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seen passing the headlands as they make their way to and from their main fishing grounds near the Giant’s Causeway and are sometimes seen diving in Rathlin waters. Tey are a spectacular sight. Tere are 21 auk species in the world. Tey fly with rapid, whirring wing beats and have difficulty landing and taking off. Tey are expert swimmers and use their wings as paddles underwater, diving up to 60 metres. Te puffins are many people’s favourite bird and undoubtedly the main attraction at the West Light, as it is called by the RSPB. Tese cute and rather comical looking birds with their large, coloured beaks grow to about 30 centimetres and can live for 30 years. Tey nest in hollows on grassy banks or a cleft in the rocks, returning to the same place year after year where they lay one white egg. Arriving in May, they are gone by mid August. Parents more or less abandon their young when they are about six weeks old. Instinct takes over and during the hours of darkness the young puffins head for the water. Sometimes referred to as sea parrots, puffins spend the next eight to nine months at sea where moulting takes place. It may surprise you to learn that puffins were re-classified as fish by a papal edict several centuries ago. Tis was done by the church to assist islanders living in remote parts of Scotland like St. Kilda where the diet consisted mostly of puffin. While the rest of the Christian world ate fish on Fridays these isolated people were able to tuck into their ‘puffin fish’. Guillemots are spectacular by their sheer numbers. If


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they’re not packed together on the top of Stacknavarlea they’re hanging on for dear life to any useable ledge. A bridled form (white spectacles) can be seen in small numbers. Te further north you go this unusual marking can be seen in greater numbers. Guillemots lay a single white and bluish mottled egg the shape of a pear and hold it between their legs for four or five weeks. Both male and female share the incubation. Te egg, being pear shaped, spins rather than rolls away. Parents accompany the young, when they are five weeks old, into offshore waters and return to the colony as early as November. Razorbills are not so numerous. Tey are similar in size


Guillemots laying their eggs – can you spot one?


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