Thursday, 13 August 2015
I have, ever since I came to Lewis, had a liking for fulmars. Unlike gulls which they resemble they keep themselves to themselves and have remained a genuine seabird. They are in fact petrels and are easily distinguished from gulls by their rapid, stiff-winged flight. The Northern fulmar was originally native to the Hebridean outlying islands of St Kilda but was extensively hunted for food and expanded its range into northern Scotland and thence southwards as far as the northern coast of France.
They are tubernoses like albatrosses and have the ability to defend themselves by projecting, from tubes above their beak, an oily substance from their stomach at an attacker. Birds of prey attacking a bird on the nest are likely to meet a sticky and often fatal end as their feathers get clogged up. I'm told by people who have experienced it that the smell lingers for a long time however much you wash. The lesson is don't annoy fulmars near their nests. I wonder how the hunters managed.
These pictures are from the Bull of Lewis taken a few weeks ago when the chicks were young.