Seabird Conservation and Habitat Improvement Program
The puffin and petrel patrol program started approximately ten years ago when Juergen and Elfie Schau from Berlin, Germany were visiting their summer getaway in Witless Bay. They began noticing these little birds (puffins) stranded along the roadside and they wanted to help. They recruited local children to help rescue the stranded puffins and quickly learned this was a regular event during fledging season.
In the summer of 2011, CPAWS-NL partnered with the Schau's in order to expand and facilitate this program to include the rescue of Leach’s Storm Petrels and to extend the patrol to include an additional 5 communities in the area. The Seabird Conservation and Habitat Improvement Program has also been implemented to educate and encourage locals to “dim unnecessary lighting” along the coasts during fledging periods.
The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve contains North America’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins and the world’s second largest colony of the Leach Storm Petrel, with both having a sum of over 880,000 mating pairs. This ecological reserve runs from the Town of Witless Bay to the Town of Burnt Cove, along the Southern Shore of Newfoundland. Both Puffins and Petrels dig burrows for nests and lay one egg in May or June, which is incubated by both parents. When the chicks hatch, they begin leaving their nests in late summer and early fall (during the fledging season) to make their way out to sea for the winter. They fledge during the night in order to avoid predators and they use the moon, stars, and horizon as their navigation system.
The Puffin & Petrel Patrol runs from August – October rescuing puffin and petrel chicks each year. Unlike puffins, storm petrels are nocturnal and these birds will be released onto a dark beach the same night they are rescued in the fall months, while the puffins are kept overnight and released in the mornings of August.
Increase buisness and residential development , along the Southern Shore, in the area surrounding the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, has resulted in an increase in the number of stranded seabirds turning up along our roadways and backyards. Under ideal conditions, chicks will fledge in the night and use the stars and the moon as a navigational system, directing them out to sea. Unfortunately on nights when these are absent or poor weather conditions persist, some chicks become confused and move in the direction of artificial lighting on land such as those used by both businesses and homes, security lights, and street lights.
Artificial lighting influences the migration, foraging, reproduction and parental behavior of seabirds. It is unlikely that most will find their own way back into the marine environment without the help of patrollers who rescue them. Even with the Puffin & Petrel Patrol persistent volunteers, hundreds of chicks are still ending up dead on our roadways due to of this ever growing issue.
Each night, volunteers from local communities as well as those whom have travelled far and wide just to participate in the program, drive around and or park at 'Hotspots' searching for juvenile puffins . Once they are caught, they are housed overnight in crates until they can be released the next morning along the coast. CPAWS NL faciliates this program and collects various information such as locations of standed birds, environmental conditions, number of active patrollers etc as well as provides safety equipment to those whom partake. Prior to their release, with the assistance of Canadian Wildlife Services, puffins are banded, weighed (since 2012), wing measured (since 2013), and a sub-sample swabbed to test for avian influenza (since 2013).
In addition to the direct value of rescuing stranded puffins which have a very low likelihood of finding their own way back into the marine environment, this initiative provides CWS with a means to collect demographic information more efficiently and without causing any disturbance to the breeding colonies. Furthermore, the information gathered on wing length, although preliminary, provides CWS with a relative index of the age at which puffins are fledging within a season and will allows them to monitor changes over time.
2014 certainly stands out as a record-breaking year to date, with a total of 825 pufflings captured and released, with one night alone seeing the rescue of 106 birds! Previous annual tallies are as follows: 2011 = 13 puffins 2012 = 414 puffins, 2013 = 61 puffins. The 2015 season has banded and released approximately 243 birds.
Thats a total of over 1500 banded birds, not including the ones that were not measured.
If you are a resident or staying in the area of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve
Become a perfect Puffin & Petrel safe house or Business: read our Mitigation Guide HERE.
Become an active patroller by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Atlantic Puffin
Leach's Storm Petrel
What is the Puffin Patrol?
To save the puffin chicks the Puffin Patrol was started by Juergen Schau with the assistance of the youth of Witless Bay. Since then, hundreds of puffin chicks have been rescued and released into the ocean to later return as adult puffins to our Ecological Reserve here in Witless Bay.
How many puffins and Petrels are here?
Over 200,000 every year.
Why do they fly inland?
Because they are nocturnal, They fly only at night, using the moon to navigate, if it is a foggy or windy night, the chicks become confused and fly inland thinking the street lights are the moon.
What do you need to save them?
First a permit to catch this rare bird. Then a flashlight, gloves, a net, a box, six-pack (empty) or special boxes . They need to get air in the night during waiting for daylight.
What happens in the morning?
When they are out of the box and banded, they want to go as fast as possible into the Ocean. So let them fly in the air, and the chick must do a first dive. Once this happened all is fine. The chicks instincts are working and they can protect themselves from predators.
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