I like how this programme (The Last Seabird Summer?) presents an encounter with a seabird in an intelligent and thoughtful way. You get a sense of what it must be like to be a shag - living in a "slum hell-hole", scampering about the rocks, freely spraying shit wherever you feel like. (Look at the shag's face as it does that. Isn't there a look approaching pride on its face? Isn't it almost triumphant about the complete liberty it has to shit where it pleases?)
Our ancestors must have spent a lot of time thinking about animals, because their relationships with them were so intimate. And that doesn't just mean domestic animals - it includes creatures like the shag, which until fairly recently people living on the coasts of Northern Britain would gather to make into stew. It doesn't surprise me in the least that folk tales in any culture you care to name are almost obsessed with animals which can turn into humans and vice versa, animals which can talk, animals which are magical, and so forth. Imbuing animals with totemic significance is completely natural if you spend any time whatsoever interacting with them in their wild environment. It's only a small step from there to imbuing them with supernatural powers: a shag becomes not just a sea bird, but "the voice of the earth" - some elemental being produced from the collision between land and sea.
Animals are an undervalued resource in fantasy RPGs. They tend to appear on random encounter tables to cause trouble, or in lairs as "giant [x]". All the attention is diverted towards mythological creatures - the monstrous. There is something more interesting to me in the subtleties of animals presented not as monsters but as spirits of nature with significance and power - which, if the players think about hard enough, may be in some small way understood.