Seeing a lonely puffin on the cliffs gave visitor Peter Corrigan from Essex an idea.
Why not write a story for children that would tell a puffin's tale?
So that's exactly what he did.
'I was struck by the excitement of the youngsters. I could hear them asking teachers, mums and dads, “Will we see the puffins and gannets?” As a 75 year-old grandad, it was wonderful to experience', said Peter.
After talking to volunteers and staff to get some key puffin facts, Peter returned home and began to type. The result was a 800 word story that was published in the family-focussed 'Ireland's Own' magazine which has a weekly audience of around 35,000 people.
And here it is for our readers.
Peter Puffin Finds a Friend
Peter the puffin sat perched outside the burrow high up on the cliff face where he had hatched as a puffling five years ago. Looking out at the sparkling sea, he remembered that first launch off the ledge. It was scary but Mum and Dad had taught him well. Joining in with the other pufflings playing their favourite game, who could catch the most fish and store them in their beak, was so much fun. Thinking of all those fish made him realise how hungry he was. It was time to catch some food.
All day he’d been working, clearing the burrow, and once or twice he’d noticed another puffin soaring past, looking his way. Peter had kept his head down as Dad had warned him.
“You can’t be too careful, son, they might try to steal your place.”
Checking that the coast was clear, he launched himself off down to the sea, in search of his favourite meal. Sand eels. He dived in and surfaced with a beak full of shiny silver fish. Right in front of him was the puffin he had seen earlier.
“Are you following me?” he asked.
“No, not exactly. I know you from when I was a puffling.”
He took a closer look, realising she was vaguely familiar. Noticing a telltale mark on her beak, he asked her,
“In the big storm were you blown into the cliff and hurt”?
“Yes, you helped me back to our nest. I have never forgotten you Peter Puffin.”
“You remember my name,” he said delightedly.
“Yes, I’m Patsy.”
“Now I remember,” Peter said. “Are you nesting in your old location lower down the cliffs?”
“No,” she replied. “I have just returned alone from the long journey home. Mum and Dad are gone now and riding the wind. Unfortunately I’ve found that our burrow has been taken.”
“Oh! Dad warned me that could happen. Well, I have just finished clearing our old burrow. If you want, I have plenty of room,” he said hesitantly.
“Oh, yes, I would like that.”
He did a puffin blushing smile, making the orange colour of his beak even more striking.
“Do you remember the game we all played as pufflings, Patsy?”
“Yes,“ she said, “it was who can catch the most fish, but we had to keep them in our beaks.”
“Come on,” he said excitedly, “let’s play it now.”
Trying to impress her, he swooped down and hit the water awkwardly and surfaced with no fish. Patsy started giggling. “Oh, Peter, you’re such a clown.”
They lost count of who caught the most, but it didn’t matter, it was such fun, just like old times.
“Peter, can you show me your burrow now?”
“Okay, follow me.” And off he went, Patsy flying close by. As they landed at the burrow entrance he noticed she looked nervous.
“It’s alright, I know it’s a lot higher than your old home but you are much stronger now, and it’s very safe.” He comforted her, gently touching his beak against the mark on hers.
With a smile only puffins can do, she went inside. She gave a puffin gasp, taking a step back and nearly knocking Peter off the ledge. “It’s wonderful, Peter, and together we will make it even more cosy.”
Leaving Patsy to settle in, Peter went and perched on the cliff outside. As he watched the sun go down he realised today was meant to be. It all looked so beautiful, he now understood why his mum and dad had chosen this place.
He turned to find Patsy beside him. “Yes, it is. I was thinking back a few winters ago, out at sea with Mum and Dad, when they told me they would not be flying back with me.”
“What did they say?”
“Dad said, ‘it’s your time now, son, so off you go. We are going to ride the wind to that special place for puffins.’ As they flew off, I heard Mum call back, ‘Don’t forget all that we have taught you’.”
“How did you find your way home?” Patsy asked.
“It was a very long journey. A small storm had gathered but as I got closer to the cliffs, as if by magic a rainbow appeared. It seemed to start where I had traveled from and point off into the distance, so I followed it. It was shimmering and melting away as I got closer. And suddenly, there it was! Our old burrow. I was home at last.”
Patsy touched her beak to his. “We are both home now.”
Together they turned and gazed out across the moonlit sea.
“Goodnight Mum. Goodnight Dad,” they whispered.
Carried on the wind came a soft reply. “Goodnight Peter. Goodnight Patsy.”
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