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Featuring Brighton people like you! | October 19, 2019

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Puffin Rescued on Brighton Seafront

Puffin Rescued on Brighton Seafront
Becky Waldron

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen on Brighton seafront? The beach-cleaning silent disco? The nude beach in full swing, perhaps? Or maybe even a student diving into the sea with a traffic cone on their head. Well, last Thursday in the calm hours of the afternoon Harvey Klee, Brighton local and part-time Stand-up Paddle Surfer came across something on his paddle round the pier much foreign to the Brighton seas. Distressed in the midst of a swarm of seagulls (because who wouldn’t be?) Harvey thought it was a pigeon who had fell off the pier, but low and behold it was Puffin.

“I believe I joined the seagulls perplexed reaction in thinking this was one very strange looking beak for a pigeon! I thought I was hallucinating but I swear I just saw a Puffin like I’ve only seen in Alaska before it dove underwater away from its worst predators! I later called him Huffin’ (short for Huffing) because of how out of breath he was when I spotted him”

Harvey and the seagulls were on a mission to capture the Puffin; however Harvey’s intentions were much more innocent than that of the greedy ‘gulls. With the Puffin diving in and out of the water to lose the attention of the other birds, Harvey soon had to give up with the thought that he had now lost the location of Huffin’.

“I paddled back towards Brighton Watersports where my towel was and just before the wave break guess who pops up in front of me after a few minutes dive? … He didn’t dive [again], the seagulls had still not spotted him, he looked straight at me kneeling on my board next to him inviting him on as people on the beach watched, and Huffin’ opened his beak wide and flapping his wings, charged straight into my two open hands.”

Harvey and Huffin’

With Huffin’ wrapped in Harvey’s nylon surf shirt, the little bird began to calm down and was escorted safely to shore. Drying off in a towel, the rescuer searched the seafront in aid of water and some fish for the Puffin which were kindly donated by the surrounding shops. After some research, it turns out Huffin’ is an Atlantic Puffin and was far off-course from it’s normal home-town of Iceland, North America, Scottland or Wales. The bird is a very rare find for the sunny southern coast and would not usually be found alive – if at all – down here.

“After no wildlife rescue would answer their after-hours phone and vets usually don’t either, I messaged some great but extremely sceptical friends to help me. Sam Heathcote has amazing conservationist contacts and his van to take us less than 4 miles away to a wildlife rescue charity that actually answered their phone where Huffin’ is now.”

At Roger’s Wildlife Rescue, the owner Roger himself said he had never dealt with such a bird, even after all these years. The bird was confirmed a healthy Atlantic Puffin, but it could not be confirmed when Huffin’ might have the strength to be released.

It’s amazing how far Huffin’ must have travelled to get to Brighton, and why exactly he might have come this way. Harvey has a theory and some knowledge to how this obscure turn of events took place:

“From what I’ve read, I sort of think the largely declining number of small fish that baby Pufflings need to be fed when born in Iceland, Wales or Scotland in Spring where this very lucky Puffin would be expected to have been making babies right now, had motivated Huffin’ on a lone mission to find new breeding grounds.

I’d like to think he came to Brighton to scout out its viability to let the rest of his feathered friends and future partner know so it can raise a family. These Puffins are counted in pairs as they are monogamous and migrate from Canada to Iceland or the United Kingdom to breed only one puffling per year raised together by both its parents.”

Harvey misses Huffin’ and hopes, as we all can hope, for little Huffin’ to be released one day by Roger back into a safe habitat, reunited with his own kind and then find his family, something so precious for birds and humans alike.

If you’d like to read more about Huffin’ and it’s origins follow the link here: http://projectpuffin.audubon.org/birds/puffin-faqs

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