An afternoon with the Black Guillemots

Black Guillemots are stunning birds in their summer breeding plumage. Here on Westray they nest on the cliffs and crags, with eggs and chicks hidden deep within stone fissures to protect them from marauding predators. It’s a great afternoon to walk along the cliffs and down to the stone pavement beaches to watch them in the sea, see them fly to their nests and find out what they are eating.

This one has a catch already:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They fly fast and low:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The one seems to have caught a Scorpion fish:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I wait. Next time it comes back with a Norwegian Topknot:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’ve seen Black Guillemots before with flatfish like this:

A Tystie and a Topknot

They must be an important part of their diet.

Out on the water one’s caught a Butterfish:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It paddles and splashes until it flies:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s still wriggling:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Butterfish seem to be an important part of the diet of Black Guillemots. There’s an anxious time looking around before taking the fish into the noisy chicks. They don’t want their nest to be discovered:

Later in the afternoon there’s time to sit and enjoy the sunshine. The Black Guillemots seem to be doing that too.

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They have a high-pitched call. It’s not the most beautiful singing, but it’s full of character.

It’s been wonderful to share a few hours with them.

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