It is with great shock and sadness that I am posting this entry to the Shetland blog. Today, around noon, our little puffin chick took its last breaths. It has been an emotional and confusing day, and we still do not know exactly what happened. I'll try to summarise here, but hope to reveal more over the next day or so.
This morning, we could see the puffin chick and parent birds. Just after noon, we noticed the adult puffins behaving unusually in the burrow, particularly kicking nest material around and they appeared to be distressed. As we watched here in the RSPB Shetland Office at Sumburgh Head, we tried to work out what was happening. We started to fear the worst and that something bad had happened to the chick, but didn't want to raise alarm just in case there was an explanation.
I tentatively used Twitter #puffincam to see if anyone had witnessed unusual behaviour. I soon spoke with a lady called Elizabeth who revealed that our fears were a reality. I have to admit, I still remained hopeful but as the minutes became hours, and the emails came flooding in I had to accept that this was the end for the puffling.
Initially, we were assuming that the death of the chick was related to a food shortage. Many of our seabirds have had a poor breeding season in Shetland, due to a lack of available sand eels. Having spoken with some seabird experts, we decided to take some measurements of the chick - so to help us get a better understanding of the breeding season (i.e how heavy was it and how well had its feathers grown). I visited the burrow when the adults were absent and retrieved the chick. It was a good weight, with plenty of fat around it's breastbone. However, Blair noticed wounds on its back. It had been attacked, and from the look of it (and the emails we've recevied from aroudn the world) we are thinking it was by another puffin or two.
We are most grateful to everyone who got in touch, from England to the USA, Australia to Chile - you have truly helped us today. Andy is currently downloading the footage from the last 24 hours so I hope we can reveal more to you over the next couple of days. It seems there was an incident between 7 and 9am with another one or two puffins.
It has been heartwarming hearing such good feedback from all the viewers who have been enjoying Puffincam.
Remember that Sumburgh Head is still a great place to visit. The guillemots are still here, but fewer and fewer as the jumplings leave (come up tonight around 10pm and watch). Fulmars have gorgeous fluffy chicks. Puffins are still to be seen in large numbers all around the reserve. We are just sad that our little one has not made it.
Sorry, but I have to sign off now, but will be back tomorrow.
Thank you for your support of puffincam - it makes our efforts feel worthwhile.
Thank you so much for all your efforts. Despite this deeply distressing outcome I have enjoyed this family's life in a heartfelt way. The misery of peerie's parents must be deep.
In honour of peerie's worldwide community I've joined the RSPB. Our birdlife needs our help.
I hope you do a puffin cam next year.
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