THE Scottish Seabird Centre has urged the public to be on the lookout for young puffins with puffling season now in full swing.
Puffins and their young are leaving their burrows on the islands of Fidra and Craigleith as well as the Isle of May Nature Reserve and heading out to sea, before coming ashore next spring to breed again.
Some pufflings, however, can become confused by lights on the mainland, and occasionally the juvenile birds will fly towards towns, and will find somewhere dark to hide from predators, such as seagulls.
And staff at the Seabird Centre are asking North Berwick residents to check under cars and in gardens for any young disorientated birds.
Two pufflings have already been rescued and safely returned to sea.
A puffling was spotted hiding under a car on North Berwick High Street on July 19 by Seabird Centre Boat Office Manager Claudia Gehrig, and with the Scottish SPCA’s help, the puffling, named Phil, was coaxed into a long net, given the once-over at the Seabird Centre and returned to sea.
And a second puffling - Polly - was discovered in a garden by Sandra and Ronnie Williams and their dog Alfie.
Sandra said: “We realised it was a puffling and so managed to catch it and kept it safe overnight in a box in the garage. We phoned the Seabird Centre the following morning and took it down there where staff looked after Polly until it was time to head back out to sea.”
Polly was then returned to the sea between the Bass Rock and Craigleith after hitching a lift on a Three Islands Seabird Safari boat trip, after a short period recovering at the Seabird Centre.
Centre chief Tom Brock has urged members of the public to be vigilant, and contact the Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999 if they come across a puffling.
He added: “These two rescues have demonstrated that there are pufflings around North Berwick just now so we are appealing to everyone to please keep an eye out under cars and in their gardens over the next few weeks.
“It is a crucial time in the puffin season and we want to ensure as many as possible of these wonderful seabirds make it out to sea.
“Pufflings look very different from their colourful parents; they are shades of grey, white and black, their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have in summer. Both puffins and pufflings can be killed and eaten by gulls, which we are also keen to avoid.
“If we can rescue and release as many pufflings as possible, we can look forward to seeing them in future years from our boat trips and on our live cameras when they themselves return to breed on the local islands.”
There are estimated to be around 5,500 occupied puffin burrows on Craigleith and over 50,000 around the Firth of Forth, with two adults and one puffling for every successful burrow.