Take a trip to Iceland as the puffing flies

Monday 26, July 2010


Take a trip to Iceland as the puffing flies


In early August the flight of the puffings is one of the highlights of the birding year when millions of baby puffins leave their nests for the first time.


There is probably not other more nobler sport than that practiced by the youngsters of the Westmann Islands during the month of August. That is the time at wich the juvenile puffins appear on the scene. The parent of the birds have stopped bringing the youngsters food, and hunger forces them out of their holes in the sides of the cliffs.


At night, the lights of the town attract the young birds so they spread their wings and glide down from the mountains in their hundreds. But as many a human being has learned, the glitter of the city is not all that it seems. Landings on pavements and asphalt can be quite rough, and gardens can be dark and dangerous with lurking cats. Nonetheless, the "baby puffins" have allies in this asphalt jungle.


The local children, who are allowed to stay out late on these August nights, are everywhere with helping hands. They roam the streets of the town with cardboard boxes, and collect the small birds that have taken the wrong route in hope of food and freedom.


It's not unusual for a single youngster to catch ten or more puffins in one evening. The juvenile puffins spend the night as guests in the homes of their rescuers and early the next morning, the children set out with their boxes full of puffins to return them to the wild.


The children choose good site where the birds have easy access to the sea, and then the birds are taken out of their boxes one by one, and thrown high into the air. They can then glide towards the sea and their freedom.


There these adept little swimmers are able to fend for themselves until they are strong enough to fly.



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