Helping restore puffins in Maine

1:15 PM, Jul 26, 2013   |    comments
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MUSCONGUS BAY, Maine (NECN) - Forty years. That's how long Steve Kress has been making the trip from mid-coast Maine to a seven acre island in Muscongus Bay. Kress had the vision to turn Eastern Egg Rock into the world's first restored seabird colony.

PHOTOS: Puffins in Maine

It started with 6 chicks back in 1973. Today, it is a noisy community and the star of the island: The puffin. The small bird with the colorful beaks are a tourist attraction.
During their short breeding season boats circle the island all day long.

While tourists worry about getting a good photo, Kress and his team are concerned about what they are seeing--or not seeing--on the island.

Normally, puffin parents bring home mouthfuls of herring to feed their young. Last summer, they couldn't find enough of the small fish....and brought back larger butterfish.

About half of the chicks died last year, and more dead puffins washed up on shore this past winter. One of the reasons puffins get so much attention is because researchers say the health of the puffin is a good indicator as to how well the ocean is doing. Kress says the signs of climate change are becoming clear, warmer waters, rising oceans, more rain.

For the researchers who live on Eastern Egg Rock studying seabirds, it was heartbreaking to watch the puffins struggle last summer. Thankfully, the news is better this summer. Puffins are finding herring and bringing it back to their chicks. Kress calls it a good sign, but worry remains. Restoring this bird to Maine has been his life's passion but keeping them here will take more than one person.

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