Animals

By Hayley Sewell


An amateur photographer got a close encounter with a timid puffin like no other – when he managed to snap a rare WHITE one emerging from her burrow just 12 inches in front of him.

PIC BY MARK DOUGLAS/MERCURY PRESS

Mark Douglas, 55, and his wife Sue had visited Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, especially to see puffins but thought they would only be able to view the shy birds from afar.

However when the pair spotted a bird almost completely white, believed to be caused by a rare condition called leucism, Mark settled down next to its burrow in the hope of catching a shot of it.

Amazingly, it only took a few minutes for the puffin to emerge and Mark was able to enjoy a surprisingly up close and personal few moments with the bird, with the pictures since proving a hit with other wildlife lovers and friends.

Mark, from Witney, in Oxfordshire, said: “We were just out taking pictures of puffins and my wife said ‘Wow, there’s a white one over here’, so I rushed over quickly.

PIC BY MARK DOUGLAS/MERCURY PRESS

“She saw it disappear into its burrow, so I sat next to it for a few minutes and took a picture as it came out – I was only about 12 inches away, I was so close to it.

“It was amazing, I’d never seen anything like it before. I was very shocked. But it was just right place at the right time to be honest.”

The bird is believed to have leucism, a rare condition where there is a partial loss of pigmentation in the skin, feathers, hair or scales of an animal, caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment – but it does not affect the eyes as does albinism.

PIC BY MARK DOUGLAS/MERCURY PRESS

Mark was elated when his images of the unusual-looking bird went viral on Facebook, with more than 900 shares and 500 likes.

Electronic engineer Mark, who caught the image two weeks ago, said: “I was happy to see people liked the photograph, and people saying what a good photograph it was – I’m by no means a professional photographer, so I was very chuffed with it.

“And I’m pleased that everybody else thinks so, the response I got on Facebook was amazing.

PIC BY MARK DOUGLAS/MERCURY PRESS

“My Facebook was pinging, people have liked it, shared it and commented on it, I was quite surprised by the response.”

Mark believes that the puffin should be left alone in its natural habitat and hopes the large media attention will not affect its life on the island.

Skomer Island is well-known for its puffin population with an estimation of 165,000 pairs, being the largest home and puffin breeding site in the world.