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Puffins, seals and more

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

written by Dana Byatt and Abby Corrigan

Our last club outing for the season was one that we were most looking forward to; a day at Rathlin Island. We met early Sunday morning at 7:30am, (now that’s dediction!) for the journey to Ballycastle and the 10am ferry. The weather was promising with only a little cloud and moderate temperatures although the crossing was baltic!

The group split into three. Our group hopeful of an encounter with puffins jumped into the puffin bus to the R.S.P.B Seabird Centre. We were prewarned that it was highly unlikely we would get close enough to take a decent shot but we took our chances; the journey alone was worth the trip with stunning views across the island but not for the faint hearted with sheer drops on occasion.

Arriving at the West Lighthouse a noisy chorus of bird chatter greeted us. With binoculars in hand we eventually spotted a small gathering of puffins near the bottom of the cliff hidden amid guillemots and various species of seagull; not the blanket of rainbow beaks that we were expecting but we remained hopeful of a closer encounter. All but two of the group had left to hedge their bets elsewhere when an R.S.P.B. volunteer drew our attention to a lone puffin several feet away on a grass verge. We scrambled over and snapped away. 

After lunch, with limited time before our ferry crossing, we made our way to the East Lighthouse where conditions remained good and there was ample subject matter as we discovered more puffins, various other seabirds, seals and of course the lighthouse itself

Our encounter with Rathlin was definitely worth the effort. Imbued with a wealth of scenery and wildlife I would recommend anyone who owns a camera to get out there and give it a shot!

Whilst one group journeyed to see the puffins, the rest of us decided to make our way to the Rue Lighthouse located at the southern tip of the island. As we set off from the harbour, we held our hopes high for sights of seals, historic ruins and Rathlin’s own grown botanical beauties - amidst the group was a mix of interests lined up for the camera’s eye to capture. After a short walk, we approached Mill Bay and to our delight we spotted our first pod of seals. As they lay in their element enjoying the serenity of the bay, we grabbed our telephoto zoom lenses and dispersed over the rocks to capture their contentment - without disrupting their relaxed morning bathe of course.

Happy with the snaps we had taken, we continued our long and hilly walk to the lighthouse. With warmth in the air and glimpses of the shimmering sun, we were able to enjoy taking in the rural life as we passed. Inhabited by only 150 people or so, Rathlin Island brought us an air of calm, and that was mirrored in the leisurely pace at which we strolled. We saw wild thistles and elegant orchids growing amongst grazing cows and playful lambs, and small lakes sparkled in the middle of a sea of green fields. Just as our legs began to burn with the tough endurance of the walk, we would spot something new to capture and our minds fluttered with excitement for our destined spot.

As we finally approached the most southern point of Rathlin, we were greeted with old ruins giving us a point of interest for our anticipated landscape shots. With a view of the lighthouse in the near distance we stopped to get some photos of the buildings, which sat on the water's edge - which to our excitement was lined with seals, and lots of them. Some basked in the sun whilst others bobbed about in the cool water. Between old ruins, fresh greeny, roaming sheep, a cute lighthouse and wild seals, this part of the island offered us a mass of photo opportunities to capture. Each of us ventured to capture what our hearts desired before heading back to the harbour to regroup with the others, and share our memories of a great day.

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