Guest blog by Georgia Longmoor, Project Puffin Intern, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science

Puffins on the brink

In 2017, hundreds of people passionate about puffins ventured out to colonies across the UK, to help us find out what puffins are feeding their growing chicks.

Puffins are on the brink of becoming endangered, just as much as giant pandas, and we think that climate change and falling fish populations might be one of the causes. We were so excited to recruit ‘Puffarazzi’ to join us in our mission to help Britain’s favourite seabird!

People-powered puffin conservation

We received over 1400 images from over 600 volunteers, which gave us enough data to understand puffin diet in 10 colonies spread across the UK (stay tuned for our results, which should be published later this year).

Our trained team of puffineers scrutinized photos of puffins with fish from Skomer Island in Wales, to Bemptom Cliffs in Yorkshire, to Hermaness at the northern tip of the Shetland Isles.

We can’t believe how successful our project has been, and we are amazed that it’s received such huge support – not only from our colleagues at the RSPB, but from members of parliament in Holyrood, and citizen scientists across the UK who continue to follow the project.

Puffarazzi: take two!

If you’re one of these citizen scientists, you might have noticed fresh posts on social media this summer… Puffarazzi is back and here to stay for the next 2 years!

I’m excited to let you know that our team of puffineers from 2017 are all back this year, everyone was so happy when Ellie Owen (the brains behind the project) let us know it had been funded again!

And it doesn’t stop there – we have 5 new puffineers joining our ranks: Alice, Katie, Eliska, Frith and Antaia! Please visit our Puffarazzi website to find out all about them – they’re all lovers of seabirds and can’t wait to help us improve conservation for puffins!

Going into the past for Puffarazzi

We also have a new goal this time around. We’re not only collecting images from this summer, but from as far in the past as we can. We want to get an idea of how puffin diet has changed, and is continuing to change, as our climate becomes more and more in danger. We hope that this will bring exposure to the plight of our beloved puffins and help us in our mission to save them from becoming endangered species!

Puffineer training school!

As we’ve been eagerly awaiting our Puffarazzi photos coming in, it was time for our training to begin! Sian has been busy at work updating the ‘Fish Identification Guide’ that we’ll use to identify fish in these new photos, so we all reunited and welcomed the new faces to our team!

The first training session was at the beautiful RSPB Forsinard Flows reserve, surrounded by peaty bogs, highland roads and amazing scenery. Fritha and I drove there together through the Cairngorms national park, catching up about all things puffin!

When we weren’t focusing on our fish identification, we enjoyed the time in nature- going on relaxing walks and helping with litter-picking around the reserve. Forsinard is at the very north of Scotland, and it really felt like we were in another world. We were even lucky enough to travel to a puffin colony and try out Puffarazzi for ourselves!

We also had a second training session in Inverness, the home of the RSPB North Scotland Office, for the puffineers who couldn’t make it to Forsinard – and it was so nice to go back to the start of our Project Puffin journey in 2017, as we all met for the first time at the Inverness office!

Join the Puffarazzi

We have all loved reconnecting, getting to know each other, and learning all about fish for these past few summer months. As the year moves towards autumn, we are just as excited to ask you to get involved and join the team.

Like I mentioned, old photos are really key this time around – even if they’re in black and white, or printed on film, we would really love to see them!

Our new website is live, and we’re using the #Puffarazzi hashtag on Twitter. We’re hoping to write blogs as we go in these next two years, and we can’t wait for the surprises we’re sure are in store this time. It’s only been a few months, but we already have more photos than we collected back in 2017, and our oldest photo is more than a decade old!

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