Today, (Monday, March 24) the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick is celebrating the landing of the first puffin of 2014 on the nearby islands, 16-days earlier than the first landing in 2013.
The puffins were spotted just off North Berwick on the island of Craigleith using the five-star Discovery Centre’s live interactive cameras by a group of young members, aged three and four, from Longniddry, with mums Emma Bouglet and Meg MacFarlane.
This landing is a significant milestone in the annual wildlife calendar, as the Firth of Forth is of international importance for seabirds. By May the islands will be home to around 500,000 seabirds including gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, shags and terns as well as the famous puffins.
This year’s sighting has added significance following the recent seabird wreck in the south of England and the Channel Islands, where thousands of dead seabirds were washed-up. Puffins were particularly badly affected.
Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “Seeing the puffins at this time of year is simply wonderful – based on last year we weren’t expecting them for another couple of weeks, so you can image the excitement in the Discovery Centre when they were spotted on our cameras. They have also just been spotted on the Isle of May.
“Puffins have had a very difficult time over the last few years with lack of food, flooded burrows and winter storms. It is therefore great to see them returning and looking so lively on camera. We look forward to welcoming lots of visitors to enjoy zooming in on these famous clowns of the sea!”
The Scottish Seabird Centre also highlights the plight of the puffins through the SOS Puffin campaign which began in 2007. The invasion of an alien plant called tree mallow prevented puffins reaching their burrows to nest, leading to a dramatic fall in puffin numbers on islands just off North Berwick. The 200th SOS Puffin volunteer work party is just around the corner, demonstrating an amazing volunteer effort that has resulted in a significant increase in puffin numbers as they have been able to return to the islands to breed.