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Puffin numbers stable despite last summer’s wash-out

A survey carried out by National Trust rangers found puffin numbers on the remote Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, are stable despite the heavy rainfall last summer.

It was feared that the population would be affected after numerous burrows were flooded. At least 300 pufflings were lost after 5 inches (12cm) of rain fell in just 24 hours on 13th June last year.

However, after checking the burrows, rangers found only a small decrease in the population, with a total of 43,752 breeding pairs recorded in 2019 – less than a 0.5% decrease on the results from 2018.

Photo credits: Paul Kingston

National Trust ranger, Thomas Hendry says: “When we were hit by such heavy rainfall we were really concerned that numbers would be significantly affected, which given these birds are declining in numbers across the world was a devastating prospect.

“However, it appears that we had enough pufflings hatch successfully to literally weather the storm, and we can conclude numbers appear to be stable.”

Puffins have traditionally done well on the Farnes, thanks to the work of the rangers, protection of the marine areas around the islands, a lack of ground predators and the availability of suitable nesting areas.

Numbers on the islands have increased since 1993, with a peak of 55,674 pairs recorded in 2003, before a sudden crash in 2008 when sandeels – their preferred food supply – were in short supply, before the population recovered.

For more information about the Farnes visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/farne-islands

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