Baby puffins going missing in the Forth

The centre is urging people to look out for pufflings in trouble.
The centre is urging people to look out for pufflings in trouble.
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it’s the time of year when baby puffins venture into the Forth for the first time – and often end up in a bit of a flap.

The Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick is urging locals to keep an eye out for the young pufflings as two have already been rescued this season.

The centre’s boat guide, James Leyden, was involved in both of the mercy missions last week, the first on the Isle of May.

Then a family visiting from California helped release the puffling into the sea.

This was shortly followed by a second rescue when James found a puffling in the same location as the first near the harbour trapped between nettles and one of the 19th century field walls obstructing their path to the sea.

On this occasion, he was helped by a family from Glasgow who were on the trip.

James has a tradition of naming rescued pufflings after the youngest passenger, so the second puffling was named after ten-year-old Alex Douglas, from Newton Mearns.

Alex’s mum, Catriona Douglas said: “We had a fabulous day out on the Isle of May trip.

“During the day, the guide James found a puffling and we were lucky enough to see him release it from the boat into the sea.

“This was a wonderful family moment for us.”

Boat guide James said pufflings often ran into bother on their first trip.

“Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows not only on the Isle of May, but also Craigleith.

“After leaving their burrows some pufflings can become disorientated by lights from the mainland. Their first ever flight may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators, often underneath cars and under plants in gardens.

“When we take the pufflings out to sea, we take them well away from the islands and especially the predator gulls.

“Both pufflings took to the water with vigour, enjoying their first dive almost immediately, which is a good sign. They then swam off into the North Sea where they will typically live for the next three years.”

The seabird centre is appealing for people to be vigilant over the next six weeks. Anyone who finds a puffling should alert them on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.

James added: “Pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts, so often people don’t realise what they can see is a puffling. They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have in summer.”

There are around 5,500 apparently occupied puffin 
burrows on Craigleith and around 55,000 in total on islands in the Forth, with two adults and one puffling for each successful burrow nest.

The Scottish Seabird Centre leads a number of campaigns focussing on the conservation of seabirds and the marine environment including SOS Puffin, a campaign to remove a giant invasive plant called tree mallow.