Puffarazzi wanted in Orkney to help puffin conservation efforts

Jess Barrett

Thursday 1 June 2017

RSPB Scotland citizen science photography project

This summer RSPB Scotland is asking visitors to puffin colonies in Orkney and around the UK and Ireland to play a vital role in an innovative project aimed at helping puffin conservation. The conservation organisation is asking people to become Puffarazzi in aid of discovering more about what puffins feed their chicks.

As Orkney is home to nearly 10% of the puffins that breed in the UK and Ireland, it is really important that what Orkney's pufflings are being fed is recorded as part of this project.

Puffins are one of our best-loved birds and over the summer months as they breed along our shores many people visit their colonies to catch sight of these birds, with their colourful bills and eye markings. However, puffin numbers have plummeted in recent years across the UK and Europe, leading to the species being declared vulnerable to global extinction.

Now, visitors to colonies such as those at Castle o' Burrian on Westray, Hoxa Head on South Ronaldsay or RSPB Scotland Marwick Head on Mainland Orkney, 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. The project aims to find out more about what puffins feed their chicks, where they go to find food and how their numbers are changing by combining the latest technology with citizen science.

Dr Ellie Owen, who is leading Project Puffin, said: "We're really excited to be starting the Puffarazzi phase of Project Puffin. We know that many people love to visit puffin colonies during the summer and this part of the project gives them the chance to contribute to helping these much loved birds.

"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 in Puffarazzi - 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; 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."

Notes:

1. For further information on Puffarazzi and Project Puffin please visit www.rspb.org.uk/projectpuffin

2. Atlantic puffins are classed as "vulnerable" by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (see here). Birdlife International estimates the species will decline by between 50-70% by 2065 (see here).

3. 3. Puffin population data from Seabird 2000 for Orkney and the UK and Ireland: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/PDF/S2000_25_puf_tabs_and_figs_web.pdf

4. About RSPB Scotland

RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the country's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

5. About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. www.hlf.org.uk Follow us on Facebook HLFScotland and twitter @HLFScotland

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