German Traces in Newfoundland
The Schau Family – Puffin patrol on Witless Bay
The famous seabirds of Canada’s Atlantic coast strand often on the dry and busy coastal streets due to light pollution. The problem has long been known to the locals. But no one knew yet what to do with the young birds. Now a German couple with a vacation home in Witless Bay, Newfoundland has called to life an initiative to save puffins.
Witless Bay, the closest town to the Ecological reserve | © Russell Wangersky
Every year, hundreds of young puffins, confused by the town’s lights during their first solo flights, come ashore at Witless Bay from nesting dens on nearby Gull Island. Winding up in Witless Bay or nearby towns is a rookie mistake - only newly fledged pufflings fresh from their burrows end up dazzled by the lights. This tragedy has touched the heart of the German couple Jürgen and Elfie Schau who own a vacation home in Witless Bay. Jürgen Schau, a film executive from Berlin, saw this squished stuff on the road, and he started enquiring about it with the locals. "These are puffins", he heard in response. He started rescuing them himself, grabbed a couple of neighbourhood families to help, and they started catching and releasing them on their own. The people of Witless Bay were impressed by so much initiative: Jürgen Schau was the right man in the right place, who had found the solution to an old problem.
Jürgen Schau, the "Puffin Man" | © Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Puffins returning to freedom healthy | © Russell Wangersky Since then, his initiative has been known locally under the name "Puffin Patrol". To this day, the garage of the Schau family serves as puffin headquarters, where the birds are housed in the evenings. Where their vehicle normally stood, a local welfare institution for the young puffins has now emerged. There they are banded, weighed and details about their condition are noted. From the house of the German family, the data are given to Environment Canada and to anyone that wants it. Jürgen Schau is through his commitment a "Puffin Man" of passion.
You can tell how proud he is that everything started in a small private setting in the family home. Today, his initiative is a known organization that is greatly appreciated and successful. Of the more than 2,000 birds that have been captured, banded and released in Witless Bay and nearby towns like Tors Cove, Bay Bulls and Mobile, not one has returned. It bodes well.