Birdwatching in Breizh

Breizh, France

I’m sitting in my friend Corentin’s kitchen, flicking through my guide to Birds of Britain and Europe.

“Puffins! I want to see puffins!” I say.

Since I was a child, I have longed to see these sea birds. And May is the best month to see them. A quick internet search later, we have found the perfect place to find them: the Sept Îles on the north coast of Breizh (Bretagne/Brittany).

The next morning, we drive up to the town Perros-Guirec, and before we know it we’re on an organised boat tour packed with people, sailing to the islands. I can’t control my excitement, and I can’t wipe the grin off my face. And Corentin’s smiling because I’m smiling. The rest of the boat, on the other hand, looks like they’ve been forced onto the boat against their will.

This trip is one of the best experiences of my life. If you like birds, it’s magical. I’ve come to see puffins, but it is the gannet colony that takes my breath away. I feel like the luckiest person on Earth as they fly close to our heads. There’s thousands of gannets breeding here.  The gannet is the biggest seabird in the Atlantic, and this colony is the most southern one in the world.

The gannet migrates here every year, arriving in February. They’re monogamous birds, too, so they find their partner, spend spring and summer with them, then depart in September. They meet again the following February and come back to the same nest.

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Gannet colony

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Bird shit, and lots of it!

And then there is the bird that everyone has come to see: the puffin. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were almost no puffins left here because hunters came to recreationally kill the birds. Now there are 250 couples who breed here, making their nests underground.

We also see razorbills (which are confusingly called pingouin in French). There’s only 20 couples left on the islands.  And there’s stunningly beautiful guillemots (again, there’s only around 20 couples). There’s also cormorants, oystercatchers and gulls.

The other passengers on the tour seem to wake up from their boredom when we see giant grey seals, their fat bodies laying lazily on rocks.

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Beautiful guillemots (top) and razorbills (bottom)

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Puffin!

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Oystercatchers

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Shags/Cormorants

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Puffin and razorbill

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Fat, lazy seal

The boat takes us along Breizh’s granite coast, before we disembark. Corentin and I laze at a nearby bay, and as he dozes in the sunshine, I watch rock pipits launch themselves high into the air, singing loudly, before swooping down to the ground again. What a perfect day.

 

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