The last time we saw this little chap he was scuttling towards us just above the water, one lovely evening on Andrew’s boat early last August. Soon after he flew frenziedly past our bow that time, the puffins left the Farne Islands: our little bundle flapped furiously off into the vast and cruel Atlantic, never to touch land again until he returns to us in spring. Way out there, somewhere beyond the horizon – and a frighteningly long way from home – he remains; a tiny creature cast upon an awful stage, in an unfolding drama unscripted and uncertain. Imagine: as I ponder on this very thing, he is enduring with fortitude and an almost miraculous capacity for survival the kind of wind and weather of which our recent wild experiences can only give a hint. Though last Spring’s winds and seas, which were especially ghastly, killed thousands of young puffins on east coast beaches, throwing them up on the sand like puppets, the National Trust wardens counted the surviving population and found it thriving and increased in numbers. Being small myself, and much smaller than my Dickens brethren, I cannot comprehend how something quite so little can endure so much, and willingly wander such a very long way from what we would call his home.
But now we hear about another novelty of nature; about a small starling-sized bird with a delicate rusty-red splodge on his little head. He has seen such things as we can only dream on: the volcanic northern wastes, the white of Greenland, the lighthouses on Cape Cod, the sandy coastline just like ours, and on and on down to a palm-strewn coastline, waters bluer than the sky, the manta rays all shapely in the sea, the continents all passing, one by one. Dear little creature, knap-sack with your passport on your shoulder: there, and back again! We – who can barely understand the meaning of a life beyond these walls, beyond our beach, beyond our castles – salute you. And all winged creatures like you.
Read about and see this wonderful small bird at this website: