For as long as they can remember, the people of Lovund have been saying "here come the puffins" on 14 April. They say the same thing on the Faroe Islands – and on the coast of Finnmark. That day is also considered to be the first day of summer – and the day the bears leave their dens in the wilds of northern Sweden.
The Lovund puffins
Puffins leave the island of Lovund when the breeding season finishes towards the end of August. Then they head out into their true element – the North Sea and the waters around Norway. Out there, they live without setting foot on solid ground through a hard autumn and winter, constantly searching for food. The puffins, which have gathered in large colonies during the breeding season, now disperse across the vast ocean, and are extremely difficult to observe. They lose their beautiful coloured plumage – and while they are moulting, they are barely able to fly.
When the light returns in January/February, this reminds the birds that they must do their duty – make a family. The birds, which are now resplendent in their new colours and have grown back the distinctive horny plates on their bills, start returning to their breeding grounds. At the end of February, the fishermen off the islands of Træna are able to report the first puffin sightings, and gradually the birds get closer and closer to their destination: Lovund. From the beginning of April, you can often see them gathering in the areas close to the Lovund colony – the mouths of the fjords and the seas off the Helgeland coast.
In the seas west of Lovund, the puffins gather. The first birds tend to arrive in the early afternoon and gradually more and more puffins appear. We can only guess at what flirtation is going on in the flock, when the birds are gathered in large "floes", drifting about on the sea. Every now and then the birds will take off and fly in their characteristic figure of eight formations above the surface of the sea, before settling down again. Slowly, the flocks get nearer and nearer, and eventually we can just see them over the horizon.
And now the excitement starts to rise – will they get to Lundeura? More often than not though, the birds are more preoccupied with showing off to each other than finding their little island, and the displays of these flocks are a fantastic natural phenomenon. Then all of a sudden, they decide that they can't wait any longer. In their hundreds, then in their thousands, the flocks approach, gather together, make their inspections, fly in and out, and finally the first birds show the others the way home. "Here come the puffins"!