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Guillemot and Sandeel

Guillemot and Sandeel
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-06-07
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 400mm 2.8 IS
Exposure: f/6.3, 1/640 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Superb Birds [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-06-12 8:32
Viewed: 4413
Points: 52
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Taken on my trip to the Farne Islands on saturday, using my 400mm 2.8 + 1.4x converter. I find these birds very difficult to capture - they are so dark that it is almost impossible to get their eyes properly - also they huddle together in thick crowds on ledges.

Guillemot is the common name for several species of seabird in the auk family, comprising two genera: Uria and Cepphus. The word apparently derives from a form of the name William, cf. the Welsh: Gwillim or the French: Guillaume.

The Uria are known as murres in North America and, together with the Razorbill, Dovekie and the extinct Great Auk, make up the tribe Alcini. They have distinctly white bellies, thicker, longer bills than Cepphus and form very dense colonies on cliffs during the reproductive season.

The three species of Cepphus - for which the term "guillemot" is generally reserved in North America - form a tribe of their own: Cepphini. They are smaller than the Uria species, have black bellies, rounder heads and bright red feet.

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.

The breeding habitat is islands, rocky shores, cliffs and sea stacks on:
1. North Atlantic coasts, in North America as far south as New Brunswick, and in Europe as far south as Portugal.

2. 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.

Common Guillemots 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[2]. 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.

uleko, jaycee, maurydv, vanderschelden, rousettus, nglen, boreocypriensis, bobcat08, Dis. Ac., gracious, pekkavalo1, Luis52, goldyrs, rcrick, iris, jusninasirun, SelenE, eqshannon, Argus has marked this note useful
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To joey: How Far?Jamesp 4 06-13 14:06
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-06-12 10:15]

Hi James.

A fantastic capture of this beautiful Gullemot which I have never seen before. What a pose with the fish dangling from his beak. Colors are wonderful - deep and rich with a beautiful white. Superb details from head to toe - even the eyes. Just marvelous.


Hello James
A stunning capture...and with a sand eel..I guessed you must have caught a resident bird feeding on a sand eel!!
All the best

Spettacolare cattura, splendida composizione con il pesce nel becco mostrato con "trionfo", eccellente nitidezza, fantastico il contrasto dei colori e stupendo BG. Grazie e complimenti. Ciao Maurizio

Hello James,
A decisive moment as they call it...
Extraordinary content.
Technically I do like the black tones in your subject and the wonderful OOF BG.

Hello James
what a nice shot of this beutiful bird of the North. Great timing when it feeds. Nice details, and great focus. POV and composition great. good notes always. TFS, best wishes

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-06-12 11:15]

Hi James. You say not a easy bird to get right but you have have captured a fine close up of this elegant bird. with its smooth feathers. fine detail . well done TFS.

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-06-12 11:31]

Hello James,
Very beautiful photo in almost two colourtones. Great pose, sharpness, details and a very nice pose. Excellent composition.

Hi James,
An excellent capture of this cute Thin-billed Murre with superb details and nice composition. Your notes are great too as usual my friend. TFS.


  • Great 
  • viv Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 292 W: 3 N: 653] (3317)
  • [2008-06-12 11:44]

Hoi James,

What a very beautifull shot of this special bird, never seen it before, great on sharpnees and lots of details. I love the pose and its capture.
Thanks a lot.

Hi James,

My compliments. Under these circumstances such a sharp picture. Chapeau. A fantastic capture of this beautiful Gullemot. I have never seen before this bird. You take this shot at the right place and the right moment.

Your photo look almost a B&W picture. Wonderful.

Thanks for sharing and TFS BOB

Hello James,
The 1Ds can really brings out the superb fine details on the plummage especially on the head!
great camera and a great photographer for using it!
I loved the pose with good colour and details of it
many thanks
take care and my best regards

Hello James,

Great capture from this fantastic and beautiful bird that I in the real life not seen before.

great BG and dof and exellent details.


Hi James,

Excellent capture of this Guillemot with Sandeel. Nice capture of moment. Great pose and composition, good POV, nice colours and pin-sharp details. Good work.



  • Great 
  • Luis52 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1175 W: 8 N: 4240] (15809)
  • [2008-06-12 15:36]

Hola James.
Here You have an excellent photo My friend (as usual in Your work) Nice details and very sharp.
The pose is just beautiful too.

The ignorant dud that I am, i thought this was a penguin ( I know...but i did'nt see the feet first).
This is a beautiful introduction to this lovely bird, James and what timing!
Very well done!

Hi James,

What a stunning shot of this Guillemot and Sandeel, the detail is just amazing, wonderful colours, beautiful lighting, framing and composition all perfect, and with the colours of the OOF background this just makes the perfect image, really nice work mate, all the best,

Cheers Rick :)

Hello James. this is so pleasant in pose and perch. Beautiful sharp focus and excellent depth of field. Well done and best regards. Jusni

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-06-12 23:48]

Hi James,
A very good catch for both of you. Your frontal POV is a very good choice. Very well exposed and composed. TFS
Best wishes,

Hi James
I love this guy. Well done on the exposure settings to get the good colour and his eyes. Lovely inquisitive pose too.

  • Great 
  • pvs Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1127 W: 254 N: 3161] (14464)
  • [2008-06-13 0:26]

Hi James,

I think you managed quite ok with the exposure on the dark and white colors,I have only photographed the black guillemot,but you can see apart from the colors that they are quite alike,thanks


  • Great 
  • iris Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 479 W: 60 N: 970] (3088)
  • [2008-06-13 0:55]

Hi James,
A marvellous capture here and i think i remember seeing one in flight in Pekka's gallery and almost mistaking it to be Penguin and wondering how on earth can they fly like that!But, in this one the bird stands out excellently highlighting its distinct features. That catch in the beak adds the dynamic element to the composition.Yes, those eyes must have been a tricky affair, to get a perfect shot and here you are with an superb capture that is perfect and clearly presenting the details on its head.

Very well done.
TFS & Cheers

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-06-13 3:49]

Hello James,
Great capture of this Guillemot in a fine pose facing you with a fish in its beak. I like the look of them and wold love to see these birds. It reminds me of a painting by a great bird British bird artist called Keith Brookie where there are masses together gathered on a cliff.
TFS and best wishes, Ulla

A softness, not in the image but in the bird,and it almost shines on in it's spirit....Your image gives the bird some great quality which is hard to put into words...sometimes there are no words to describe..

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-06-13 10:09]
  • [+]

Fantastic capture of this Guillemot!
I love the matt dark-brown body and how it constrasts so starkly with its white belly.
I once got a prize shot of a swimming Guillemot off the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales but when I put the photos of it on my Dad's laptop I realised they'd disappeared! I still don't know what happened to the photos but I do know they've gone :-(
One day I'll go back there and have another go at photographing them :-)
How far off the coast is the Farne Islands? Sounds like a great place!

Anyway back to the shot!

Well that Sandeel in the beak is a massive bonus!
Very sharp and detailed.
Superb OOF BG, excellent lighting, perfectly exposed and a great composition... what more could you wish for? :-)

Very well done, James!


  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-06-14 7:00]

Hello James,
Great frame-filling capture of a common Guillemot. The POV and pose with the sandeel in its beak are excellent.
TFS this fine image,

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-07-03 9:10]

Hello James

Great clarity and sharpness.
Excellent timing to capture the fish in the mouth.
The colours are well saturated.
Excellent pov.


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