Lesson #380: Puffin Cams!

Ever since I was about 12 and we visited some extended family in Maritime Canada, I’ve had a thing about puffins. I even had a Newfoundland tourism poster with puffins on it on my bedroom wall as a teenager.* Because they’re adorable. Seriously. Look at them.

single-puffin_18377_990x742At some point when I still lived in a southern state, there was a pair of fluffy orange socks in my Christmas stocking that my mother referred to as my “puffin feet,” something I still call them to this day. Now, there is no creature on Earth cuter than otters, but puffins are a close second. And if you’ve ever watched them try to take off from the water, it’s hilarious. Because they’re such chubby little things, they have to flap their wings really, really hard to get themselves airborne, and they fail on a fairly regular basis and take a nosedive back into the water. It’s hard not to laugh when they fail — because it truly is funny — but they’re tenacious; they give it another go and are off. They’re also delicious to eat, which is something that still makes me feel guilty more than four years after the fact, but when in Rome. Or, you know, Reykjavik.

Anyway…because the internet is occasionally for more than just cat videos and porn, the Audubon Society has a trio of puffin cameras up on Seal Island in Maine. Which I spent a good 45 minutes watching this morning. I can’t help it; they’re so effing cute!

Here’s what I observed in those 45 minutes: I started watching at 5:30, right as the first puffin arrived. He kind of hung out for a bit and did that thing people do where they’re looking around for their friends. Another puffin came through at 5:35, but didn’t stay long. The first puffin just sat on the ledge and watched the ocean for a bit. His friends (or whatever…I don’t know if puffins have friends) started coming by at 5:40. All was good for about 10 minutes…puffins arrived, hopped about, groomed themselves, sat and stared at the ocean (or whatever puffins do when they’re facing the water), but then it started to get a bit crowded on puffin rock, and puffin number one — which is the one I was specifically watching — started getting a bit irked at everyone bothering him when he clearly just wanted to hang out and watch the sun rise (or whatever puffins do when they’re facing the water). A few times he chased other puffins off. Mostly, he kind of wandered from place to place, and every time someone invaded his personal space, he’d travel closer to the camera so he could be alone. He eventually found a little crevice to hang out in. I liked this puffin because this is exactly how I am…leave me alone, jerks, I’m just trying to hang out here! About 5:55, they started to hit a critical mass for puffins on the ledge. Not because of the lack of space in general, but because of a lack of landing space. See, puffins land a bit like jets on an aircraft carrier; it’s a bit of ‘oh God, oh God, I have to stop NOW!” It is not at all graceful, but it is funny. Because after a while, there’s not a whole lot of real estate large enough for landing, so they start kind of half landing on each other. By 6:00, the first puffin had been joined by 17 others. At 6:03, the first puffin wandered out of frame. Anyway, once the puffins are on land, they walk everywhere, which makes sense if you’ve seen them take off/land. Also, I learned, puffins don’t make sound unless they’re hanging out in their burrows, and then they sound kind of like a chainsaw.

If you happen to be an insomniac (like me) or you enjoy a leisurely “getting ready for work” pace (not at all like me), check them out. Audubon suggests the best time to watch them is between 5-9 am EST.

The loafing ledge video is here. This is the feed I was watching.

The boulder berm video is here.

The burrow video is here.

*I also had posters of athletes (mostly swimmers) and cute boys like every other teenage girl.

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