Monday, August 19, 2019


   Machias Seal Island is in the Gulf of Maine, about 10 miles Southeast from Cutler, Maine and about 12 miles Southwest of Southwest Head, Canada on Grand Manan Island. Sovereignty of the island is disputed between the US and Canada.  The lighthouse on the island is staffed by the Canadian Coast Guard.  We sighted hundreds of Atlantic Puffins at Machias Seal Island: in the water, on the cliffs and flying.
   We can easily ID this Alcid as an Atlantic Puffin as follows:
  • Broad, triangular red and black bill
  • Black crown and upperparts
  • White underparts
  • Orange legs
  • Pale grey cheek patch
  • The Atlantic Puffin is the only Puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean

    Atlantic Puffins spend most of the year far from land in the open ocean and only visit coastal areas to breed.  They usually breed in large colonies.  In the late spring, mature birds return to land, usually to the colony where they were hatched.  The female Atlantic Puffin lays one egg.  The chick fully fledges after about 6 weeks.  The immature puffin does not return to land for several years.   The puffins spend about four months at their breeding grounds.
   Only recently has it been determined where the Atlantic Puffins from Machias Seal Island and other nearby breeding grounds spend their time at sea.  They at first go to the fish-rich waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, spending about a month in Canada, before going south to overwinter in waters about 200 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  This final destination is home to New England's famed  " coral canyons", which go deeper than the Grand Canyon and huge submerged mountain ranges that stretch for hundreds of miles along the ocean floor.  It is a biodiverse zone and food rich area.
   The Atlantic Puffin is a new species to our Photographic Life List, which now stands at 909.


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