Yesterday (Monday 27th May) heralded the launch of The Scottish Seabird Centre’s – a leading UK education and conservation charity – official 2019 puffin season, as these spectacular seabirds settle into their burrows and the first of this year’s pufflings (puffin chicks) begin to make an appearance.
The season marks the peak period of puffin activity on the local Isles of May, Fidra, and Craigleith. Indeed, sightings of adult puffins carrying food were recently confirmed by David Steel, Scottish Natural Heritage’s National Nature Reserve Manager on the Isle of May, indicating that the first of this year’s pufflings have now hatched.
Visitors to the Scottish Seabird Centre’s 5-star Discovery Centre can control the interactive island cameras to zoom in on the live puffin action. It’s also possible to see these amazing endangered birds from the highly acclaimed Seabird Centre boat trips that take in the local islands where the birds are nesting. Those on recent trips to the Isle of May have also spotted dolphins in the Firth of Forth.
The Isle of May is the largest puffin colony on the east coast of Britain, home to over 90,000 puffins from April to early August. The islands of Craigleith and Fidra feature as part of the Seabird Centre’s SOS Puffin Project, which has been running for 12 years and has seen over 1,200 volunteers getting involved to help puffins gain access to their burrows by cutting down an invasive plant called tree mallow.
Puffin numbers had crashed significantly on the islands, but thanks to all the hard work of the Centre volunteers, the local population is now recovering. Puffins have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species for birds. Like many seabirds they are at significant risk from a wide range of threats including climate change, pollution and marine litter.
Alex Turnbull, Discovery Centre Manager, said: “With the Firth of Forth being home to tens of thousands of puffins during puffin season and 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.
“Visitors of all ages love zooming in on the puffins as they control our interactive live cameras. And to see them when out on our Seabird Catamaran Cruise, Three Islands Seabird Seafari or Isle of May Landing is really quite special.”
The puffins typically begin to leave the islands towards the end of July, so it is recommended to book a trip now to see them at their peak.
Normal admission to the Discovery Centre: £9.95 per adult, £5.95 per child, £26 per family. Double boat trip and Discovery Centre tickets are also available. Visit the website for more details www.seabird.org
The Centre is also hosting a free Community Open Day to celebrate World Oceans Day, Saturday 8 June 2019 (10am to 6pm). In association with North Berwick Rotary Club and Firth of Forth Lobster Hatchery, this event will showcase the work that the charity does to help conserve the world’s oceans. Activities will take place throughout the day including a community beach clean with support from North Berwick Rotary Club, an interactive science show, rock pooling, family craft workshops and a talk from the team at the Lobster Hatchery. This event has been made possible thanks to funding from the North Berwick Trust.”