I remember when I first saw the Puffin seabirds.
It was my first time sailing along the Kerry coastline and it was off Portmagee, on the appropriately named Puffin Island.
We had closed the small Island south of Valentia which is a wild bird conservancy for a look and it was, for me, a magical moment that I always remember.
Crowded along the cliff face, some in the water, I saw Puffins about which I’d heard so much, up close for the first time. My immediate image association was with clowns I had seen as a youngster at circus performances. The facial expressions, seen close-up through binoculars, their colour from blue to yellow and red striped beaks, the webbed orange-red feet, the waddling gait, and the way they bobbed around on the water.
"As sailors, we should be interested in the welfare of seabirds which can tell us so much about the marine environment"
I’ve seen them since, from a distance around the Skelligs, Horn Head in Donegal, on the Cliffs of Moher and the Great Saltee and why I’m telling you about them is because their hormones are driving them back to Ireland. As their European population has suffered a decline, the shores of our island nation are an important location for them to breed. I’ve been told by BirdWatch Ireland, the national voluntary organisation which protects Ireland's birds and habitats, that this is part of a huge seabird migration underway to Ireland that is hidden from the eyes and ears of most, but sailors may see it and can help. A special website has been set up for the purpose here.
As sailors, we should be interested in the welfare of seabirds which can tell us so much about the marine environment.
For me, the mention of Puffins, so synonymous with the sea, brought back memories of earlier sailing days. There are many other species on the way to our shores. You can hear more about all of this on my Podcast with Niall Hatch of BirdWatch.
• Listen to the Podcast below