Beach clean comes to puffin’s rescue at Crackington

By Rosie Cripps in Local People

A BEACH clean group came to a puffin’s rescue last week, after it had been stranded at Crackington Haven, making it the first recorded puffin to be seen in this area.

Members of the Crackington Crew beach clean group, based in Crackington Haven, were in for a surprise as one member came across a rare-sighted puffin located beside a rock on the beach.

Puffins, with an average lifespan of 18 years, are mainly found in the coastal areas of England, Scotland and Wales, nesting at the top of cliffs, and laying eggs at the end of the ‘burrow’, where the chick will remain until it is ready to go to sea. The sea birds spend most of their time at sea, hunting for fish, and return to land to breed.

Puffins can normally be spotted from March up until August, and have an unmistakeable identity of a black and white feathered coat, a colourful bill and webbed feet.

The puffin was first seen by a Crackington Crew member, Ellen, on Sunday, July 2, during one of the team’s regular Sunday morning cleans.

Bridget Hone, another member of the group, explained: “It was wonderful finding the puffin last Sunday. There are no reports of puffins ever being seen on Crackington beach, although there is a colony at Beeny, and of course on Lundy.”

Bridget said the puffin was on the ground, ‘looking very sorry for itself’. The tide was beginning to come in, and the sun was beating down on the beach. She continued: “We watched for a while from a distance to see if it could fly away. We decided to move the puffin when gulls began showing an interest, and Pete Cooper and a visitor to the beach, Jo, moved it up the beach.”

Group members then made calls to Michelle Robinson Clements, who has experience with working with marine life. Michelle advised the group to place the puffin into a box and that she would come to collect the bird.

Bridget and her husband, Mick, carefully put the puffin into a San Miguel beer box — therefore giving the bird the name, ‘Miguel’. Michelle then came to collect the bird from Bridget’s house.

Bridget said: “Michelle is wonderful at giving rescued marine life a chance to recover, and has been tube feeding the puffin and rehydrating it.”

According the Bridget, there has been a ‘phenomenal increase’ in the amount of fishing litter and micro plastics on Crackington’s beach over the last week, so the Crackington Crew have been out most days collecting ‘mountains’ of net, rope, twine and ‘nurdles’ — pellets that are used to manufacture plastics. Bridget said: “These are a real threat to our wildlife.”

It is still a mystery as to why Miguel the puffin was stranded on Crackington Haven beach, but the micro-plastics argument has managed to find its way, yet again, into the mix. However, there are also thoughts that a day of high winds may have contributed to the bird’s state.

Bridget said: “Apparently there will be a post mortem if the bird dies, and it will be interesting to see if a cause can be identified. There was a day last week of high winds, so it could be that he was just blown off course, but there are no obvious external injuries.”

On Saturday, July 1, Bridget collected a large handful of ‘nurdles’ in just 15 minutes at the beach, just two metres away from where Miguel the puffin was found the following day. She added: “It’s impossible to say it’s connected to this bird, but not good for our oceans!”

Unfortunately, before the Post went to press, we were informed that Miguel the puffin had sadly passed away in Michelle’s arms on Thursday, July 6.

She posted on Facebook: “Despite all best efforts made, I couldn’t get she/he to gain the weight it desperately needed. I thought I may have turned a corner yesterday, but as of late this afternoon, it went down extremely fast and passed away a short while ago.

“I am truly sorry, folks. Please remember him or her as this beautiful, smiling puffin; RIP Miguel.”

Anyone who visits a beach and discovers a stranded marine animal is advised to contact the following organisations.

For a live stranded animal, people should contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765 546; for a dead stranded marine animal, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Marine Strandings Network should be called on 0345 201 2626; and for wildlife disturbance or harassment, the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code should be contacted on 0345 201 2626.

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