Welcoming back the seabirds at Rathlin Island!

YOU might not believe it looking out the window this week, but it’s almost summertime here in Northern Ireland, which for the RSPB’s Rathlin Island Seabird Centre means it’s almost time for the seabirds to return to breed.

It’s such an exciting time on the island, as puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and razorbills return to land to breed and raise their young. Every year, thousands of birds return to the dizzyingly high cliffs of Rathlin; facing difficult struggles like overcoming the harsh elements, avoiding predators and finding food.

The RSPB Seabird Centre offers unparalleled views of this amazing spectacle and visitors will see around 150,000 birds jostling to find a space to find a mate and raise their young. Plus, there are always friendly staff and volunteers on hand to answer your questions.

The birds usually start arriving now, with most of the activity taking place in May. This is a brilliant time to visit the Island as the birds will be trying to get the best nesting spot.

The first chicks will usually appear around the middle of June and throughout July and August will be busy getting into top condition to leave the shores of Rathlin Island and head back to the ocean for the winter.

The island itself is beautiful and is definitely worth a visit as there are some great spots for wildlife, lots of great facilities and many friendly folk! Visit the local harbour museum and then take the waymarked trail around Roonivoolin; the RSPB manage this area for rare species such as chough, corncrake and Irish hare.

In June, the RSPB organise a series of guided walks along this trail, which will help you spot seals, buzzards and beautiful plants like Lady’s Bedstraw and Harebell. Check out the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk or facebook/RSPBNorthernIreland for more details of this and other events taking place over the summer at Rathlin Island.

Getting there: Rathlin Island can be reached by a ferry from Ballycastle, County Antrim. To find out more about the reserve, call 028 2076 0062 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland Free entry to centre, open daily 10-4pm.