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Puffin Birds

New artwork has been added to See below for details:

Protecting the Puffin's Egg

Original artwork & text by Jonathan Oakes

It had been a mild winter, he knew that, milder even than last year. Never the less the time of year had come when all of the able villagers went out to the headland on top of the sea cliffs. It was time to use the harvesting skills and traditions that had been passed down to him from his father who had learned them from his father. In fact, the tradition of harvesting the Puffin birds had been going on for generations, perhaps since the time of the first settlers to these lonesome, weather bashed islands in the unforgiving Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Protecting the Puffin's Egg Original Artwork  by Jonathan Oakes

Protecting the Puffin's Egg - Mixed media on Photograph - 20 cm x 20 cm - Jonathan Oakes

When he had finally finished lacing up his long boots, he stepped from his house into the usual blustery wind. Looking around him he saw others that had gathered in small groups outside some of the larger houses. He reached up above his door and unhooked the fleyg* his father had made for him on his fourteenth birthday, and holding it again his mind was immediately flung back to that joyous moment, his coming of age. The image quickly faded, blasted away with the image of his father falling to his death from the very cliffs that he and the others were heading for in just a few moments. The accident had happened ten years ago, when the winters were colder and the Puffin birds seemed to fill the sky at their nesting grounds on the bleak headland.

Protecting the Puffin's Egg Detail Original Artwork  by Jonathan Oakes

Protecting the Puffin's Egg (Detail)

original art work by Jonathan Oakes

In the early spring a meeting was held in the village hall to discuss the obvious decline in Puffin numbers. There were many who could remember being able to reach down into a nesting hole, at full stretch and pull out a single egg in almost every hole. In the last few years it was about 1 in 6 holes which had eggs inside, even these were smaller and far more delicate than the eggs of the past. There was no escaping the facts, the Puffin numbers had seriously declined. The annual harvest never had such a devastating effect, the Puffin birds always came back. No, the traditional harvesting was not to blame. It was something else.

We had been hearing on the news that larger fishing quotas had been granted in neighbouring international waters, this would have an impact on the fish stocks, even down to the smaller sizes on which the Puffins fed. When the large commercial fishing trawlers throw back their unwanted catch, the waste attracts scavenging seabirds with a more general diet, which push out or even prey on the Puffin birds. Waste oil, fuel and pollution that is, unintentionally or intentionally dumped in this beautiful, once rich ocean filters down and infiltrates into all species. Condensing the potency of the poison further up the food chain it travels. The plankton are infected, small fish that eat the plankton are infected 1,000 times more, the seabird that eats 100 small fish is infected a 100 times more than that etc.

Protecting the Puffin's Egg detail b Original Artwork  by Jonathan Oakes

*Fleyg = A 3 to 4 metre long split pole in the shape of a Y with fine netting strung between the forks. Larger but less voluminous than a butterfly net it is traditional used in Iceland and the Faeroe islands to catch puffins in flight.

Protecting the Puffin's Egg (Detail)

original art work by Jonathan Oakes

(Artwork & background story by Jonathan Oakes copyright 2022)

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