Posted 25th Apr 2018 by Peter Byrne
Puffin season has started at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick
The Isle of May is the largest puffin colony on Britain's east coast and is home to over 90,000 puffins between April and Early August. Yet puffins are on the Red List of Threatened Species. Like many seabirds, puffins are at risk from a range threats, including climate change, lack of food, pollution and marine litter.
The Seabird Centre has been running the SOS Puffin Project for the last 11 years, with over 1,100 volunteers getting involved to help puffins gain access to their burrows by cutting down an invasive plant known as tree mallow. While puffin numbers have significantly crashed, the local population is thankfully recovering.
Alex Turnbull, Discovery Centre Manager, said: "With the Firth of Forth being home to tens of thousands of puffins between April and early August and with the Isle of May being the largest puffin colony on the east coast of Britain, North Berwick is the ideal location for puffin spotting and to appreciate and learn about these wonderful birds."
The puffin is an unmistakable sight, with its black back and white underparts. The distinctive black head with large pale cheeks and the brightly-coloured bill gives it a comical appearance which is only heightened by its red and black eye markings and the bright orange legs.
Prefering offshore islands and high sea cliffs, they nest in burrows, under boulders or in cracks in cliffs, from where the predators cannot easiy reach them - these are puffinries. They will lay one egg, with their young called pufflings. After hatching, the young puffins will remain underground, concealed in the nest until night comes and it's time to head to the open sea. It will not return for some five years, until it's ready to breed.
Spending winter at sea, the birds will eat fish (and are particularly partial to sandeels).