Puffin # 12 - Two Images
Atlantic Puffin # 12 - Two Images
Atlantic Puffin #13
Atlantic Puffin #13
Atlantic Puffin #14 Showing Nictitating Membrane Over Eye
Atlantic Puffin #14 Showing Nictitating Membrane Over Eye
Atlantic Puffin #15 Sticking Out Tongue - Two Images
Atlantic Puffin #15 Sticking Out Tongue - Two Images
Atlantic Puffin #16 Preening
Atlantic Puffin #16 Preening
Atlantic Puffin #17
Atlantic Puffin #17
Atlantic Puffin #18 With Shrimp
Atlantic Puffin #18 With Shrimp
Puffins On Gull Island
Puffins On Gull Island
Some Seabirds Of Gull Island--Two Images
Some Seabirds Of Gull Island--Two Images
Humpback Whale Breaching
Humpback Whale Breaching
Humpback Whale Spyhopping---Two Images
Humpback Whale Spyhopping---Two Images