Saturday, 22 December 2012

Seabird Review 2012

Sandwich Terns on the up

A bad season for Eiders

Guillemots galore and increasing

Record population of Razorbills

Kittiwakes increasing at last

Saturday 22nd December comments: The season brought a huge test for our breeding seabirds, with the wettest April-July period since records began and some almighty storms pounding the islands throughout the summer. The now legendary ‘Thunder Thursday’ will live long in the memory as Northumberland saw heavy rainfall and a huge thunder storm on 28 June, resulting in widespread flooding and mayhem on roads and rivers. The Farnes were hit hard too. Seabird chicks across the islands felt the sting of the rain and wind and many didn’t make it. Puffin burrows were flooded whilst cliff nesting species were washed off the rock faces. Passerines struggled to find food for their chicks as they starved in their nests.

However, despite the terrible weather, it wasn’t all doom and gloom on the Farnes! The food supply this year was excellent, with birds bringing in plenty of Sand-eels for their expectant young. Puffins were recorded bring in around ten to fifteen fish at a time, meaning the young in burrows that were not flooded grew quickly and managed to fledge. It was a landmark year for Guillemots as they reached their highest ever total at 49,076 individuals, whilst Razorbills also continued to thrive with an increase of thirty pairs on last year’s count.

On the other hand, it was a disastrous year for the Eider, with a huge drop in the population and a terrible breeding season. The first Shelduck chicks were seen around the islands for the first time since 2003, with at least two breeding pairs making the islands home this year.

Terns had a productive season with a concerted monitoring effort resulting in 1,010 Arctic Tern nests being monitored with a productivity of 0.65, around average but quite impressive considering the trials they faced! Sandwich Terns saw a dramatic increase of 422 pairs, sky rocketing from last year. With their come-and-go attitude, who knows how many pairs there will be next year?!

All in all, it was a tough year for seabirds on the Farnes but their resilience and never say die attitude saw them come out on the other side and they (and we) will be back to do it all again in 2013. Bring it on!

Selection of breeding seabird totals 2012:

Shelduck   2 pairs   (up 1 pair)
Eider   443 pairs   (down 234 pairs)
Fulmar   233 pairs   (down 43 pairs)
Cormorant   135 pairs   (up 14 pairs)
Shag   965 pairs   (up 39 pairs)
Kittiwake   4,241 pairs   (up 265 pairs)
Sandwich Tern   966 pairs   (up 422)
Common Tern   88 pairs   (down 13 pairs)
Arctic Tern   1,923 pairs   (down 93 pairs)
Guillemot   49,076 individuals   (up 1,099)
Razorbill   420 pairs   (up 30 pairs)

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