Puffin marvellous cotton bags
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Puffin marvellous

We all know how useful a cotton bag can be with the weekly shop, but did you know they can also help with conservation?

The Scottish National Trust regularly appeals to people with a knack for sewing to create small cotton bags so they can be used to help save pufflings (which are little puffin chicks) that have become disoriented by lights on land and found themselves stranded. Puffins are one of the world’s most instantly recognisable birds, with their black and white bodies and distinctive brightly-coloured tails giving them a cheery appearance. In the UK there are only a few sites where they congregate, one of which is St Kilda.

St Kilda is a remote group of Scottish islands, a World Heritage Site famed for its seabird population. Thousands of puffins breed there between April and August every year, but their chicks often get confused by the lights coming from buildings on the island of Hirta occupied by ranger staff, and lose their way. Rangers have found the most efficient, and stress-free, way to return the pufflings to the water is by placing them in soft cotton bags with drawstrings, so they can be easily carried down to the coast.

However such are the numbers of chicks that end up on the shore every summer that their stock needs constantly replenishing, so volunteers are sought to produce more bags. With the threats to seabirds growing every year, anything that can help their numbers swell is a bonus, so if you have a talent for sewing, maybe you could make a few bags yourself and send them off to the conservation charity!

And if you’d like to see puffins for yourself, then your best bet is to head north – there are populations in several places around Scotland, as well as in Northumberland, Anglesey and Yorkshire.

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