Rebecca Black (PA)
The first puffins of the season have returned to Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island.
Rathlin Island plays host to the distinctive seabirds every year from Easter.
The RSPB Northern Ireland has confirmed the first puffins of the season have returned to Rathlin, and visitors will be able to see them and others at the charity’s seabird centre from Easter Sunday.
The conservation charity described the return of puffins to Rathlin every spring as a much-anticipated event.
They described the birds as punctual visitors, returning on or around the same day every year for the past six years, arriving just in time for the end of March.
However their arrival was the earliest ever recorded this year, with the first sighting on Saturday March 25.
Liam McFaul, RSPB NI Rathlin reserves warden, said many more puffins will return in the coming weeks.
“On Saturday, we caught a glance of the first puffins returning to the island. It is exciting to see their shining orange feet and vivid bills arriving to the island every year, and many more puffins will be returning to the island in the coming weeks, to nest in burrows and to rear their young,” he said.
“Despite puffins being listed as an endangered, red-listed species, one of the best places to see them in Northern Ireland is at the RSPB NI West Light Seabird Centre.
“The centre is reopening this Easter, on April 9. Visitors will be able to take in the sights and sounds of the seabird colony, while enjoying the beautiful scenery of Rathlin Island.”
Rathlin’s cliffs are also home to razorbills, fulmars and guillemots.
For more information about visiting RSPB NI’s Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre or walking trails, visit rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland.
Puffin Fratercula arctica on grass, Kebble National reserve, Rathlin Island (Photo credit: Andy Hay )