Today’s blog has been written by one of our volunteer puffineers, Antaia Christou, working on Project Puffin from her home in Cyprus.

One of the reasons Project Puffin has been so successful is down to the hard work of the team. We're mostly volunteers; identifying and measuring the fish in Puffarazzi photos; gathering our own puffin images; working on the science of studying puffin diet; sourcing photos from online galleries and communicating our findings. But why have we gotten involved?

“Puffins are lovely and remarkable birds. They have so much character with their handsome appearance, their behaviour around burrows, the lovely noises they make and the astonishing effort they go to feed their young pufflings!” – Oliver Prince, Puffineer

From the South Downs, to north Scotland, the Czech Republic to Malta, the seventeen-strong team have come together to understand these special birds better. Computer scientists, biologists, ecologists and science communicators, we are all combining our skills to understand and analyse data, communicate our results and efforts to the public, and eventually influence policy makers. We are hoping that the projects results will lead to better protection of puffins and seabird colonies, based on science.

Some of the puffineer team!  

For some of the luckiest in the team, puffins were easy to come across as we live close to colonies in the UK. Our interest was sparked with having these close encounters and watching them for hours and gave us a bug that is not easy to get rid of.

Oliver, a keen photographer, has been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time among these birds. “From a personal point of view, there’s nowhere better to spend time than a seabird colony. The isolation from other people, the sight, the noise and the smell are all extraordinary, and I can’t get enough of it.”

For some of us however, puffins were nowhere near our local wildlife patch, or even visitors to our small Mediterranean islands. That’s where documentaries and wildlife magazines came in. They gave us an insight into the lives of these amazing creatures, and just like that, we were hooked. Chris, from Malta, has now been a ranger in a puffin colony since 2017. For me, Project Puffin gives me the opportunity to still help, even if I am still very far from them.

Others from the team, like Fritha or Rob, are curious to uncover the interaction in puffins foraging behaviour and see how that related to human activities like overfishing or climate change. Or to see how much we can learn from a photo that was taken many years ago and has been stored away ever since.

The inspiration for our work (c) Oli Prince 

In the end, what we all have in common is a deep love of and concern about the decline of this species in recent years. We have all seen this as an opportunity to make a difference.

And you can help. We are depending on the public to join the Puffarazzi and  provide us with our core data! The only requirement is to send us your photos from a puffin colony in the UK – any time, any date..  Thanks to the citizen science approach, a photo of a puffin carrying fish for its chicks can provide us with plenty of information. The photo doesn’t have to be artistic, stunning, or even sharp! Our expert team of Puffineers will do their best to decipher the photo and identify the species and numbers of fish.

Seabirds are indicators of the health of our oceans, we need to do more to help them. To read more about our project and how to get involved, visit our webpage.

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