May 18, 2024

It seemed a propitious omen for the day that as soon as our boat sailed out of Tobermory harbor and past the lighthouse it was greeted by a pod of dolphins eager to swim along in our wake. Soon afterwards we saw seals, too, and the rare storm petrel which spends most of its life at sea. We were bound for the Treshnish, an archipelago of uninhabited volcanic islands and skerries west of Mull. The largest of the islands, Lunga, is known for the puffins that arrive each summer to breed en masse. In fact, shortly after making landfall on the rocky coast I was in the company of those adorable, torpedo-shaped seabirds, as well as eider ducks, cormorants, and crested shags. I had expected to see a few other nesting birds as well, yet nothing quite prepared me for the sight of thousands upon thousands of razorbills, guillemots, and gulls nesting up the coast in the crags of a guano-drenched pinnacle of rock. It was like a scene from a horror film: half of the birds nesting, the other half circling the sky, and all of them cawing at a collectively deafening pitch. The puffins were docile by comparison. In pairs they burrow underground to lay a single egg, in groups they sit together quietly and preen. I sat and chatted with a rook of about twenty puffins while I ate my lunch. They watched me and I watched them. We got along famously. I was sad when the time came to leave – for the record, they didn’t seem to take any notice –  but other islands and other adventures called.

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