An Atlantic puffin in contemplative mood, somewhere off the coast of Raasay. They are the national bird of Newfoundland and Labrador I believe, a species at threat due to changes to their feeding conditions. They are pelagic, which means they dive for their dinner, supplementing with crustaceans and other sea life. I love their bold, colourful beak which grows larger and brighter during courting. Most of the time they are quiet fellows, apparently being known to purr, although this changes during mating season, when they can growl and squawk with the best of them. Are you wondering where Raasay is? It’s a small island off the coast of Skye, reached by a short ferry ride. I love this island for lots of reasons, not least because of one very deteremined man named Calum, who single handedly built a road. He got fed up with waiting for the powers that be to do the job, so he did it himself, properly. He is one of my heros.
(Credit to Frank Heumann for this wonderful photo, for more images, click on the link.)
I’m thinking about the summers of my youth, looking out the window and remembering warm days, freezies (ice lollies), endless hours that were never enough to, ride bikes, swing to touch the sky, play hopscotch or spin hula hoops, build forts (dens), go to the beach and only come home when it was dark and parental threats compelled us. Summer would not have been complete though without a bug catcher. In the interests of strong narrative I have searched for the aforementioned item to show you. What a joy when I found it, transporting me back to the cruel and wonderful years of my childhood. It was misnamed really, that innocent looking plastic container with the air holes (it also had a removeable lid, and usually came with a tiny plastic magnifying glass and yes, the plastic plant with plastic bugs, just to encourage you). It would have been more aptly named a bug crematorium or maybe a bug mortuary. I would spend hours looking for irridescent beetles, ladybirds (they always left a little yellow pee-like stain on your hand), hairy black and orange caterpillars, or my favourite, the inch worm. I would gather a small jungle of foliage to give my captives a comfortable home, put a bottle cap lid of water at the bottom and be satisfied they could not find better accomodation elsewhere. Except perhaps their own habitat. It is a heavy burden of guilt I have carried all these years, a wonder it makes me so happy to look at these torture devices. You will have realised what my four year old self could not - that being behind the plastic only concentrates the heat, that I didn’t have a clue what insects needed to live and theirs was a slow death at the hands of well meaning ignorance. Yet, despite the guilt I should be feeling, all I can do is smile at my photo find. For this meant summer, long days and the promise of fun, scraped knees, climbing trees and freedom. Not for my prisoners though.