Notes from Tiggywinkles: Off to Rio for the winter with some help from Tiggys

Let's fly for Rio: The Manx Shearwater is released
Let's fly for Rio: The Manx Shearwater is released

Those trick questions on QI or in pub quizzes can be so frustrating.

A great favourite is “Which bird has the Latin name Puffinus puffinus” Simple?

No it is not. You have been tripped up. It is not a puffin but a Manx shearwater, a pelagic bird of the open oceans that chooses to make our islands its preferred nest site.

Amazing, fantastic birds that nest in burrows on islands off the Welsh coast in Spring. They fly at night to avoid attacks by gulls and skuas and when they have finished nesting they, and their young set off, in the dead of the night, to fly to Brazil for the winter.

Phenomenal. That is what they are supposed to do but every September some of their sat-navs go astray and they end up grounded, unable to take of, in Buckinghamshire. Of course, they are picked up and brought to Tiggywinkles where the gourmet diet of whitebait gives them the strength to resume their migration.

Our job is to launch them, from high cliffs, back out to sea in the general direction of the southern Atlantic.

This year it fell to Sue and I to launch the first vagrant off the two hundred foot cliffs in Dorset. All was going well.

Sue tossed Mr Shearwater into the air. But flop, he landed on the edge of the cliff. Time to intervene but I was still suffering from last week’s injury, at the hands of the deer, and was not sure enough to stand on the edge of that cliff.

Instead, ignominiously, I crawled over to the bird and launched him into his environment down the waves en route for Rio.

In the meantime another one has probably turned up at Tiggys.