The SOS Puffin Project

SOS Puffin is the Scottish Seabird Centre's award-winning project to save the puffins on the islands near North Berwick.

On the island of Craigleith, puffin numbers crashed from about 10,000 pairs to less than a thousand, due to a giant invasive plant called tree mallow which grows to 3 metres in height. Tree mallow also spread onto the nearby islands of Fidra and the Lamb and threatened the puffin populations there as well.

Tree mallow is thought to have been introduced to the Bass Rock over 300 years ago by soldiers manning the fortress there because of the medicinal value of its leaves. It has spread rapidly in recent years, helped by mild winters (linked to climate change), taking over other islands and preventing the puffins from nesting and rearing their young.

Over 330 work parties have made regular trips to Craigleith, Fidra and the Lamb over the last 16 years to cut down the tree mallow. The project is run by the Scottish Seabird Centre and supported entirely by volunteers, many of whom come back repeatedly to help on work parties. Over 1,300 volunteers have been involved since the project began.

On Fidra, we work in partnership with RSPB Scotland and their brilliant team of volunteers to deliver this project. On the Lamb, we work in partnership with the Lothian Sea Kayak Club to monitor and control the tree mallow. We're incredibly grateful for all of their hardwork and support over the years.

Read the Latest Update
Find out what the volunteers have been getting up to in the second half of 2023.

(c) John Hunt

Thanks to all the volunteers’ hard work, excellent progress has been made and tree mallow has been brought under control. Monitoring is showing that the natural vegetation is recovering and the puffins are now able to nest without interference from tree mallow. Other nesting birds such as eider ducks and fulmars have also benefitted. The project will need to continue for some years as tree mallow carries on regenerating from the large seed bank in the soil.

Find out more about the project from the people involved in with our SOS Puffin Podcast.

Get involved
please email or telephone +44(0) 1620 890202
A video about SOS puffin made by documentary filmmaker maude rivard-haustrate

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