Guillemots and Fulmars - Berry Head Nature Reserve

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Guillemots and Fulmars - Berry Head Nature Reserve
04/06/2019 - 14:40



Berry Head Nature Reserve is an area rich in wildlife with splendid vistas out to sea from the vast rugged limestone cliffs.


A Northern Fulmar all snuggled up on her nesting ledge




Each Spring it is alive with the sounds of birdsong in the wildflower rich meadows and woods, as well as the frequent noisy conversations of Northern Fulmars, Guillemots and Gulls along the vast limestone cliffs in particular. Peregrines can be seen if one is lucky, and recently Puffins have been seen, by local birdwatchers, passing along the coast heading south. Gannets are also seen out beyond the islands quite regulalry.








The monogamous Fulmar pairs sometimes get into the occassional 'mate-guarding' fracas with an optimistic passing male popping up to a ledge to try his charm, until he gets the message that he's not welcome!






A couple of Northern Fulmars letting the lower fellow know that his wooing is not welcomed



The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis),  a petrel related to the Albatross, has a relatively short and thick neck and large head. It's name derives from Old Norse, meaning 'foul gull' due to their charming habit of actively defending themselves against intruders, spitting an oily gastric juice on them with remarkable accuracy. The bill is chunky with round, tube-like nostrils. Northern fulmars breed within the North Atlantic region, from Newfoundland in the southwest, to Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya in the north, and northern France in the southeast. The species also breeds in the North Pacific region, in Alaska and eastern Russia.




The Northern Fulmar is primarily a pelagic species which remains far out at sea except during the breeding season. Even during breeding it sometimes performs long foraging trips.




They feed on small pelagic animals near the sea surface - mainly on squid, cuttlefish, crustaceans and small fish.




Another male Northern Fulmar who worked out that his wooing was not welcomed, flies off to try his luck elsewhere no doubt






A large Herring Gul landing on his perch high in the limestone cliffs


A trawler returning to Brixham Harbour surrounded by hungry gulls

  • Guillemots (see the photos and video below) are not nest builders, instead they lay a single pear shaped egg on the cliff and both parents take turns in looking after it.
  • When the chicks are old enough before they can fly, they jump from the cliffs down to the water encourage by their parents, this makes for a great spectacle at the beginning of July. They then paddle out to sea with the adult males where they learn how to forage and survive at sea. They will then spend about 6 weeks learning 'how to be a guillemot'.
  • Guillemots can dive to depths of 170 - 230m, prefering to consume small schooling fish which it catches underwater. The common guillemot can dive to depths of more than 150 metres, but normal feeding depth is considered to be in the range of  20–50 m.




A troop of Guillemots on their nesting cliff



Here's a short video of them



A pair of Guillemots 




Look out for the chance to join one of my Nature and Landscape Photography Workshops each Spring and Autumn, that I run for the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust who are the custodians this wonderful reserve.




Sandi Leonard
06/06/2019 - 12:26
Interesting reading and some lovely photos

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