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  1. ITV Report

Birdwatchers urged to join the ‘puffarazzi’: Photos of puffins needed to help threatened seabird

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

A three mile stretch of chalk cliffs on the Yorkshire coast is one of the most valuable habitats for a variety of seabirds.

But there is one bird above all that people come to see: the puffin.

Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington is one of just 30 known breeding sites for this bird which is classed as vulnerable to extinction.

The cliffs are some of the most popular for birdwatching in the whole of Britain and in the summer months, up to 1,000 people will flock to the site every single day.

Conservationists now want those eyes to join the “puffarazzi” and photograph puffins with fish in their bills to help find out how their diet is changing as a result of global warming.

They want to know what the seabirds are feeding their young.

The citizen science scheme was first run by the RSPB in 2017, with 602 people sending in 1,402 photos of the seabirds from almost 40 colonies.

The pictures have helped scientists identify areas where puffins are struggling to find the large nutritious fish which they need to feed their chicks, or pufflings, the RSPB said.

Puffin pictured Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington. Yorkshire. Credit: ITV News

The conservation charity is renewing its call for visitors to puffin colonies in spring and summer 2019 and 2020 to submit pictures showing what the threatened seabird is catching for its young.

Along with current photos, the scientists are also keen to receive snaps of puffins with fish in their bills from any time in the past, provided the year and the place of the image is known.

The “clowns of the sea” are suffering declines, and are now globally listed as vulnerable to extinction, with concerns they may be facing a reduction in available food in the UK as a result of climate change.

Even pre-digital photos can be submitted for the scheme, which will help track how puffin food sources have changed over time.

Birdwatchers are being urged to submit their photos of puffins to the RSPB. Credit: ITV News

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1,000 visitors a day flock to Bempton Cliffs near Bridlington in the summer months to birdwatch. Credit: ITV News

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.”

And she said: “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.”

Photos can be submitted at www.rspb.org.uk.projectpuffinUK

The site also has guidance on staying safe while photographing the birds and protecting them, for example staying five metres away at all times, keeping noise to a minimum and not walking over or near their burrows.