Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Thursday, 21 July 2005 15:52 UK

Island set for puffin spectacular

More than 250,000 puffins can be seen from the island

Summer is still at its height but birdwatchers are already being warned that it's their last chance this year to see the puffins on Rathlin Island.

Stephanie Sim of the RSPB said the puffins always leave the County Antrim island in the next few days.

"It's a little bit sad when they do go, because it means that summer is winding down," she added.

She said the views of the puffins at an RSPB-run vantage point on the island can be "spectacular".

"Last year it was quite incredible. We saw the puffins 'beaking' before they left.

Rathlin Island map
"Quite simply, they hit each other's beaks repeatedly as a fond farewell, and the couple part until next spring, when they meet up again on the cliffs to rear their young.

"It can be quite thrilling, if not emotional, watching them go."

More than 250,000 birds can be seen at the cliffs from the RSPB viewpoint at West Light on the island.

The bird charity has also organised activities and children's games on Saturday and Sunday.

Located off the north coast of Antrim, Rathlin is only 14 miles from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.

It can be reached by ferry from Ballycastle.

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