The way Nicolson describes puffins makes you wonder if their name comes from ‘puffed up’ or ‘puffed out’, as there’s always a sense of their parading about inspecting things, and just a touch of pomposity.  Here, their examination of a rope reminds him of a biologist studying a new specimen.  Sadly, the rope is there to snare them, and their curiosity and lack of fear ensures they are caught.


‘The puffin is an extremely curious bird. It will inspect and pick up anything of interest on the grass in front of its burrow.  They will soon begin to investigate the catching rope.  One puffin after another sees it, snaps it up in its beak, shakes it, examines it with one eye like a monocled biologist …’


See also the quote rich mosaic review of this magnificent, entrancing book: a love letter to islands and a paean to the sea. 


Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 186

Photo credit: Ray Hennessy at


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