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A recent Channel Four documentary presented by Tony


Robinson of Blackadder and Time Team fame described egg collecting from cliffs as one of the worst jobs ever. While he was referring to Saxon times, it remained a dangerous occupation on Rathlin well into the 20th century. Te practice of egg gathering was made illegal in 1954.


Te views from the platform at the West Lighthouse are magnificent. Donegal to the west and Islay to the north are often visible in clear weather. Boats and ships of vari- ous kinds use these waters near Rathlin and a submarine moving to and from the Atlantic, out of Faslane on the River Clyde, is occasionally spotted.


Te location is ideal for a bit of whale, dolphin and porpoise spotting. Collectively this group is known as cetaceans. Te weather really does have to be in your favour as clear skies, light winds and a calm sea are needed. Endless visibility is an added bonus. Some tell-tale signs to watch out for are; hovering or diving gannets, mixed flocks of excited auks and gulls, vapour plumes, waves on a calm sea and a reflection caused by water running off a cetacean’s back as it surfaces. Basking sharks are also sometimes seen in Rathlin waters; one was seen in Killeany Bay in 2003. Fear not; despite their large size, they are harmless, filter feeders. You may, like me, find it hard to leave this special place. Console yourself with the knowledge that a later walk will bring you this way again. If this has been your first visit to the bird sanctuary and you have timed it right, then the


49


Lady’s Bedstraw


experience will have given you an overwhelming desire to relate the experience to others. Te beauty of the return journey is that you see eve-


rything from a different perspective and have a second chance to take in the rich variety of flowers, insects, butterflies and the many other birds that make Rathlin their home.


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