Every spring and summer, Iceland becomes the breeding home for 60 percent of the world's Atlantic puffins. Being there at the end of summer means that we were there at the tail-end of the season. Despite an unsuccessful earlier attempt to meet the "clowns of the sea", we were lucky to have a gander at the highly anticipated lundi (the Iclandic name for puffins), even if it means missing dinner, because the colony is most active at evening, before heading out to sea to roost.
Despite its large population, Atlantic puffins have been listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its Red List of Threatened Species. Causes of population decline contributed by human activities may include the introduction of rats, cats, dogs and foxes onto some islands used for nesting, contamination by toxic residues, drowning in fishing nets, declining food supplies and climate change, etc.
It's not an easy task to photograph puffins in flight as these little cylindrical bodies (average 13 inches long) propel into the air like torpedos with no prior warning, with their wings that are adapted for swimming fluttering up to 400 times per minute. On a morning that only happens in dreams, I met this puffin appearing to soar high into the sky, higher than the mountains and the cloud. I knew it was some puffin chick's parent, rushing to the ocean to catch fish of the day for its only baby of that year. Dear puffin, may you be successful in raising more clowns of the sea, year after year.
Run, lundi, run...