Gordon Buchanan: Puffin colonies thriving

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SCOTLAND has such a rich diversity of wildlife and habitats, but our coastal and island environments are truly some of the most spectacular and precious in the world. So, who can blame the much-loved puffin for its affinity with our islands and cliffs?

The Firth of Forth, in particular, has proved a safe and fertile home for this unmistakable seabird, with its brightly coloured bill and bright orange legs. This year, adult puffins started arriving back at the breeding colonies on Isle of May, Fidra and Craigleith and they will leave again in early August. The annual arrival can see up to a phenomenal 90,000 “clowns of the sea” nesting along the Forth.

Scotland’s wildlife and seabird conservation is an issue very close to my heart, which is why I am proud to be opening Scotland’s first ever Puffin Fest. The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, which will host the ten-day festival, was created by local people in East Lothian who recognise the special nature of the area’s abundant wildlife and wanted visitors to see and appreciate seabirds and other wildlife in a sustainable way. I’ve filmed polar bears in the Arctic and cassowaries in Papua New Guinea, and puffin breeding season in Scotland is a great time for filmmakers and wildlife enthusiasts just like me to learn more about our precious bird populations, while enjoying observing them up close in their natural habitats.

The public has such an affection for puffins, so the Seabird Centre’s Puffin Fest is a great opportunity for people to understand the importance of conserving and protecting our seabirds for future generations. Along the islands of the Forth, the puffins nest in burrows called “puffinries” under boulders or in cracks in cliffs where predators cannot easily reach them and the one egg they lay. Puffins may have a life expectancy of 29 years, but the islands in the Firth of Forth can be overrun with the giant tree mallow plant, which grows to three metres and can prevent the puffins from nesting and rearing their pufflings. Last month saw the 200th volunteer work party, led by the Seabird Centre, go out to Craigleith and Fidra to cut down the tree mallow and monitor the increase in returning puffins, eider ducks and fulmars.

With puffin numbers on the increase in Scotland, there has never been a better time for us to celebrate them with their own, fittingly unique, festival.

Wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan will open Scotland’s first Puffin Fest at the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, on Friday. 
For more information visit seabird.org