AWT Blog2019-06-02T20:40:57+00:00

Puffin Blog Monday 3rd June 2019

The pufflings have hatched

You will probably have noticed a big increase in activity from the puffins on the cameras from the last weeks of May onwards. This is because their chicks have hatched!

After incubating their eggs for about 6 weeks the parents will finally have a little beak to feed. Puffins only ever have one puffling chick per pair, but the parents have to put in a lot of effort to feed it and get the puffling fat before they fledge (leave to go out to sea at the end of the season).

On average the parent birds spend over 7 hours a day underwater plus around an hour and a half flying back and forth to fishing areas – imagine how much energy that takes! This includes eight to ten feeds every day of around 450 sand eels for themselves and the chick, for about six weeks.

Make sure to watch the cameras in the next few weeks to see the adults dropping in with fish in their beaks, avoiding the gulls which would steal the fish given the chance. We love to hear when watching on the cameras so leave a comment on the blogs or get in touch with Claire on headofoutreach@alderneywildlife.org to tell us what you’ve seen.

Claire Thorpe - People and Wildlife Officer, Alderney Wildlife Trust

Puffin Blog Tuesday 14th May 2019

Activity on puffin cameras really picked up in the last week, with lots of puffins appearing on land, walking between the burrows and clumsily taking off to go out to sea and fish.

You should hopefully have got a much clearer view of the birds now, but keep watching if not as activity will only increase when chicks hatch in a week or two! One of the most striking features on a puffin is its bill, so large in size and very bright. This has earned them the nickname ‘clown of the sea’ as their markings resemble old fashioned clown face paint and they can look a little silly when they are on land, rather than at home on and in the water when they are much more graceful.
Their black and white markings helped bring about their Latin name Fratercula arctica – the first part, Fratercula, means ‘little friar’ – their markings are said to look like a friar’s robes (a friar is another name for a monk). The little is fairly self-explanatory as they are only about 15-18cm tall!

While puffins may look unique there are actually four types of puffin! Our Atlantic puffins are the only one to have the blue triangle at the base of their bill – have you seen one close enough to spot all their beak colours yet?

Then there is the horned puffin, which has a much more yellow bill and breed on the western seaboard of the USA and northern Asia. Tufted puffins, unsurprisingly, have feathered tufts on their head in the breeding season; they are also a little larger than the other species but breed in the same area as the horned puffin.
Finally there is the rhinoceros auklet – it was misnamed as they look quite different but genetic analysis showed it is actually a puffin. They are much darker than the other species and are mainly nocturnal, also present in similar areas to the other 2 Pacific species.

Keep watching as in the next week or two the puffins will start bringing back fish for their young pufflings – will you be the first to spot a puffin with fish?

Claire Thorpe - People and Wildlife Officer, Alderney Wildlife Trust

Puffin Blog Tuesday 30th April 2019

By now some of the puffins will have laid eggs down in their burrows on Burhou. Both parents take turns incubating the egg for around 6 weeks – so there pufflings won’t be hatching until late May. On the cameras you may see the parents coming back and forth to swap over their time in the burrow, they’ll be spending a lot of time out at sea, fattening up ready for when they have an extra mouth to feed soon. Every day at 4pm colony cam will pan round Burhou, to the breeding burrows where it will zoom in, then cut across to show the bay where the puffins raft giving you a good chance of seeing the birds. Colony cam will also show views of the gull colony – did you know along with puffins there are over 1,000 pairs of lesser black-backed gulls nesting on Burhou. You can tell these gulls apart from herring gulls (what most people mean when they say seagull) because lessers have yellow legs whereas the herring gulls have pink.

In the last blog we mentioned what good swimmers the birds are, using their wings and feet to ‘fly’ underwater. When they dive for fish they can stay under for around a minute. But mostly their dives are shorter. Around Burhou the puffins will mainly be looking for sand eels (their favourite food), but will also eat  fish like herring and hake. Sometimes you can tell if a puffin has an egg in their burrow as they behave differently, guarding their burrow. If you spot a puffin stood very upright, taking very slow and careful foot movements it is probably guarding a burrow!

We had just finished making some adjustments to the cameras and once our team got back to the hut (where all the electrical equipment is kept) this puffin decided to take centre stage on the close-up camera.

Claire Thorpe - People and Wildlife Officer, Alderney Wildlife Trust

Puffin Blog Tuesday 2nd April 2019

Welcome to the Alderney puffincams!

These cameras will show you the daily lives of the puffins living on the islet of Burhou, just off the main island of Alderney. The puffins lay eggs in old rabbit burrows on land and rest and gather in groups, known as rafts, on the adjacent sea.

Just a few weeks ago the puffins arrived from their months out at sea, surviving storms and the cold winter in the Atlantic.

Watch as the birds choose their burrow for the nesting season, clearing out any old grass, feathers and poo from last year with their bill and feet or even digging new chambers (look out for flying soil on the cameras!).

Puffins mate for life, so the birds will come together for the breeding season and quite soon the female will lay her single egg. This will take a month to hatch so plenty of time for you to watch the parent birds coming back and forth on the cameras, both parents take turns incubating the egg and they will come back and forth with fish whichever is sitting on the egg.

They might look a little clumsy but Puffins are great flyers, flapping their wings up to 400 times a minute, and even better swimmers, diving up to 60m.

Claire Thorpe - People and Wildlife Officer, Alderney Wildlife Trust

 

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