Tales from the Water Cooler: Counting puffins so you don't have to

The five-yearly census of this seabird has started

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The Independent Online

Today I was going to mock this week’s triumph of corporate restraint by Richard Branson. Having lost a bet with another airline owner, RB had to don some Superdrug tights, a pair of “come-and-get-it” heels and way too much lippy (Rimmel’s Strawberry Explosion, £9.99) so he could play flight attendant on one of the winner’s planes. But, in truth, the image of Branson in drag left me in a state of such profound sexual terror that I was forced to focus on another airborne show-off.

Do you know what puffins are? Personally, I’ve always got them mixed up with the Dodo. Not the singer whose recent comeback album was such a challenging listen, but the extinct seabird. I was relieved to hear that puffins are alive and pecking. For the unaware, it’s a little black and white bird with an LGBT-style multi-coloured beak and what looks like a rather Egyptian helping of eye-liner. They are known as the “clowns of the sea”, but whether this relates to their rainbow countenance or ability to tell a gag without screwing up the punchline is not known. Thankfully, that could soon change. As I write, the five-yearly puffin census has started on the Farne Islands in Northumberland. Soon we shall all know just how many puffins walk the earth. Because I know you, like me, were wondering. Incidentally, one more word on the Dodo. Wikipedia notes that, although it’s thought to have gone extinct in 1662, “its extinction was not immediately noticed”. Bit of a slap in the face…