Friday 7 September 2012

Kitts Off

Kittiwakes on Brownsman cottage cliff 

Kittiwake in flight 

Nests occupied on the Farne Islands 

Young ready to fledge

Friday 9th September comments: In the next installment of our seabird review 2012, we take a closer look at our kind faced Gull...the Kittiwake.

Despite the weather (and losses), it still proved to be a productive year for the Kittiwakes, proving just how resilient seabirds can be. The mild spring encouraged another early start (a trend of recent years) as nest building activity commenced from early April with the first eggs discovered on 1st May.

From a population point of view, it’s been a turbulent decade for the species as following the trend of the majority of other east coast Kittiwake colonies, the species has been declining year-on-year. However following a series of good breeding seasons, the trend took an upturn on the Farnes. Despite continued decline elsewhere, the Farnes have now experienced a second year of increase with a total population of 4,241 pairs (AON).

The following figures represent the total number of breeding pairs per island, with the bracketed figures representing the breeding totals for the previous season: Inner Farne 1,275 (1,192), West Wideopens 198 (183), East Wideopens 229 (221), Skeney Scar 141 (155), Staple 1,197 (996), Brownsman 1,130 (1,104), North Wamses 20 (42), South Wamses 0 (24), Roddam and Green 10 (15) and Big Harcar 41 (44).

The ranger staff monitored 505 nests (representing 12% of the population) which produced 439 fledged young. This gives an overall productivity of 0.87. Although this is still a healthy return, the season was blighted by the weather with rain and heavy seas (washing nests off cliff sides) causing issues. Predation was also a problem in some areas, where large Gulls could access nest sites.

In conclusion, the weather hampered the breeding season but despite this, it still proved to be a 'reasonable' year. This combined with the increase of the population for the second consecutive year, means we have every reason to remain optimistic about Kittiwakes on the Farnes; the future’s bright, the future’s Kittiwakes.

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