Clifford the puffin contaminated by oil in the North Sea returned to home

Clifford the puffin who became contaminated by oil in the North Sea.

Clifford the puffin who became contaminated by oil in the North Sea. - Credit: RSPCA

A puffin named Clifford who became contaminated by oil in the North Sea has been returned to his native land after being cared for in Norfolk.

The sea bird was found washed up on a beach in Northumberland on April 3 and reported to the RSPCA, who transferred the bird to the West Winch Wildlife Centre near King's Lynn for specialist treatment.

Vets feared the puffin's health had been affected by the oil, so washed him in specialist facilities to ensure he was waterproof and underwent a three-week period of rehabilitation.

Clifford being released back into the wild.

Clifford being released back into the wild. - Credit: RSPCA

During his stay he enjoyed a diet of sardines and eels.

He was then assessed by the centre’s vet before being return to his native home on the Farne Islands off the Northumbria coast, where he was able to swim and dive once more.

RSPCA Inspector Lucy Green, who helped to rescue Clifford, said: "“I picked Clifford up at Bamburgh beach, but all the puffins live and breed on the Farne Islands so we wanted to get him as close to the colony as we could. 

“We were able to stop where we saw the highest concentration of puffins and soon Clifford was swimming around and diving for food.

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“He was eyeing up some of the other puffins and seemed happy.

Clifford back home and swimming.

Clifford back home and swimming. - Credit: RSPCA

"I’ve done a fair few releases, but not one involving a puffin - one of the best parts of the job is releasing animals that you have rescued yourself.” 

Teams involved in the rescue described it as "extra special" as the RSPCA was aided by wildlife casualty volunteers, John and Cora Kitchen, who drove Clifford 266 miles to return him home.

Wildlife casualty volunteer team manager for the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire Group Becky Harper said: “It is hugely rewarding knowing that our team efforts paid off.

“For every wildlife rescue that we do we consider the animal’s welfare as of foremost importance.

“There is a chain of dedicated staff and volunteers involved.

"When we have an exciting rehabilitation such as Clifford’s it makes it extra special that we can include our volunteers and the inspector who initially did the rescue.”