Clare Tasker pictures puffins on patrol
Updated 12:27pm Friday 4th July 2014 in Features
York mum of three and keen amateur photographer CLARE TASKER captured these photographs in the Farne Islands. There is still just time to see puffins closer to home too.
YOU can almost hear the squalling and screeching of seabirds when you look at the photographs on our centre pages today.
In one wide landscape picture, a puffin comes in to land amid a nesting colony on a tussocky cliff top outlined against a grey North Sea sky.
In another a single puffin, a catch of fish in its beak, wheels in flight past what looks like an abandoned church. A third shows a puffin from below as it comes in to land, looking oddly ungainly.
The photographs were all taken by York mum of three Clare Tasker during a day trip to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumbria on June 18. And it wasn't only puffins she photographed.
She captured a close-up of a guillemot, the white circle and line streaking from its eye making it look almost as though it is in tears; a cormorant, primitive and almost reptilian on its nest; an Arctic tern hovering gracefully; and a colony of grey seals on waves lapped by the rocks.
Clare, 40, from the Stockton Lane area of York, took a boat trip out to the islands from Seahouses on the Northumbrian coast and she was overwhelmed by the wildlife she saw.
"The birds were really close," she said. "There are 70,000 puffins on the Farne Islands, and they were literally everywhere."
You might think, looking at these pictures, that Clare was a professional wildlife photographer with years of experience under her belt. The reality is rather different. She's had a decent Nikon SLR camera for a good few years, but never got around to using it much. Three young children - Holly, now 9, Dylan, 7 and Douglas, three, probably had something to do with that.
Then she made a New Year's Resolution 18 months ago to use her camera more, and joined the photosharing website Blipfoto, which encourages you to post a picture a day in a daily photo journal.
It's been a great discipline, she said. "It makes you use the camera!"
* To see more of Clare's photos visit www.blipfoto.com/wall234
To find out more about Blipfoto, visit: http://www.blipfoto.com/
If you would like to visit the Farne Islands yourself, find out more from nationaltrust.org.uk/farne-islands.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to see puffins closer to home, now is a great time to visit Bempton Cliffs or Flamborough Head.
To see the birds, however, you will have to go soon.
Between May and mid July, 200,000 seabirds nest at Bempton, among them a good number of puffins. But the birds are just about at the end of their nesting season, and will soon be leaving, says Scott Smith, the RSPB's visitor service manager at Bempton.
Throughout the summer, the RSPB leads regular puffin patrols at the cliffs and the last one will be on July 13. There are only two more puffin and gannet seabird cruises, meanwhile: one at 9.30am this Sunday and one at 4.30pm on Saturday, July 12.
Ironically, the fact that the puffins are getting ready to leave makes this a great time to see them, Scott says. "They are really active at this time of year."
And where do they go once they leave? That's a very good question, says Scott.
The short answer is that we don't know for sure: but it is believed that the puffins from Bempton head out into the North Sea to overwinter on the sea itself, where their food supply is. They may sleep on the wing, or else in 'puffin rafts' – great gatherings of the birds who sleep on the water's surface. "They are incredible birds," he says.
To find out more about puffin and gannet cruises from Bempton, visit rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs