Visiting Noup Head on Westray is always exhilarating. It’s even more exhilarating the closer you get to the edge of the cliffs. Then it stops being exhilarating and becomes terrifying.
Looking down I can see a Bridled Guillemot. It’s a Guillemot, but bridled. It’s wearing a feather pattern of beautiful white spectacles. It’s spectacular.
The percentage of Guillemots which have bridled eyes varies across their territory. It’s a classic example of a cline. A cline is a gradient in a single feature of a species across its geographical range. It’s from the Greek word klinein, meaning to lean. Think incline.
When they counted the bridled and non-bridled forms in 1939 they found only 1 in 400 were bridled in the south of the UK and 1 in 4 in some parts of the north. I wonder how many bridled forms there are here?
Looking from the top of the cliffs, that’s quite some incline. The ocean is 76 metres below.
Underneath are Gannet families. They first nested here in 2003 and there are now hundreds of fat and fluffy chicks here.
They are a noisy, smelly delight.