Letter from Lundy: Celebrating World Seabird Day
PUBLISHED: 10:23 18 August 2017
Assistant warden on Lundy Island, Siân Scott, writes about celebrating World Seabird Day on the island, in this month’s Letter from Lundy.
Summer is well and truly under way on Lundy, with gloriously golden sunrises heralding the start of each new day, six-spot burnet moths shimmering on the wing like tiny fireworks, and the heady scent of yarrow whipped up by the warm westerly winds.
Given that our island owes its name to the charismatic puffin (in Old Norse, Lundy is ‘Puffin Island’), it seemed only right that we started the month of July off with some special events to mark the very first annual World Seabird Day.
The World Seabird Union has commemorated this day as it was the last known sighting of the great auk, which is particularly significant to Lundy as it is thought that this flightless alcid used to breed on the island.
So, we took visitors to see cousins of this extinct seabird: our puffins at Jenny’s Cove.
We watched these miniature ‘clowns’ strutting around the cliffs, showing off their crayon-bright beaks, with the juveniles gambolling over the cliff edges in monochromatic chaos.
Everyone learned a little more about how important these birds are as indicators of ocean health.
As the cover of darkness descended, we set out for our second walk of the day: a night foray to find the more visually elusive Manx shearwaters.
These seabirds are perfectly adapted to life on the water, but are very much out of their depth on land. They only risk returning to their burrows at night.
As they make their unrefined crash landing, they let out an unmistakable call, and the slopes around Lundy resound with their eerie and disjointed symphony.
Sailors often used to mistake the sound of the home-coming birds as the wailing of the souls of the dead, and it certainly is an unsettling but wonderfully unique island experience.
The end of July saw most of our seabirds leave the island, with the majority heading out to the Atlantic where they spend the entire winter on the wild waters.
The plateau is quietening down too, with just the odd skylark trilling and wheatear chatting, as the autumn migration gets under way.
Each month certainly brings new discoveries to Lundy, and we are looking forward to welcoming seal pups in August.