Friday, 19 July 2013

Puffin numbers on Farne Islands rebound after 2008 crash

Puffins on the Isle of May NNR (c) A. Takahashi
The National Trust has just released results for this years puffin count on the Farne Islands, one of a small number of significant breeding sites for puffins in the British Isles. One of the other significant sites for puffins is the Isle of May NNR where CEH's seabird ecologists carry out much of their long-term research. 

The Farne Island count recorded an eight per cent increase in breeding puffin pairs since 2008, from just under 37,000 to just under 40,000 pairs of nesting puffins. The BBC Online story is here.

As regular readers will know CEH scientists carried out a similar puffin census on the Isle of May NNR earlier this year. This found that numbers were at similar levels to 2009 despite this spring’s severe weather. Populations on the Farne Islands and the Isle of May recorded a dramatic crash in numbers between 2003 and 2008.

Responding to the Farne Islands count Professor Mike Harris of CEH said, "The Isle of May puffin population, 100 km to the north of the Farnes, has also shown no sign of a decline in numbers following the 2012 to 2013 winter puffin wreck."

Professor Harris added, "Our recent count on the Isle of May showed that puffin survival over the last winter was not exceptionally low, despite fears after the wreck. The wreck was unusual in that it occurred when puffins were returning to their colonies and were close to land.  It's likely that a very high proportion of the total number of birds that died were found, therefore exaggerating the severity of the mortality."

The National Trust Farne Islands Wildlife micro-site has lots more detail on the count including a puffin-cam. More details of CEH's seabird research on the Isle of May NNR can be found here.

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