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The story behind the shots – Northern Fulmars

I recently spent a very pleasant day at Bempton Cliffs photographing seabirds. It’s one of a few RSPB reserves where you can take dogs (happily for us and Wilf☺️).

Here are a few facts about Fulmars

  • The name “Fulmar” comes from two Old Norse words – fúll meaning “foul” (see below) and már which means “gull.”
  • They are actually related to albatrosses and petrels, not gulls.
  • Fulmars have a gland above their nasal passage that excretes a saline solution to help them get rid of the salt in the water they take in while feeding
  • They eat fish waste from fishing boats (they follow these and pinch what they can), crustaceans and sand eels
  • Fulmars create an oil that they store in a section of their stomach. They use this oil for a couple of reasons:
    1. They spit it out as a defensive measure (and by all accounts it smells absolutely awful) to deter intruders at their nest sites. It can also gum up the wings of predators like Skuas, causing them to plunge to their deaths
    2. They can regurgitate it as an energy-rich resource they use for long flights or to feed their young.
  • They’re about 45 – 50 cm in length with a wingspan of 1 – 1.12 metres and can live for around forty years

A couple of tips for photographing seabirds

Either pick one bird in your viewfinder and stick with it until it goes out of shot or too far away (there are lots of them and they come at all angles very quickly and you can end up waving your camera around like roadrunner on speed)


Prefocus on one area and wait until a bird files into it

Use a fast shutter speed (at least 1/2000 second), centre spot  focus and spot metering

Ok, that’s more than two (just so you know I can actually count😉)

If you’d like to know more about bird photography, or photography in general please have a look at my training page


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