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Photo Information
Copyright: Pekka Valo (pekkavalo1) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 423 W: 54 N: 2120] (6789)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-05-03
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 40D, Sigma EX 500mm f4.5 APO HSM, RAW ISO 800, Kenko Teleplus Pro 300 DG 1.4x
Exposure: f/8, 1/500 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-07-06 6:33
Viewed: 3362
Points: 34
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Guillemots at RSPB Bempton Cliffs nature reserve. The one appearing to use spectacles is Bridled Guillemot, which is not recognised as a subspecies (more details below).

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Thin-billed or Common Murre (Uria aalge), also called Common Guillemot, is a relatively large auk. It spends most of its lifetime at sea, only coming to land to breed on rocky cliff shores or islands.

Adult birds are 38-46 cm in length with a 61-73 cm wingspan and weigh 945-1044 g when fully grown. They are black on the head, back and wings, and have white underparts. They have a thin dark pointed bill and a small rounded dark tail. The face becomes white in winter with a dark spur behind the eye. The chicks are downy in appearance with blackish on top and white below.
The bird is a fast, agile flier. The wings flap quickly and continuously in a straight line along the sea surface.
Western European birds of the subspecies U. a. albionis are dark brown rather than black, most obviously so in colonies in southern Britain. Some individuals in the North Atlantic, known as Bridled Guillemots, have a white ring around the eye extending back as a white line. They are not a distinct subspecies however, but a polymorphism which becomes more common the farther north the birds breed - perhaps character displacement with the northernly Brünnich's Guillemot, which has a white bill-stripe but no bridled morph. The white is highly contrasting especially in the latter species and would provide an easy means for an individual bird to recognize conspecifics in densely-packed breeding colonies.
Common Murres have a variety of calls, including a soft purring noise.

Distribution and status
The breeding habitat is islands, rocky shores, cliffs and sea stacks on:
North Atlantic coasts, in North America as far south as New Brunswick, and in Europe as far south as Portugal.
The north Pacific coasts of Alaska and British Columbia down to California. On the Asian side it breeds in Russia and Hokkaidō.
Some birds are permanent residents; northern birds migrate south to open waters near New England, southern California, Japan, Korea and the western Mediterranean.
The breeding population is large, at over two million pairs. It is presently stable, but potential threats include excessive hunting (legal in Newfoundland), pollution and oil spills.

Ecology and behaviour
Common Murres can venture far from their breeding grounds to forage; distances of 100 km and more are often observed though if sufficient food is available closer by, the birds will venture much shorter distances. These birds are surface-divers which forage for food by swimming underwater using their wings for propulsion. Dives usually last less than one minute, but the birds hunt underwater for distances of over 50 meters on a regular base. Diving depths up to 50 m have been recorded and birds can remain underwater a couple of minutes, for a maximum recorded underwater distance of 180 m. U. aalge mainly eat small schooling fish 200 mm long or less, such as polar cod, capelin, sand lances, sprats, sandeels, Atlantic cod and Atlantic herring. Capelin and sand lances are favorite food, but what the main prey is at any one time depends much on what is available in quantity. They also eat some molluscs, marine worms, squid, and crustaceans such as amphipods. They consume 20-32 grams of food in a day on average. They are often seen carrying the fish in their bill with the fishtail hanging out.

Courtship displays including bowing, billing and preening. The male points its head vertically and makes croaking and growling noises to attract the females. As usual for auks, the species is monogamous. The colonies are densely-packed, with up to twenty pairs occupying one meter square at peak season. The islands can also be inhabited by other species, which mingle with the murres to varying extent.
They usually nest in tight-packed colonies (known as "loomeries") and lay their eggs on bare rock ledges or ground. The eggs are pointed, so that if disturbed they roll in a circle rather than fall off the ledge. Eggs are laid between May and July for the Atlantic populations and March to July for those in the Pacific. The eggs vary in colour and pattern to help the parents recognize them, each egg is unique. Colours include white, green, blue or brown with spots or speckles in black or lilac. Both parents incubate the egg for 28 to 34 days, swapping in twelve hour shifts.
The chicks will leave the nest after 18 to 25 days, by simply jumping down into the sea, slowing their fall by fluttering as they are not yet able to fly. Once the young chicks have left the nest the male teaches them how to dive and catch fish for up to two months. The chicks learn to fly roughly two weeks after fledging. Up until then the male feeds and cares for the chick at sea. In migration the chick swims about 1000 km. Common Murres only breed when they reach four to six years old. The lifespan is about 20 years.

Royaldevon, uleko, nglen, jaycee, SelenE, Dis. Ac., rousettus, CeltickRanger, Dan, Seabird has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To jaycee: Cliffhangerpekkavalo1 3 07-06 14:22
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello Pekka,

Three is a perfect number for composition and these three look to be having a fine time scrambling up the wall! The one with the spectacles is checking that you are watching carefully! Actually, he looks the most interesting as it is difficult to see the eyes on the other two!
Good details of the plummage, and those extra large feet.
I like the way the textured, white rocks make a diagonal across the shot.

Kind regards,
Bev :-)

Excellent composition, the guillemots have great colouration, natural and well defined. The background makes these birds stand out very well. A fine composition. tfs, regards h

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-07-06 7:43]

Hej Pekka,
Great capture! Amazing to see how these Guillemots cling on to the rock face. The Bridled one is so beautiful. Very sharp details and lovely colours in this very fine composition.
TFS and cheers, Ulla

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-07-06 8:28]

Hi Pekka. Firstly thanks for the interesting notes . and for the very fine close up of the Guillemots . I just love the colour of the back and heads. with the white line around the eyes. which your picture shows. , with good detail and natural colours.well done TFS.

Hi Pekka,

I'm so curious to know where you were when you took this fascinating shot. It amazes me how they stand on that steep cliff. Great to get the trio in one frame. The Bridled Guillemot really steals the show. The spectacle look is fantastic. Beautiful blacks and whites and fine details of the birds and of the rocks.


  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-07-06 11:09]

Hi Pekka,
Very nice capture of this group. I like the POV, and scene you captured a lot. TFS

Hello Pekka
When you live on a rock face wings are usefull..as are spectacles!!
All joking to one side this is a most impressive capture...you had a long focal length here and the results are astoundingly sharp..I hope you were shooting from a safe vantage point!
All the best

Hello Pekka,

Good composition of this 3 birds.
I love the pov.


  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-07-06 13:41]

Superb photo, Pekka!
Excellent composition.
Superb DOF too.
That is one death-defying POV :-))
I might have gone to Bempton Cliffs next weekend because we were going to go to my Grandparent's for the weekend but they're coming to my house now! :-) and :-(

Very well done,


  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2008-07-06 23:19]

Hi Pekka

Great shot of these guillemots - did you know that the % of Bridled increases the further north you travel - they are about 15% of the population in the Shetland Islands.

You have also managed to get they eye - which is - in my experience - very difficult.


  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-07-07 0:56]

Hello Pekka,
Beautiful photo of this three Guillemots. Very nice diagonal composition, sharpness and POV. Great coloured OOF BG.

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-07-07 3:20]

Hello Pekka, WOW what a cut picture. Lovely composition and superb focus. Ganesh

  • Great 
  • Dan Gold Star Critiquer [C: 113 W: 0 N: 2] (18)
  • [2008-07-07 5:21]

Hi Pekka,

What interesting bird! Beautiful colours and great composition.

Best regarrds, Dan.

hello Pekka
This is great scene from a Guillemot colony. Nicely composed. Great focus, POV and colors. Especially eyes details and pattern on left one look very nice. Thanks for sharing, best wishes

Hi Pekka, great capture of lovely trio in splendid pose, excellent sharpness, very well done, ciao Silvio

hello Pekka

excellent shot if these birds, with fine POV, excellent sharpness
and details, i love the eye-contact of one of theme with you, TFS


Hi, Pekka,

wow, this is an excellent photo with lovely and beautiful birds. great details, colours and composition. thanks for sharing.

Man Yee

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