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June 17, 2015 6:44 AM   Subscribe

More than four decades ago, budding ornithologist Stephen Kress picked up an old field guide, and read that colonies of puffins had once nested on a tiny Maine island called Egg Rock, the last ones disappearing around 1885.

That fact so captivated him, he decided to try something that no other ornithologist ever hadhe would attempt to restore a native bird population to the Maine islands where they had once thrived.[Stephen Kress previously] [Bonus Puffin: PUFFIN CAM]
posted by Potomac Avenue (17 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
This is really amazing. Also, puffins can live for over 30 years, apparently.
posted by Hactar at 7:35 AM on June 17, 2015

Oh joy! This post makes me so happy! This entire project had SERIOUS influence on me as a young girl.

Sometime between 8-10 years old I picked up a book about this endeavor, Puffins, Come Back!, at the local library book sale fundraiser. I'm guessing only because it was an Audubon Society project that a book with such a heavy environmental message - at least to my shocked kid mind at the time - made it to my little corner of rural Wyoming.

And it was shocking. These people were trying to save birds! Trying to consciously save them! They actually cared about the environment and of course these birds. And the reason why these puffins, these cute cute cute puffins, didn't live there anymore was because of humans. And there were all these biological considerations, like the fact that puffins return to the same island to breed from which they were hatched, which is why it was important to consider the environment and habitat and all this ecological STUFF.

I hadn't really been exposed to this kind of thing. There were all these pictures of volunteers and scientists trying to feed the birds fish, their artificial sod burrows, and their research station. And puffins, happy puffins! This guy had an idea; then he turned it into a vision with the help of other scientists and volunteers and it worked. It was so COOL. And also there were pictures of. . . WOMEN SCIENTISTS (and volunteers). In boats! Outside! KA-WOW!

Anyway, cut to 10 years later, and young adult me - going into science!- at a public meeting, carrying a shovel and threatening a rancher with it in response to their "Shoot, shovel, and shut up" rhetoric about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone.

These projects are so important. This guy is great.
posted by barchan at 7:58 AM on June 17, 2015 [19 favorites]

PUFFIN CAM! there goes my day.
posted by anadem at 8:05 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Puffins are the cutest birds. They sort of waddle around upright like little old men, with their hands (wings) behind their back as if they are deliberating. They are not particularly afraid of people.

They have short wings for their bodies which means in flight they seem to have to flap them extra hard and so they fly sort of like fat hummingbirds. This is why hunters, unfortunately, could catch them with just a net as they sort of buzzed by.

I saw them up close at Skomer Island in Wales and they helped restore my sense of wonder - that sense you sometimes get that we live in a fantastic world populated by magical creatures like these.
posted by vacapinta at 8:18 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wonderful. I have the puffin cam on in the background ...
posted by carter at 8:26 AM on June 17, 2015

I too am watching a sleeping puffin loaf breathe.
posted by automatic cabinet at 8:33 AM on June 17, 2015

I have been watching her for a few weeks. I find her calm breathing to be quite meditative.
posted by harrietthespy at 8:57 AM on June 17, 2015

Well a Puffin restoration project, a Puffin cam and constructing a bridge in Amsterdam with 3-D printing--This is a good day. Thanks for the Puffin Post
posted by rmhsinc at 9:03 AM on June 17, 2015

I went to see puffins nesting on the north east coast of Yorkshire recently so I am up to date on puffin information.

The puffin's colourful beak is only for mating season. It is larger than the normal beak and can hold more fish and eels. Can you guess what the largest recorded number of fish and eels in a puffin's beak is?

Here is another funny thing - the origin of the name puffin:
The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) is a medium-sized shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. The scientific name of this species records a name shift: Manx shearwaters were called Manks puffins in the 17th century. Puffin is an Anglo-Norman word (Middle English pophyn) for the cured carcasses of nestling shearwaters. The Atlantic puffin acquired the name much later, possibly because of its similar nesting habits.
posted by asok at 9:06 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I got to boat by Egg Island with the Audubon when I tagged along on a resupply trip. The noise and smell of a seabird colony is something you can never forget, and come to enjoy if you haven't dealt with it in years. My favourite part of this story was learning the original eggs came from the island where I started working on seabirds so I felt like I was completing some sort of circle.

Puffins are like little old men walking around with their hands in their pockets. If you surprise them, by say, being sat next to their burrow when they come out, they can somersault down the hill. I always felt badly for laughing at them because I think they take themselves very seriously. However, they got me back. I still have scars on my hands from where they bit me (and then thrashed their head around with their serrated bill) when I was trying to let them go after banding them.

(and storm-petrels are the cutest burrow dwelling seabird)

(also everyone should listen to puffin and storm-petrel noises)
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:07 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Spoiler alert: Puffin cam.
posted by maryr at 10:38 AM on June 17, 2015

Puffin cam of puffin loafing ledge.
posted by grouse at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2015

Lots of puffins = the best sea pinks.
posted by scruss at 11:46 AM on June 17, 2015

I think I just saw one eat some lizard bits just now.
posted by boo_radley at 11:51 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would very much like a loafing ledge of my own.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:58 AM on June 17, 2015

Surely Mr. Kress was a fledgling ornithologist.
posted by Glomar response at 12:58 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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