I know the great likelihood is that you, like me, don’t actually live near the brilliant, noisy, hustle and bustle of a manic, smelly seabird colony, but if there is one place in the UK where you are guaranteed to get lots of photos in a day or less its here. The birds are packed together, they are used to people and so not scared, too busy to worry much anyway as they are so pre-occupied with their own breeding business, are big, often close and include some of our favourite species. If there ever an excuse for a weekend away then this is it? Okay where do you aim for?
Well, that will depend on your own location but here are a few suggestions. Joint top of my pops are the Skomer Island group off the Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales and The Farnes off Seahouses in Northumberland. The former is much larger and has good opportunities for Puffin, Razorbill , Shags and Lesser Black-backed Gull . The latter is the unsurpassed capital of Arctic Terns, Puffins, Shags, Eider ducks and Kittiwake most of which are just metres away from you, or less when the terns are pecking your head! I have mobile phone pictures from here but telephotos are still a good idea in both places, particularly for Puffins which are less confiding. Other hotspots are the Isle of May, Handa, the Tresnish Isles (if you can land), the Bass Rock (you’ll need to get a party of photographers together) and the ultimate St Kilda. Google these or search for others nearer to you or your destination.
A few thoughts; June is the best month for activity but it is also busy with people so a weekday visit will buy you more peace, most of the boat trips are short but in uncovered vessels so be prepared to keep you and your kit dry, wind may stop play so don’t leave it until the end of your stay, book to go on the first day you can, sunshine is not great for photographing black and/or white birds – overcast is good for close-ups but no good for flight photos (you can't have your cake and eat it too !), and lastly there are no cafes, tea rooms or ice cream vans so take plenty of grub.
And the gadget . . . its cheap, could keep you cheerful and you can pinch it! A shower cap might save your day, so collect all the freebies from hotel bathrooms and always have them handy to protect your camera whilst you continue to take photos in the rain , something that to few photographers do. One last thing, please keep to the paths as directed. It's always tempting to step over the rope to get just that one step closer but you wouldn’t want to tread through a Puffins burrow with fatal consequences I’m sure. Just crop in a bit on your image when you get home.