Foraging shags and pair bonding is beguiling. Shags fly in bearing swags of seaweed as offerings to mates who weave it all into the fabric of their nests: sea-weed, sea campion, blue rope and an unwieldy chair leg. To keep us safe steel cable is anchored above the cliff, staked with metal posts. It protects us from the vertiginous drop as we peer down the cliff face. Shags nest almost beneath the cable, right at our feet. Sometimes eggs peep from beneath the brooding bird. Some have fledglings, reptilian looking creatures. There are parties of school children wholly engrossed in the sea-birds, as we are. I bet they’ll remember this day. I know I will.
Seabirds have a winter of solitude out at sea and a tight-packed sharing of sea-cliffs on which colonies breed. And what a contrast for Saint Cuthbert when he lived on Inner Farne as a hermit in the 8th century. He had thousands of seabirds for company during the spring and ten winters of solitude and wild weather.