Finding where the noise is coming from

There’s a bird calling and we don’t know where it is. The sound is coming from below our feet somewhere on the cliffs. It seems like it’s coming out of the cracks in the rock, from within the cliff itself. It’s a two note cry, repeated four times. I say repeated four times, but the call is made once and then repeated three times. Ambiguity is the enemy of understanding.

We search for it, trying first to get near it so we can identify it and then trying to get away from it so we don’t upset it. “Is it a chick?” I ask. “Maybe it’s an alarm call?” We walk on and I realise it’s coming from the sea and not the cliff. The cliff is just reflecting the sound and echoing it to our ears. I get my binoculars and train them on a tiny dot in the Atlantic. It’s a small auk. I think it’s a young Guillemot.

Guillemot Juvenile - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I see its mouth move and then hear its cry. “Is it meant to be off the cliff when it’s so small?”

I climb down the rocks of the cliff and walk out on a rock ledge to get as close a photograph as possible without getting wet feet or swept away. It’s in the grey sea calling for an hour. The Puffin Whisperer is getting anxious about its survival.

Guillemot Juvenile - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Then I see an adult Guillemot appear and greet the juvenile and feed it with wide-open beak. If relief was something that could be palpated then the relief would have been palpable. That’s the power of family and survival, played out in the most uncompromising of conditions on the edge of the ocean.

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