Earlier this month we headed off on a boat trip to see the puffins on The Treshnish Isles. This is a wonderful day trip from Mingarry Lodges and one we have done before, and no doubt will do again and again, such is the alure of the puffins and the other amazing wildlife on Lunga.
The boat for the Treshnish Isles leaves Kilchoan (a 45 minute drive away from Mingarry Lodges) at 10:30, so no need to set the alarm for this amazing day trip. The modern and comfortable boat makes good time up along the coast of Ardnamurchan and Mull and there are plenty of opportunities to look out for wildlife enroute. Bottle nose dolphins are commonly seen though, unfortunately, not on the day we went (that's a good excuse to go again). We were, however, treated to a flyby from a pair of white-tailed eagles.
The boat reaches the Island of Staffa after around an hour where we had around 45 minutes ashore to explore the famous Fingals Cave and rock pools. We spotted black guillemot on the basalt columns by the cave; so well camouflaged, but given away by their bright red feet. Lots of shag, skua, oyster catchers and herring gulls to be seen too. Back on the boat for the 15 minute trip over to Lunga, the home to a large breeding colony of puffins as well as guillemot, shag, kittiwake, fulmar and razorbill.
The boat moors in a rocky bay and there is short walk over the rocks before reaching a path to the top of the island. The rocks can be slippery and a little awkward to walk over, though shouldn't be a problem for the majority of our guests at Mingarry Lodges. There is a also a short and quite steep climb to the top of the cliffs and that can be a little slippery if it has been raining. Saying that, it's always best to try and pick a nice sunny day for the trip and you do not usually need to book more than a few days in advance.
The puffins nest in burrows at the top of the cliffs and you can really get quite close to them, almost within touching distance. In early July the puffins were busy feeding their chicks and were returning to the island with beaks full of sand eels. It's quite remarkable just how many sand eels they can fit into their beaks. A real photographers' dream day. The puffins seem relaxed in the company of humans and it is often suggested that the human presence guards against raids be nest predators.
Lunga is also home to a large breeding colony of guillemots on Harp Rock which is just a short walk away from the main puffin colony. Their raucous cries fill the air reaching a crescendo when nest predators such as black-backed gulls fly over the rock. Kittiwakes nest on the ledges in the cliffs below the guillemots and had young chicks on the nest when we visited. Fulmars and razorbills also breed on the island, though not in the same numbers as puffins and guillemots. Lunga is also an important breeding site for shag. The path to Harp Rock passes several shag nesting sites and allows for some amazing encounters with these splendid green eyed birds.
The 2000 plus pairs of breeding puffins arrive on Lunga in Mid April and remain on the Island until early August. A great day trip from Mingarry Lodges.