I have arrived at Rathlin Island!
I am currently sitting at McCuaigs pub, enjoying one of the few sources of WiFi on the island. The pub overlooks the harbour, from where I can see all the way to the town of Ballycastle in the mainland of Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is my first time in NI and the views are absolutely spectacular. I have just started working at the RSPB Rathlin Island Seabird Centre two days ago.
I applied to be a residential volunteer with RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) in early April, and was happy to get a position working and staying on Rathlin Island. Rathlin Island is located a few miles off of the northern coast of NI, and it hosts thousands of seabirds during the summer months of May-August that come to breed on the rocky cliffs. . The main species found include guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills, and fulmars, all of which I have had the opportunity to watch as they rear their chicks. The seabird centre is a unique opportunity to view these birds as the island can host up to tens of thousands of Birds at a time, and tourists come from all over the world to see them. The centre is run by volunteers, and my job includes guiding the tourists through the centre, finding and identifying the birds as well as answering any questions on the habits and characteristics of the species, the conservation work at the RSPB and raising donations and recruiting members to the RSPB. I also take care of managing the reserve and keeping facilities clean and ready for visitors.
This experience is unique for me as I am also living on the island and representing RSPB during ny stay.. The island only has one shop open for three hours a day, a pub, a fish and chip shop, and various other amenities used by the locals. The cottage I am staying in is cozy and shared by all the volunteers, of which there are currently three, including me. Although the usual comforts of tv, internet and home are not available, the views and landscape make up for it and I think I will have a fantastic stay. Walking to the seabird centre takes 25 mins on Rocky, hilly roads. In the first two days I have been working I have already learnt a great deal about the birds. One of my favourite facts to share with visitors is that fulmar chicks can use the long nasal tube on their beaks to spit fish oil at incoming predatory birds, as such defending themselves and allowing the parents to be away hunting for days on end. It is very rewarding to spot puffins and show them to visiting kids as well, as many of the visitors come excited to see the puffins. Unfortunately a majority of the birds have already begun their autumn migrations, and spotting some of the species is difficult. During May and June the cliffs are supposed to be absolutely packed with birds, something I would love to see in the coming years.
For now I will get back to the cottage and prepare for the days to come by reading one of the many bird books that have been provided for us. I am really looking forward to the rest of my stay and hope to have plenty to report back in the next few weeks!
I hope to be able to post some pictures soon!