Nine months of the year the cliffs near a little village just north of Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire coast are just cold and windy but for a few weeks in early summer they are cold and windy and noisy and smelly as well as the equivalent of a small human city in seabirds rocks up on shore, the inability to lay eggs which float being the one of the key flaws in their otherwise perfect adaptation to a life spent far out of sight of land. One day natural selection will deal with this issue and the RSPB will have spent a whole lot of money on the new café at the top of the cliffs for nowt, but before then if I was a bird I’d focus on the acquisition of the cornerstones of human civilisation; agriculture, fire and the potato peeler because the other evolutionary failure faced by the seabird kingdom, being a diet based entirely on fish but with no ability to make chips, would seem much more urgent than having to give birth on a vertical cliff face whilst a whole bunch of people watch on with telescopes big enough to see what page of Cycling Weekly an alien is reading while he’s sitting on his Martian kludgie.

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