Tucked away in a large crevasse along the jagged coast of the main island Spitzbergen, is an extremely impressive colony of breeding black-legged kittiwakes. These petit and very pretty birds appear gull-like, which probably makes you think ‘a little dull-like’. I certainly did, until we reached the cliffs, settled in and actually had a chance to watch these beautiful birds go about their day-to-day.
Viewing the cliff is quite an intimate affair- you climb over a ridge and (very carefully) work your way down until you are basically in the colony, on a small grassy patch that is unused by the birds. From there you can find yourself only a few meters away from the birds, and the photographic opportunities are endless. Every lens was put to work, from the widest angle to the big zooms – it was fantastic! The birds simply ignore you and carry on with their day, which is ideal for photography.
A real highlight was seeing the newly hatched chicks in the nest. For the most part they were well covered by their parents, but every now and again, a little fellow would pop its head out from beneath its mother and have a look at the world. This was a dangerous game as the always-present glaucus gulls were keeping an eye out for a quick meal. While we were at the cliffs, it seemed that the kittwakes had the gulls under control, as none of the youngsters were snatched.
The cliffs were shared with a small colony of brunnich’s guillemots, which seemed to enjoy the peace away from the main colony (see: Svalbard: Unbelievable scenes). Together they seemed to have a great place to nest, coupled with a great view and plenty of food.
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