Baby seabirds end up at fish and chip shop after losing their way
THEY have a reputation for loving fish, but usually prefer it uncooked and without chips.
So passers-by were more than a little surprised to discover four baby puffins loitering outside a fish and chip shop on a busy North Berwick street.
Seabird experts were called to the rescue after the pufflings lost their way and ended up in the seaside town. They were spotted on the pavement outside North Berwick Fry, on Quality Street, last week.
After checking the baby birds were unhurt, the team from the Seabird Centre returned them to the wild.
They are part of a breeding colony on Craigleith island, just off the shore.
The centre staff said the find is a sign that there are more birds breeding on the island. Local puffin numbers had declined since the 1990s, when it was one of the largest colonies in Scotland. An increase in tree-mallow, an invasive plant that grows up to nine feet tall, made it difficult for them to build burrows. But following the clearance of tree-mallow from the island, numbers are on the rise again.
Lynda Dalgleish, the centre's marketing manager, said several lost pufflings had been brought to the centre this year. The little birds are mainly grey, and lack the adults' distinctive, colourful beak.
She said: "The pufflings leave the nest under cover of dark to avoid predators, but several young pufflings got lost last week and managed to find their way to North Berwick High Street and outside the local fish and chip shop.
"It is quite common for pufflings to become disoriented and lose their way, and we are grateful for the help of their rescuers."
She said climate change and the growth in tree-mallow had led to the colony declining from a high of 28,000 pairs in the last decade. Many had also moved to the Isle of May, due to its large numbers of sand eels, the puffins' favourite food.
The Seabird Centre is involved in several local conservation projects, including the SOS Puffin projects on Craigleith and Fidra.
Ms Dalgleish added: "Now the numbers are definitely back up and that's bound to have a direct effect on the number of lost pufflings brought in to us."
A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said he was surprised to hear of seabirds getting lost.
He said: "Normally instinct and parental help mean puffins go straight out to sea in their natural habitat. For them to end up on a busy high street seems quite uncommon."
He said they usually advised people to leave baby birds alone, even if they appeared to have fallen out of their nest or been abandoned.
But he added: "In this case, since puffins are obviously not land birds, we would encourage people to call for assistance."
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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