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Razorbills spend the winter offshore, arriving back at the nesting site towards the end of January. For the statistician, an RSPB bird count on Rathlin in 1999 put the bird population at: guillemots 95,567; razorbills 20,860 and puffins 2,500. Te years 2004 and 2005 were apparently disastrous for nesting seabirds especially in Scotland where some species failed to breed. Seabirds can cope with a bad year and, as long as food stocks are plentiful, numbers can recover. A rough count in 2005 by the warden Liam McFaul showed that Rathlin fared somewhat better than Scotland but some birds, especially the kittiwakes, were under stress. At first glance kittiwakes look like common gulls but

have much shorter black legs. Teir distinctive screaming call of ‘kitt-ee-wake’, hence the name, really tells them


to guillemots at 41 centimetres but much darker and thicker set. Teir broad bill has a distinctive white bar. Young razorbills take to sea at just 18 days. Tis is done at night to avoid predators such as gulls. Teir fat and downy feathers protect them from injury against the rocks as they flutter clumsily downwards. Te parents continue to feed them at sea until they can look after themselves.

Fulmars 46

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