Diary of a Young Naturalist – The Seabird Cliffs

26.05.18 Rathlin Island Seabird Centre – Full sun but a swift breeze.

If feels so good to be back here again. A lot more people around today, the last time, we practically had the island to ourselves.

When you first encounter the cliffs at Rathlin during breeding season (May-July) everything gloriously slams your senses all at once. The sights. The landscape, dramatically changed. The not quite pungent smell, yet. The cacophony, kaleidoscope of sounds. Thousands of birds. Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Fulmars and Puffins. A glorious breeding ground of survival and endurance. Wheeling and diving. Patrolling and protecting. Sauntering over the shoulder of the stack. Mind blowing. Magnificent.

I feel tickled and almost hysterical with anticipation. Focusing on each species.

Fulmars, dozing and waiting. A queen on her throne. Alone. Protected by shadowy wings, constantly flying past. She is like a Buddha in a trance, conserving energy, settling on the spot.

Guillemots. A bazaar, a congregation. One heaving mass. Safety in numbers. They completely cover the stack, them and the guano. A spectacle in numbers.

The Razorbills, cajoling each other. Craning their necks, clacking their beaks together. Snuggling down. Gorgeous sleek plumage. Monochrome mutiny breaks out to fight territory and claim.

Kittiwake, Kittiwake, showing bright orange. The pair stuck together, both on cliff side and in the air. Ocean faring nomads, they spend half the year far out at sea. Young birds stay there until they are two years or more. They seem like the softest of gulls but they are hardy and tough.

And oh, the little waddlers. Puffins. Slit eyes make them look like sleepwalkers. Heftily moving their small body across the green. It all seems like such an effort, but, they are like going from Kansas to Oz, multicoloured and charismatic. Diminutive inspectors, bumbling from burrow to burrow. Amazingly in flight, they can reach 55mph, manically flapping four hundred times a minute. My grin stretched from me, outwards towards the cliffs, connecting to each and every wing and beak.

I practiced my new challenge to myself, to talk, to interact. It actually felt good. Well, I am in my natural habitat. Everything feels so much more attainable when I’m outdoors, with nature.

I skipped up the steps. The heat mixed with wind and song; it was marvellous.

Thanks for reading

Dara

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