First of all - thank you everyone who has been in touch about Puffincam. It is most heartening for us to hear how much you've enjoyed watching seabirds online or at Sumburgh Head.
Secondly - thanks to Andy Steven, from our partners Promote Shetland. Like Newton and I, Andy has given up so much of his own time to help bring Puffincam and Cliffcam to our computer screens. Andy has gone through hours and hours footage to try and unpick what happened. On Monday, he came to the Shetland Office - which became CSI Sumburgh Head. Here's what we know.
Between 21.45 Monday and 04.00 Tuesday, the puffling received wounds to its back. The cameras only show puffins and rabbits being present. There appeared to be some feeding (we need to investigage footage closer), but sometimes it seems as if vegetation is being passed to the youngster, not fish. An adult frequently seems to be trying to get behind the chick on the left hand side of the screen, and sometimes the chick is shoved from entrance to entrance and even gets trodden on.
We're all trying to interpret what happened. The wound looked like it has come about from pecking, but we cannot be sure what happened. Some folk suggest that adult puffins are trying to provoke a reaction in the chick, trying to get it to move in a caring way. Another suggests that the chick is being persistently attacked (i.e. repeatedly pecked) in the back. The chick probably has not been getting enough food. If it was better fed, maybe the wound would have healed up fine. Puffins pretty much all look the same and parents don't recognise their chicks. Could it be that only one of the birds was a parent, the other having perished at sea? Ah, the mysteries of nature!
There's so much we'll never know about wildlife, but advances in technology helps shed light. Take the FAME project, which you've no doubt read about in the last issue of Birds magazine, revealing where seabirds are foraging, and the many webcams across RSPB. As well as technologically supported research, pure observation and recording remains the mainstay of scientific research and monitoring. Claire, a Nuffield sponsored student from the Anderson High School , is undertaking a study into predators at Sumburgh Head. She is spending hours and hours watching to see who is the most successful avian predator around the reserve - will it be bonxies, swaabies, hoodies or another?
There's plenty of reasons to visit Sumburgh Head, even on days when the weather isn't sunny and calm. Here's an update from Stephanie, our Date With Nature assistant at Sumburgh Head. She wrote this when working in wintry conditions on Sunday.
"Puffins enjoy the wild weather"
It is a wet, windy and wild day up at Sumburgh Head! The deep blue, churning sea is foaming with white horses galloping towards the black might of the cliffs, as the rain blusters across the headland. While this seems to have put off our human visitors, the puffins are made of sterner stuff and are out fishing in force, launching themselves into the wind and circling in great clouds! The weather, while dramatic, is of no cause for concern for our puffins, who are used to the rough weather of the North Atlantic where they spend their winters.
On the cliffs, a sooty-faced puffling was spotted this morning on Cliffcam, out of the burrow and having a look around at the world, closely guarded by a parent. It looks like this chick will make it and is thinking about fledging, perhaps tonight when the wind is due to calm down. The two-week old, once white and fluffy fulmar chicks, are now dark grey and rather bedraggled, trying their best to shelter behind mum as they wait for dad to bring in the fish. At the bottom of the cliffs, there are noticeably fewer guillemots now, as most of the chicks have gone with dad out to sea over the last nights, but there are still some around, waiting for the wind to drop and take the plunge.
Thanks for reading!
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