A webcam has been set up on Burhou, near Alderney in the Channel Islands, to monitor the fascinating life of puffins. Every year between late March and early August, hundreds of puffins flock to a tiny islet two miles northwest of Alderney to clean their burrows, build their nests, hatch their eggs and raise their chicks.
Puffins mate for life, like penguins, and year after year they return to the same nesting site to hatch their young. They meet out at sea and, on returning to land, instantly recognize one another. Puffins can live for up to 20 years, and the male and female take turns to look after the eggs, but sadly the number of puffins returning to Burhou and other nesting sites around the UK is declining.
These super-cute seabirds, sometimes known as sea parrots, aren’t the only species that are drawn to the coastal cliffs and rocky archipelago of Burhou. Cormorants, Arctic Terns, Northern Gannets and razorbills are also frequent visitors to the island – and if you're lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon, a buzzard or even some rabbits.
The webcams set up are part of the Live: Teaching Through Nature Program, which aims to educate and inspire and love of nature in young children. But of course, it’s not just children that can learn from these webcams; passionate conservationists, birdwatchers and wildlife lovers can also enjoy watching what the puffins get up to through the webcam.
Burhou is an uninhabited island (except for the seabirds) and the only way people can access it is by one small inlet. In rough weather when the sea is choppy, it’s impossible to reach the island. The approach to it is scattered with small rocks that could easily destroy boats during a storm, which is one of the reasons these webcams are so important.
In total there are three cameras set up to monitor the puffin's activity. The main camera sits two miles offshore and is very exposed to the weather and wildlife around it. Unfortunately this means it can suffer from a signal dropout, but Alderney Wildlife Trust does its best to ensure it’s back up and running as quickly as possible.
There is also a colony cam, which has the ability to pan across the island and give a tour of the nesting sites, while a close-up cam gives viewers the opportunity to watch a particular pair of puffins as they feed, build nests and bring back food.
All the puffin cams are provided free of charge by The Alderney Wildlife Trust (opens in new tab) so any donations are greatly received. The money will go towards keeping the cams up and running as well as protecting the seabirds and marine environment. To check out the webcams, head to the website – although bad news, they’re not very puffin-populated right now!
Watch the webcams here (opens in new tab).