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Puffins ahoy! The first Puffins of the season have returned to Rathlin Island, and they’re right on cue. From Easter Sunday, visitors can see them and other seabirds at RSPB NI’s Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre.
On Rathlin, the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland, the return of the Puffins to breed every spring is a much-anticipated event. These punctual visitors have returned on or around the same day every year for the past six years, arriving just in time for the end of March. And this year, Rathlin’s first Puffins were spotted on Saturday, 25 March, the earliest date ever recorded.
The first Puffin sighting of spring is always a heartening sight, according to Liam McFaul, RSPB NI Rathlin Reserves Warden. “On Saturday, we caught a glance of the first Puffins returning to the island. It is exciting to see their shining orange feet and vivid bills arriving to the island every year, and many more Puffins will be returning to the island in the coming weeks, to nest in burrows and to rear their young.”
The Puffins aren’t Rathlin Island’s only avian residents. The island’s cliffs are also home to Razorbills, Fulmars and Guillemots. Like Puffins, these birds also nest and raise their young before returning to their life at sea in the late summer. Adult Puffins alternate incubating their single egg, starting from late April or early May, and share the feeding responsibilities until the youngster is ready to fledge.
Liam added “Despite Puffins being listed as an endangered, red-listed species, one of the best places to see them in Northern Ireland is at the RSPB NI West Light Seabird Centre. The centre is reopening this Easter, on 9 April. Visitors will be able to take in the sights and sounds of the seabird colony, while enjoying the beautiful scenery of Rathlin Island.”
For those who enjoy nature and the great outdoors, there is also the option to enjoy RSPB NI’s walking trails, to take in Rathlin’s breath-taking views and rugged scenery. The Craigmacagan Nature Reserve is a 2.1km walking trail, which opened in 2022, and their Roonivoolin route at the southern tip provides another chance to see the island’s breath-taking scenery. These are just a few of the hiking opportunities to be found on Rathlin Island.
For more information about visiting RSPB NI’s Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre or walking trails, visit rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland.
For further details on Rathlin Island and how to get there, visit https://rathlin360.com/