By Nigel Roddis
The Farne Islands, a cluster of rocky outcrops in the windswept ocean off the northeastern English coast, might not sound like a particularly welcoming destination. But although they are a harsh environment for humans, they are a haven for wildlife, from grey seals to some 23 types of seabird.
I had been to the islands many times before to go diving, but this time I wanted to shoot an extended story about the many species that live there. Over the course of the project, which ran from May to November 2013, I spent seven days both on the islands themselves and under the sea that surrounds them, photographing the teeming wildlife.
This was a fascinating year to document one of the Farne Islands’ most distinctive inhabitants: puffins. Every five years, UK conservation charity the National Trust conducts a census of this strange-looking seabird, with its black-and-white body and colorful bill. The latest one began in May this year.
The rangers who carry out the survey have to search some 90,000 burrows on the islands, where electricity is scarce and running water non-existent. They have just one day off a week to go back to the mainland, but if weather conditions are poor they can be left stranded. Once this year they were stuck on the islands for 17 days.
Yet the rangers who work on the census are extremely dedicated and this year they got good news. The survey showed there were almost 40,000 pairs of nesting puffins on the islands, a significant increase from 2008 when the number was just 36,835.