Baby puffins, called pufflings, start taking to the sky at this time of year. They usually leave the nest hole in the evening, and often become confused by the lights of Heimaey and end up landing awkwardly on the town’s streets and gardens. There, they can fall prey to cats and other dangers.
The first puffling was found in town last night, according to Margrét Lilja Magnúsdóttir, who oversees the puffling patrol.
“Yes, the first puffling was found last night, so it has formally begun. It always starts slowly, but in two or three weeks we’ll reach the peak,” Margrét says—adding that most of the town’s children and adults will get involved at some point. They roam the island far and wide, in cars and on foot with torches, looking for the confused birds.
The outlook this year is not particularly bright, though: “At the start of the summer, it looked really good, but in late July the puffin colony was examined and some nests had been abandoned, there were dead pufflings, and they were also smaller than they should have been. This all points to some sort of food shortage or something, so we are not expecting a great many pufflings now,” Margrét says.
The puffling patrol has created an instructional video to show people how to handle young puffins, as Margrét says there are always outsiders, from the mainland or abroad, who choose to take part. It is a big time for the islands: “I think many people think it’s the best time of the year.”
The kids get involved almost without being asked?
“Yes. And grown-up people turn into children too!”