The Place for Puffins
In the midst of the mist-shrouded Bering Sea lies St. Paul Island, Alaska, the largest of the four Pribilof Islands. In summer, St. Paul blossoms into a haven for seabirds, marine mammals, Arctic Foxes, and even a wild herd of Reindeer. Home also to the largest Aleut (an Alaska Native Tribe) community in the United States, the Island is often known as “The Galapagos of the North” due to its bountiful wildlife.
Puffins are but one of many breeding seabirds that make St. Paul their summer home, but they are among the most spectacular. St. Paul boasts two species of puffins: Horned Puffin and Tufted Puffin. If you like the classics then Horned Puffin is for you, smartly attired in black and white set off by an orange and yellow bill, they are the clergy of the puffin world. However, if you like a bit of flair, fill your frame with the flowing blonde locks and contrasting inky black body of the Tufted Puffin. Your shutter count is sure to climb quickly. Both puffins can be closely approached on St. Paul and photographed from shore without the hassle of ever stepping on a boat.
Don’t forget to save some card space for the three species of breeding auklets, birds photographed more easily on St. Paul than anyplace else in the world. The expressive Crested Auklet with its recurved crest has character that is impossible not to capture. Least Auklet, the Island’s tiny gnomes, swarm on every rock, begging to be photographed. The awkward but accommodating Parakeet Auklet placidly peers back at you from mere feet away. The antics of all three of these enchanting auklets and the closeness with which they can be approached make them ideal subjects for countless photos.
The auklets do not complete the list of seabirds that inhabit St. Paul. The austere Common- and Thick-billed Murres coat the breeding cliff of St. Paul in the tens of thousands, Northern Fulmars wheel back and forth, and clouds of Black-legged Kittiwakes fill the air. Kittiwakes are so numerous that you cannot help but get fantastic images, both perched and in flight. St. Paul is also the easiest place to connect with the Bering Sea specialty, the photogenic Red-legged Kittiwake.
The photographic opportunities are not limited to birds. St. Paul is home to the largest rookery of Northern Fur Seas in the world, at nearly 500,000. In the summer, the action at the seal rookeries is nonstop: roaring males, gentle females, and tiny pups that bleat like lambs, any of which could create the shot of a lifetime.
Arctic Foxes, often accompanied by young pups, playful little balls of pure charisma, can be found outside one of the numerous dens on St. Paul. The impressive cliffs dropping into the ocean and tundra fields full of wildflowers complete a beautiful northern paradise.
Visit St. Paul Island, the Place for Puffins, and much, much more.