Seeking sanctuary among terns and puffins, our writer volunteers for two weeks of manual work on a remote island run by the RSPB

  • Plus: more rural volunteering opportunities

At lunchtime on the second Sunday, the terns came to dance. A dozen sandwich terns – with long yellow-tipped beaks and punky black crests – among the hundreds of noisy, manic black-headed gulls on the beach. Their pre-mating bop involved a slow strut, legs bent and raised, and the hooking of wings in order to set off a lovely little pirouette.

I’d never have seen them but for Wesley, the assistant warden. “They came at exactly this time last year,” he said. “Aren’t they beautiful?”

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