Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Poor Puffins

Farne Island Puffin

Tommy Noddies of the Farnes

A typical sight this year...Puffin cleaning its burrow...again

Brownsman Puffin colony in June

No escape from heavy rain; burrow flooded

Not much better elsewhere on the islands.

Wednesday 19th December comments: To complete our breeding seabird review, I’ll finish off the season with a species which captivates everyone’s attention; it’s our Puffins. We have over 36,000 pairs of breeding Puffins on the Farne Islands and this year they experienced one of their worst breeding seasons in recent times.

The breeding season kicked off early following a mild winter period as the first Puffin eggs were discovered on 13th April, the earliest laying date since 1993. The first chicks were hatching by 20th May and the first fledgling departed on 27th June. Birds continued to fledge throughout July, with the majority of birds gone by the end of the month. The last record of chicks on the islands involved a pair feeding young on Inner Farne on 16 August but thereafter, they were gone.

However the breeding season was not a great success as record breaking rainfall during the summer months brought huge issues with underground burrows flooded out on a number of occasions. On some islands (with shallow soil caps) the damage was almost catastrophic with an estimated 90% breeding failure on Brownsman alone (representing about 12,000 pairs). During the heavy rainfall, the islands Puffin colonies looked more like an upland peat bog as opposed to a coastal seabird colony. However it wasn’t all bad news, as those islands with deeper soil caps, especially Inner Farne, the colonies were not badly affected and plenty of chicks were raised.

However it’s not all bad news, as Puffins are long living birds (living well into their mid-30’s), so a population can tolerate one bad season, but what is important is that we don’t have a repeat of this weather next year. Fingers crossed.

Speaking of next year, it’s a huge season for the islands Puffins, as its time for the big one… it’s the island Puffin census; the first population count since 2008. What will the results bring is anyone’s guess, but keep on following the blog as 2013 is the year of the Puffin. You heard it here first. Puffin census 2013.

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