North Pacific Sea Birds
of the Oregon Aquarium
There is an important (to me and my family) story behind my involvement with these birds. At age 12 I had been assembling a modest collection and raising whatever birds I could get my hands on. I was also helping (clinging) to a wonderful gentleman, Charles PIlling, who lived in North Seattle who was a serious waterfowl breeder and enthusiast and who had been the first to raise several species of wild waterfowl in captivity. Whenever I was around "Chuck" anything seemed possible, so I let my imagination fly.
I had seen Tufted Puffins while salmon fishing out of Neah Bay, and was fascinated with them. Why not catch and breed Tufted Puffins? Well, because no one had ever done it!
I began writing letters to the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and got a correspondence going with someone there who was encouraging after he learned of my experience with waterfowl. I had also been reading everything ornithological I could get ny hands on and knew the lingo pretty well. This WAS 1957. Anyway, he finally sent me an application for a Federal Collecting Permit. It included a box for my birthday. I filled it out and sent it back, and got an immediate irate letter from this gentleman expressing surprise, consternation and disgust that I was ONLY 12 and STOP BOTHERING HIM! His letter was so final that I dropped the dreams right there.
Nothing happened for about six months. Then I got a letter from the FWS from another gentleman who opined that, if I associated myself with a real practicing ornithologist, that they MIGHT consider giving me the permit. I can only imagine how my letters and requests rattled around in that bureaucracy and were discussed.
The long and short of it is that I grabbed Chuck by the hand and dragged him to the University of Washington for an interview with their ONE ornithologist who agreed to "oversee" our project. And so, at age 13, as the youngest person ever (then at least), I got a Scientific Collecting Permit to take 4 Tufted Puffins to attempt to raise them and breed them in captivity.
So, when I took my college interviews for Harvard and Yale, etc., when they asked me what I had been doing, I could tell them how I was hanging by rope off cliffs over breaking surf digging out the burrows of Tufted Puffins to collect the young and try and be the first to ever raise, keep, and possibly even breed them in captivity. With a straight face!
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