Puffarazzi can help conservation

Your pictures of puffins this summer could be crucial to their long-term survival.  Picture: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Your pictures of puffins this summer could be crucial to their long-term survival. Picture: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Heading out to a puffin colony is a treat for young and old alike.

And this summer RSPB Scotland is asking visitors make sure they take a camera with them and play a part in an innovative conservation project.

The hope is the legion of snap-happy ‘Puffarazzi’ will help discover what the ‘sea parrots’ feed the baby pufflings.

The colourful, comical characters are plummeting in number and have been declared vulnerable to global extinction.

Now, visitors to their colonies can play a part in a new citizen science project by photographing puffins carrying fish for their chicks in June and July and uploading the images to a dedicated webpage www.rspb.org.uk/projectpuffin. Here RSPB Scotland will analyse the photos and identify the fish to build up a picture of what puffins around the UK and Ireland are feeding their chicks.

‘Puffarazzi’ is part of Project Puffin, which launched earlier this year with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland with the aim of monitoring feeding habits and numbers by combining the latest technology with citizen science.

Dr Ellie Owen, who is leading the project, said: “Puffins are facing huge declines over the next 50 years – it’s estimated their numbers will go down by between 50-70 percent by 2065 – so it’s really important that we act now to help them.

“Anyone can take part – there are some easy steps to follow to ensure that the information being gathered by the images submitted is scientifically robust, and that puffins, and other wildlife, aren’t disturbed while the photos are taken.”

Guidance for Puffarazzi can be found on the Project Puffin webpage and covers how to avoid disturbing puffins as they photograph them. This includes avoiding spending more than a couple of minutes photographing a puffin carrying fish, keeping movements and noise to a minimum, not walking near or over puffin burrows, and keeping at least five metres away from puffins at all times.

There is also advice on

how to take the photos to ensure that the images capture the scientific information needed by the project, how to stay safe while photographing the birds and an online portal where the images can be uploaded.

Ellie added: “It’s great that the public are able to play such an active role in this project; we hope people will be inspired by the plight of these birds to become Puffarazzi.

“This is a chance for people to help shape the future for puffins.

Thomas Saveall won the Project Spotlight Volunteer award at the Citizens Advice Scotland conference. He was presented with a silver Quaich by HRH Princess Anne. Picture - Stewart Attwood''''All images � Stewart Attwood Photography 2019.  All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission. No Syndication Permitted.

Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

“We expect that the information collected by the project will advise government on the best ways to protect puffins at sea so anyone taking part in Puffarazzi will be providing us with valuable data that should have a long term impact.”