on the edge of my world full of birds
The very first thing you notice when you approach the summit of a headland (well, apart from the salt from the ocean carried by relentless wind gusts!) is that sudden cacophony; a bit like the Royal Albert Hall, or le Palais Garnier, in surround sound! High pitched, non-stop, storytelling in a multitude of avian languages!
To live on the edge of the North Atlantic, common guillemots (once called “petits pingouins” by French explorers on their voyage to Canada in the time of Jacques Cartier) find nesting safety in numbers on stacks. The chocolate colour member of the auk family – a cousin to the more maverick razorbill and the ever so clumsy looking puffin – returns to those rocky pinnacles to lay an egg even without bothering building a nest. The conical shape of the bluish stained egg somewhat prevents (or limits) a fall in the ocean…
To stand at the very top of the headland allows you to converse with feathers and exchange glances at close range.
That’s exactly what I did today with a few avian friends. “Johnathan” – not Seagull! – …Seagulls do NOT exist! “My Johnathan” happens to be the very affectionate name I once gave to fulmars, (the miniature version and very distant relative of the Southern Hemisphere based albatross) as I began to make my acquaintance with them on a more professional basis when wardening on and around this “belfry”, Sumburgh Head, now some nine years ago. I came to appreciate a world as real as it could be, not that bubble we, humans, have built around ourselves. A very raw, somewhat “harsh”, “tough” world in which the very concept of natural evolution as well as Darwinian concept of “survival of the fittest”… Here, you really witness life and death as it happens live.
Prey and predator live side by side, as wanted by nature to regulate itself. Many folk perceive predators, such as bonxies (aka great skua, as pictured on the right) as a pest… What those same folk forget to understand (or ignore) is that they have a very disctinctive function around bird colonies: they clean them of sick/injured birds, hence preventing epidemics on cliffs… Every creature has a function on Earth, otherwise, it simply does NOT exist.
The island has already begun to display a palette of colours all around. Now with June approaching, thrift (or sea pinks) have added to the myriad of petals around the headland, as well as on road verges and in ditches. The island is shining in sheer splendour. Walking around the edge of my world full of birds never ceases to amaze the eye and heart. Night has turned blue. The wind may still rage outside my window as I type, however,