How your photos can help save Puffins


Puffarazzi, the RSPB's innovative citizen science photography project, is returning this year, with visitors to Puffin colonies urged to photograph as many of the birds with fish in their bills as possible. The project is also asking for historical photos to be submitted in order to aid conservation efforts. All these images will help scientists learn more about what Puffins are feeding their chicks amid declining fish stocks and warming seas.

Some 80 per cent of Britain's Puffins breed in Scotland (John Freeman).

Puffin numbers have plummeted in former strongholds throughout Europe and the species is now classed as Vulnerable. The Puffarazzi project aims to find out the causes of declines in Britain where Scotland is one of the most important places for Puffins, with 80 per cent of the British and Irish population breeding there. In 2017, some 602 people sent in 1,402 images – 517 of these were taken in Scotland. The data revealed variations around our isles with some areas having far smaller fish for the Puffins to feed on.

Dr Ellie Owen, who is leading the project, said: "We're so excited that Puffarazzi is back. The response last time was overwhelming and it's thanks to this success that we've expanded the project. Puffins are facing a bleak future and we want to change that, which is why we need to learn more about how Puffin food stocks have changed over the years. 

"We're asking you to dig around in your photo albums and digital files and to send us any applicable photos you have, however old they are. However big or small the fish in the photo is it will be really useful for us. Anyone can join the Puffarazzi – back in 2017 our youngest volunteer was just 11 years old – and if you took part two years ago you can do so again. 

"Our project website has all the information on how to take part, while keeping yourself and the Puffins safe. By becoming part of the Puffarazzi you'll be filling in key knowledge gaps currently holding puffin conservation efforts back and will help shape future advice for government on how best to safeguard Puffins."

Guidance on the Puffarazzi website includes how to avoid disturbing Puffins while photographing them such as avoiding spending more than a couple of minutes photographing a Puffin carrying fish, keeping movements and noise to a minimum, not walking near or over puffin burrows, and keeping about five metres away from Puffins at all times. 

By studying the fish being carried in a Puffins bill, scientists can establish how the species if faring in different parts of Britain (Dave Williams).