Up, up and away! Puffin Patrol returns to Witless Bay
Beachside bird releases discontinued due to pufflings becoming prey, will be released by boat
Streets on the Southern Shore used to be a graveyard for lost young puffins, but a rescue group in Witless Bay is giving the iconic Newfoundland bird a second chance.
Each summer, Witless Bay residents collect the puffins — or pufflings — wandering on roadways in the town located about 30 minutes outside of St. John's.
The young birds leave the nests this time of year and follow the moon. When it's cloudy or foggy, the birds are attracted to artificial light like street lights instead, said Puffin Patrol founder Juergen Schau.
"Sometimes they stand in the middle of the road, they see two moons and they get hit by a car," Schau said.
After they're collected, the puffins are placed in containers that look like a small dog cages. They're then taken to the town's beach where they're measured, swabbed and weighed.
After the data is collected, the people who saved the birds literally throw them back into the water.
However, the normal catch and release program is changing for the season, as the pufflings have become prey for larger birds.
Puffin Patrol said the team who collects data on the birds will go out by boat to release them for the remainder of the season.
The collection and release engages hundreds of people, including many children, each year.
"When a child realizes that he's just saved a baby puffin or she's just saved the life of this fledgling, it's really incredible to see," said Witless Bay Mayor Sebastién Després.
"The moment they release them back into the wild, the moment of the release is really special too."
Schau said the Puffin Patrol began with a small group of children in the community, but it's grown to include seven neighbouring communities.