The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), also known as the common puffin, is a species of seabird in the auk family. It is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean; two related species, the tufted puffin and the horned puffin are found in the northeastern Pacific. The Atlantic puffin breeds in Russia, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and the Faroe Islands, and as far south as Maine in the west and France in the east. It is most commonly found in the Westman Islands, Iceland. Although it has a large population and a wide range, the species has declined rapidly, at least in parts of its range, resulting in it being rated as vulnerable by the IUCN. On land, it has the typical upright stance of an auk. At sea, it swims on the surface and feeds on small fish and crabs, which it catches by diving underwater, using its wings for propulsion.
The Atlantic puffin is a species of seabird in the order Charadriiformes. It is in the auk family, Alcidae, which includes the guillemots, typical auks, murrelets, auklets, puffins, and the razorbill. The rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and the puffins are closely related, together composing the tribe Fraterculini. The Atlantic puffin is the only species in the genus Fratercula to occur in the Atlantic Ocean. Two other species are known from the northeast Pacific, the tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) and the horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata), the latter being the closest relative of the Atlantic puffin.
Like many seabirds, the Atlantic puffin spends most of the year far from land in the open ocean and only visits coastal areas to breed. It is a sociable bird and it usually breeds in large colonies.
Hunting areas are often located 100 km (62 mi) or more offshore from the nest sites, although when feeding their young, the birds venture out only half that distance. Adults bringing fish to their chicks tend to arrive in groups. This is thought to benefit the bird by reducing kleptoparasitism by the Arctic skua, which harasses puffins until they drop their fish loads. Predation by the great skua (Catharacta skua) is also reduced by several birds arriving simultaneously.
In the Shetland Islands, sand eels (Ammodytes marinus) normally form at least 90% of the food fed to chicks. In years when the availability of sand eels was low, breeding success rates fell, with many chicks starving to death. In Norway, the herring (Clupea harengus) is the mainstay of the diet. When herring numbers dwindled, so did puffin numbers. In Labrador, the puffins seemed more flexible and when the staple forage fish capelin (Mallotus villosus) declined in availability, they were able to adapt and feed the chicks on other prey species.
Since the Atlantic puffin spends its winters on the open ocean, it is susceptible to human actions and catastrophes such as oil spills. Oiled plumage has a reduced ability to insulate and makes the bird more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and less buoyant in the water. Many birds die, and others, while attempting to remove the oil by preening, ingesting, and inhaling toxins. This leads to inflammation of the airways and gut and in the longer term, damage to the liver and kidneys. This trauma can contribute to a loss of reproductive success and harm to developing embryos. An oil spill occurring in winter, when the puffins are far out at sea, may affect them less than inshore birds as the crude oil slicks soon get broken up and dispersed by the churning of the waves. When oiled birds get washed up on beaches around Atlantic coasts, only about 1.5% of the dead auks are puffins, but many others may have died far from land and sunk. After the oil tanker Torrey Canyon shipwreck and oil spill in 1967, few dead puffins were recovered, but the number of puffins breeding in France the following year was reduced to 16% of its previous level.
Historically, Atlantic puffins were caught and eaten fresh, salted in brine, or smoked and dried. Their feathers were used in bedding and their eggs were eaten, but not to the same extent as those of some other seabirds, being more difficult to extract from the nest. In most countries, Atlantic puffins are now protected by legislation, and in the countries where hunting is still permitted, strict laws prevent overexploitation. Although calls have been made for an outright ban on hunting puffins in Iceland because of concern over the dwindling number of birds successfully raising chicks, they are still caught and eaten there and on the Faroe Islands;
This adult Atlantic Puffin is returning to its burrow with fish for its chick. Both the male and female puffin take turns bringing fish. The adults feed the chick fish for approximately 45 days, although that period may be considerably longer depending on the quality of the fishing resources nearby, after which time the puffling is large enough to fledge (leave) the nest.
Precipitation levels in Iceland are on the rise in November. Reykjavik usually sees around 3.4 inches (8.7 centimeters) of snow during November. This is six times more than in October, but still only half as much as usually falls in December. Rain, sleet, and hail are also typical during November, so make sure you dress accordingly. Thermals and a warm jacket are essential!
It's not only Borders that is dedicating more space to educational toys. Late last week Barnes & Noble announced that it has begun testing what it calls "the ultimate play room," or 3,000 sq. ft. toy and game boutiques, in five New York-area stores. In addition, the retailer expanded the Toys & Games departments in all its stores nationwide.
At the Skalanes field center, we live with another team of researchers from the University of Glasgow. They are a group of 6 students who self-organized and funded the trip to Iceland, following the precedents of student researchers in previous years. Some projects they work on in Iceland include observing puffins, eider ducks, and foxes. The photos below include Avery, Abi, and Clara examining, recording, and photographing bone samples collected from various locations, including bird and fox feces. I will be interviewing some of the Glasgow students in the next couple of days to learn more about their work, so stay tuned! [Photos by Yujeong Lee]
Today we woke up early in order to catch a 9:45am ferry to the island of Heimaey. Fortunately no one got sea sick, granted the ride was only a half an hour in fairly calm waters. Upon arrival we headed to our Airbnb for the night, which is a beautiful house just a few blocks from the harbor. Our hosts were incredibly nice and told us about the local pub and where there are interesting places on the island. Rain and clouds engulfed us all morning so we waited for it to clear up a little. After lunch we geared up and headed to the harbor to start streaming. The clouds hung low over the mountains creating an peaceful atmosphere over the fishing boats. We started streaming a meter above the water and walked from there up the the lava fields. The rocks were covered in moss with lupin stealing space in every crack. We could see where houses use to be before the 1973 eruption of Eldfell. We knew a lot about the eruption from the book Island on Fire which made the hike much more interesting. The hike included some walking along the road and then a steep ascent up the volcano. As we started walking up the wind picked up and blew rain into our faces. The summit was a scree trail which made hiking a bit more difficult. We took altitude, temperature and GPS coordinates at the top and then took our soil samples. We all stuck our hands into the soil on the side of the crater, enjoying the warmth. We took some time on the way down looking at the different rocks. There were red, black, orange, brown and yellow, all of varying textures. We walked back to the harbor to finish streaming and the headed back to our house for the night. We went to the pub our hosts suggested called 900 Grillhús. Here we enjoyed fresh seafood, fish, pizza and burgers which watching some soccer. Our day has finished with some data uploading, tech support and relaxing.
This weekend I worked on installing QGIS onto the macbook going to Iceland and I brought over the map I have made so far. The only part we need to be careful about here is that any layer in a map you are using must be sourced to a place that that computer can access (eg. that computer). We can change the source but I had to individual make sure each layer was included separately when moving data over. Again pretty simple but it is good to be aware of and it takes a little bit more time. 2b1af7f3a8