Rathlin Island Walking Tours
with Paul Quinn
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July 2008

July and August are the busiest months on the island for visitors, particularly families with children. July is also a bit of a frenzy for the breeding birds. Things on the stacks are non stop with lots of chicks to be seen, but often only if you look carefully. I see that there is an oystercatcher sitting on the same spot as last year. In 2007 there was a chick, but so far I donít see any young this year. Above the cliffs the large gulls and the ravens patrol and sometimes the easiest way to see a guillemot chick is to check what the Greater Black Back Gull is carrying off in his mouth.

 

Wheatear are very prominent and stonechat too. I am able to count 57 seals at Mill Bay. The weather isnít the best, though. On the way across on the ferry it is as rough as any day in winter. I prefer to stay outside, but even when I pick the best area of the deck the swell of trapped water sloshing around wets my trousers above my boots. Later on, as I walk from the Coastguard hut to the East, the sky darkens and thunder and lightning start up. I zip up all clothing and plod on, skirting the cliff edge. It is calm and loggy*. A few days later I find myself scratching just below my chest. I have a look and see a small brown spot on my skin. When I run my finger along the skin, it is a little raised and it doesnít yield. This is a tick and it must have crawled in when I was zipped up against the rain a few days ago. I fear ticks more than tigers and I always take action to keep them away from me. So this is a persistent bugger. Magically, he slips off when I rub some butter on him.

 

I am involved with two groups this month and we cover a fair amount of ground. Bird highlights are Great Skua (3) flying over the new toilets and a pair of chough nearby on the same day. There is also a nice display of Bee and Pyramidal orchids. The second group is an extended family. Some of them are familiar with the island and they plan to arrive unannounced on an old friend. They hope that they donít encounter their friend during our walk. In the event we donít, and the younger members of the party enjoy taking part in a Rathlin treasure hunt. So a good day was had by all despite the fact that a mix up with ferry bookings meant that the party arrived 45 mins before me!

 

The only disappointment this month has been not getting to see the plays in the Community Hall, which are part of Festival Week.

 

* loggy : Ulster expression, weather that is humid but not unpleasant
© 2008 Paul Quinn. All Rights Reserved. Additional title photography © Andy McInroy