Playing

I’ve really enjoyed reflecting on my time on this island through the birds I’ve seen, so I’ll continue the theme of my last blog. Since I’ve been back, I’ve seen more birds!

Some of them have been during travels. Black-headed gulls swooping in and out of a beach along the coast of the Baltic Sea at sunset, the sky awash in watercolor pinks and purples. Male mallards paddling along a little river at the base of Luxembourg City, calm and poised.

The most memorable birds I saw, though, were along the Causeway Coast. Last time I visited Giant’s Causeway was in summer of 2019, and there were nesting fulmars—my favorite birds. I walked right up to the grassy edge of the cliff, laid down on my stomach, and peered over the edge of the sheer overhang to watch the seabirds playing about below me. It felt like a great privilege (albeit a little wrong), to be able to look down at a bird as it flies through great heights.

One of my favorite things about seabirds is how free, wild, and unconfined they are. They are equally at home in the sea, sky, and land—dancing through the air in stormy conditions, resting on the open ocean or diving into its depths, and perching on rock and land. I yearn to be as boundless, feral, and powerful—fueled, almost, by inhospitability.

This time, we didn’t see fulmars at Giant’s Causeway, as they have been wintering. And unlike in the summer, the winds were now angry and fierce, sea foam blowing about like a busker’s bubbles. But as we were leaving, I caught sight of (likely) a Great Black-backed Gull, nonchalant and elegant as it swerved, cutting arcs through the viciously gusty sky.

I pointed it out excitedly to Maura. She craned her neck up. “It looks like it’s playing!”

I often birdwatch alone. But there’s a special joy about sharing a bird experience with another, however brief, and feeling your wonder mirrored in them. In that moment, as both of us gazed up at the majestic seabird, I blossomed in fleeting joy.

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