Fulmar flying around East Cliff; West Bay, Dorset; 23 April 2015.

Looking very much like a seagull, this is in fact a true seabird that spends most of its life out on the open seas and only comes ashore to breed – the reason why this individual was around the cliffs at West Bay.  It can at once be told from a gull by the little kink and ridge on the top of its bill that houses nasal passages, something that gulls don’t have.

Living out on the open seas as they do, and eating things like squid, fish and shrimps, these birds are up to their ears in salt – some of which they manage to get rid of by excreting it as a strong saline solution through their noses.  And, should one of these beauties feel that you’re approaching it too closely on a cliff, they will vomit their foul smelling stomach oils over you –  to give you a gentle hint …

And finally here’s a fascinating passage from Wikipedia: “Fulmars have for centuries been exploited for food. The engraver Thomas Bewick wrote in 1804 that “Pennant, speaking of those [birds] which breed on, or inhabit,   the Isle of St Kilda, says—’No bird is of so much use to the islanders as this: the Fulmar supplies them with oil for their lamps, down for their beds, a delicacy for their tables, a balm for their wounds, and a medicine for their distempers.  …..  James Fisher, author of The Fulmar (1952) calculated that every person on St Kilda consumed over 100 fulmars each year; the meat was their staple food, and they caught around 12,000 birds annually.”.  But no, before you ask, I’ve never tasted one!  And I recommend that St Kilda link – if only for the sounds of the sea! –  I’ve never been there, but it was a constant and brooding presence, far off to the west, when I was on the Western Isles some years back.

There is another Fulmar image, and more context, here.

Click onto this image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor used at 300mm in DX (= APS-C) format to provide 450mm; 400 ISO.



  1. A lovely photo with such pretty light, and an interesting read. I’ve never seen one…the ocean-going birds are pretty cool, aren’t they? We have an extraordinary rarity here in the Seattle area this weekend – a Swallow-tailed gull, only the 3rd US record. They breed in the Galapagos. I haven’t gone out to see it – it’s a bit of a drive, it’s hot outside, and I’m afraid if I go it would choose that moment to leave. It’s been moving up and down the Puget Sound shoreline for 3 days. It’s a fully nocturnal, squid eating gull, roosting with locals by day. Crazy when you think of it – I believe they ruled out the possibility that it came on a ship. Very handsome too.


    • Wow, the S-t Gull really looks something, and I’d no idea at all that a nocturnal gull exists! But that’s the thing, and the thing that put me (and others) off rarity chasing, there’s always the possibility that it’ll be gone when you get there, which is always a huge disappointment. And I prefer photography to birding, because I’m left with something more tangible than a species list – although I have to say that I enjoyed my birding years (1967-2002) very much, and the hobby took me to many wonderful places and I met many wonderful people too.

      Glad you like the fulmar – I was on a clifftop, looking down on it.

      Last Thursday I had hernia surgery and today I’m feeling distinctly better, though still being very careful about how I move around – must be the medicinal qualities of Belgian beer! 😀


This blog has two pleasures for me - creating the images and hearing from you - so get your thoughts out to the world!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.