Sandwiched between storms and cancelled boat crossings is a fresh and bright spring day, which I have the pleasure of taking advantage of. I am preparing for El Camino de Santiago – one month’s trek across Spain – and so I walk the hills of Rathlin with a purposeful stride.
Down at Cooraghy the water roils and splashes around me. Under the surface are bubbles.
In the dark store rooms and the underground bunker there are animal bones on the dirty floor. Away from the light I can only distinguish them from the surrounding bits of machinery when my eyes become accustomed to the gloom. I am thirsty and drink from the well in the cave; the vibrancy of the green moss in the dappled sunlight never fails to entrance me.
After Cooraghy, I walk towards the lighthouse and consume my picnic, a reward for the strenuous cliff steps up from the pier and the continuous hill up to the West. I sit on the hillside overlooking the stacks which are empty and and not yet covered by the breeding Razorbills and Guillemots. The Fulmars, on the other hand, have arrived for the season.
I love watching as they aim to land elegantly on their precarious exposed cliff nests; often they miss and have to do another turn ´around the block´ before their final successful landing.
We called the beach at Killard in County Down the ‘Clackers’ – a phrase I had coined as a small child to describe the cackling cacophony of the nesting Fulmars there – the sound they make when they throw their heads back sporadically and cry with a guttural rhythm.
A description of the call of the Fulmar: “A series of throaty, guttural cackling notes, varying in speed, often accelerating and with increasing power, in duet between the sexes.” “ag – ag – ag – arr”