RESIDENTS are being urged to keep their eyes peeled for young puffins in a bid to help the local puffin population.

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick is calling on residents and visitors to keep an eye out for the baby puffins – which are known as pufflings – as they leave their burrows for the first time and become disorientated by lights from the mainland.

Every summer, pufflings are rescued from a range of tight spots along the Firth of Forth coastline, including underneath cars, plant pots and even port-a-loos.

People can play a vital role in helping sustain the birds’ population off the county coast by reporting any unusual sightings of the small grey chicks.

Once a report has been made, a team from the Scottish SPCA or the Seabird Centre can collect the pufflings and release them in safer areas away from any predators.

Scottish Seabird Centre boat guide James Leyden said: “Puffins and their pufflings are now leaving their burrows not only on the Isle of May but other islands in the Firth of Forth.

“After leaving their burrows, some pufflings can become disorientated by lights from the mainland.

“Their first ever flight may see them flying into town and seeking somewhere dark to hide from predators, often underneath cars and under plants in gardens.

“When we’re notified of their misadventures, we carefully collect the pufflings and take them out to sea and release them, well away from the islands and especially the predator gulls.

“They then typically swim off into the North Sea, where they will live for the next three years.

“It is important to note that pufflings look completely different from their adult counterparts.

“People often don’t realise what they can see is a puffling!

“They are shades of grey, white and black; their smaller beaks don’t have the characteristic bright colours that the adults have in summer.

“We are appealing for people to be extra vigilant over the next few weeks and, if they spot a puffling, to immediately alert the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.”

The Scottish Seabird Centre has led a number of campaigns focussing on the conservation of seabirds and the marine environment, including SOS Puffin.

This campaign was aimed at removing tree mallow, a plant that was preventing puffins from nesting and rearing pufflings.

Thanks to over 1,200 volunteers and their hard work, the campaign led to local puffin numbers recovering and increasing.