Bye bye birdy as wee Auk is set free in Leven

A little auk, found in Len Low's hen house
A little auk, found in Len Low's hen house

One Lundin Links resident got a shock last week as he tended to his hens – and noticed a bird which didn’t quite fit the usual profile!

Author Leonard Low disovered the strange little bird taking much needed shelter in the hen house in his garden.

Len Low with his wee visitor, which he set free on Leven beach

Len Low with his wee visitor, which he set free on Leven beach

He put a call out to his Facebook friends and had a number of replies within hours.

The visitor was a little auk – part of the pengiun and puffin family of birds and definitely not native to Fife.

Len, who has written a number of books, including the Weem Witch and St Andrews Uncovered, explained: “I put my hens to bed and on the perch was my cockerel Bertie Chinbags and his wives. I counted ‘one, two, three, penguin, four!”

And it was quite a feat for the wee bird, who had had to tackle a ramp and get in through a 10 inch opening, before climbing up on to the perch with the rest of the hens and Bertie.

Len added: “I stuck him in a cat box and put his picture on Facebook. My friend John Van Dieken identified the wee chap, so I put in a phone call to the SSPCA.

“The officer said in 20 years he hadn’t seen one - and then in three days they had 50!”

Officers advised Len that they would only be looking after the birds which they had picked up for one night before letting them go, so he offered to do it himself.

“I fed the wee chap mackerel and in the morning on Leven beach he took off and headed back on his journey to the Arctic – it was great to see him fly off.”

The little auk, a small seabird around the size of a starling, usually breeds in the Arctic and will spend its winters in the North Atlantic off Denmark, sometimes visiting the waters off the UK in small numbers.

But this Fife visitor appeared to have been a victim of Storm Frank, which caused huge disruption along the length and breadth of the country last week.

And it appears that it wasn’t the only one to end up in unfamiliar surroundings – RSPB Scotland said it had received reports of hundreds of the small birds ending up in places such as Inverness and the Black Isle, way off course from where they should usually be at this time of year.

Colin Seddon, manager of the Scottish SPCA’s national wildlife rescue centre, said: “We have rescued many little auks from all over Scotland this past week, which have been caught out by the recent storms.

“These birds normally winter far out to sea and have been blown inland. The ones we rescued were found weak and thin and would have had great difficulty taking off once grounded.

“If anyone comes across one of these birds they should call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.”