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Puffling Rescues

Seabird Centre appeals for public to keep their eyes peeled for pufflings

Conservation and education charity, the Scottish Seabird Centre, is urging East Lothian residents to keep an eye out for young puffins, as puffling season is now in full swing.

Puffling (4)

The Seabird Centre was involved with its first rescue of the season on Tuesday 4 July out on the Isle of May. Boat Guide, James Leyden, found the young puffin and sought the assistance of Michael Duarte and his daughter Cece (age 16) who were on the boat trip.


Michael said: “We traveled from California to Scotland with the goal of visiting the Isle of May so my daughter could see puffins in the wild. We could not have been more pleased by the experience, and my daughter was certainly thrilled to be able to release the puffling into the sea.”


This was shortly followed by a second rescue on Wednesday 5 July. James found this 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 10-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.”


Scottish Seabird Centre boat guide, James Leyden, said: “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.


“We are appealing for people to be vigilant over the next 6 weeks. If you find a puffling please alert the Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.


“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.”


In 2016, North Berwick Wildlife Watch have created a video with award-winning photographer Barrie Williams. The video is a step-by-step guide about what do to if someone sees a puffling and wishes to help with its rescue. The video can be seen on the Centre’s website, YouTube channel and also in the Centre. It features Tammie Junior, a knitted puffling created by Seabird supporter, Hilary Smith.


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. This plant was preventing puffins from nesting and rearing their pufflings on the nearby islands of Fidra and Craigleith, causing a major population decline. Around 1,100 volunteers have helped with this project and, thanks to their hard work, local puffin numbers are recovering and biodiversity is increasing.




Scottish Seabird Centre

  • The Scottish Seabird Centre is an independent visitor attraction as well as a conservation and education charity dedicated to inspiring people to enjoy, learn about and look after our wildlife and natural environment.
  • Follow the Scottish Seabird Centre on Facebook/ScottishSeabirdCentre. Twitter @SeabirdCentre and Instagram @seabirdcentre
  • For more information on the Scottish Seabird Centre visit

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