For more than a decade, Kress and his team of 'Puffineers' carried chicks by plane, truck, and boat. Each special suitcase held containers for 20 tiny, black and white puffin chicks. Upon their arrival, the chicks were placed in individual burrows, and Dr. Kress and his team became Puffin Parents, feeding each chick small fish daily. Kress's hope was that once the puffins were released to the sea, they might return to this island when they matured, to establish a breeding colony.
Puffin chicks leave a colony when they fledge and head off to the ocean without their parents. They remain in the open ocean until they are 2-3 years old. Then they return to the area where they began, and may actually nest near the burrow where they hatched. Would these translocated puffins find their way back to Maine?
After several years waiting, wooden puffin decoys, mirrors (to convince the puffins they had company), lured a few back. In 1981, four pairs settled in and produced the first puffin eggs on Eastern Egg Rock in nearly a century. Today, about 100 pairs nest at Eastern Egg Rock and more than 375 pairs nest at Seal Island along with Razorbills and nearly 2,000 pairs of Common and Arctic Terns. The techniques used by Project Puffin have since been used around the world, helping more than 40 other seabird species.
Biologists from Bermuda to New Zealand are using Kress's techniques to good effect. Last year, endangered Bermuda Petrels nested at a restored colony on Nonsuch Island- the first to nest at this sanctuary in 400 years. The very rare petrel, which breeds in burrows, is threatened by rising sea levels. Using one of Kress's techniques, biologists put speakers broadcasting petrel calls at more secure nesting sites and moved petrel young- much as Kress did at Eastern Egg Rock 36 years previously.
Climate Change threatens to flood key puffin colonies and disrupt their food sources along the northern Atlantic rim. Too, Dr. Kress is concerned about Project Puffins future; "I see no end to the need for interns and other staff on the islands to protect the colonies from intrusions by gulls and humans." Uncontrolled tourism can be harmful to puffin colonies because they need solitude to breed. People who get too close may scare off parents from their duties of feeding their chick. As long as tourists stay on boats at a safe distance and do not disturb the puffins, people can easily enjoy watching a colony during the nesting season.
People are encouraged to see puffins via boat from Muscongus Bay.
Audubon's new Project Puffin Visitors Center in downtown Rockland, ME, allows people to learn more about these captivating "clowns of the sea," and steps you can take to help protect them and our shared oceans.
"While humans have hurt puffin numbers in the past," Dr. Kress said, "We also have the ability to restore and protect colonies. We need to reduce pollution of our coasts and do a much better job managing our fisheries. This benefits seabirds and people."
To watch the Puffin Cam and hear live sounds from Seal Island, visit: www.projectpuffin.org
The best hours for viewing are mornings and early afternoon. Puffins typically spend mid afternoon at sea, but return in the evening before going under the boulders to sleep. If your image is blurry or you can't see a puffin, please check back later. You can also see "best of the puffin cam from previous seasons " by clicking on http://www.projectpuffin.org/puffin-cam-best.html
The Puffin Cam is sponsored by Barbara's Bakery of Petaluma CA, makers of Puffins Cereal.