The beautiful Farne Islands are one of the best places to see the much loved puffin in the UK.
Puffins mate for life. They separate over winter and pair up again when they come back to the islands in the spring.
National Trust rangers count puffins on the Farne Islands as the birds return there to breed and raise their young between April and late July.
Previously, they have undertaken a full puffin census every five years.
From 2019, however, they are going to count the puffins every year. The numbers tell the rangers if there’s been an increase or decrease in the colony – and that data is fed into national information to monitor trends and give an idea of how we can help puffins survive.
They will be checking to see if their holes have anyone in them or not. They’ll look for signs of puffin footprints and fresh digging, and count the puffins living inside the nests.
Puffins have traditionally done well on the Farne Islands. The National Trust has worked to protect them;there’s been good sources of food, a lack of ground predators and plenty of suitable nesting areas.
In May 2018, rangers had been worried that puffins had been hit by a long, harsh winter and poor food supplies. But on the Farne Islands, the birds have weathered a cold, stormy winter. Rangers counted 43,956 pairs of birds – a 9% increase from 2013!
This is an improvement – a 9% increase from 2013. Mind you, back in 2003, 55,674 pairs were recorded, so there’s still a way to go.
The puffins now face a challenge from increasing seal pup numbers (who went up from 1,704 to 2,602 in the last 5 years) – it means there’s less space for puffins on the outer islands.
The Farnes achieved their 25th anniversary of their National Nature Reserve status back in 2018. Such status has helped in several ways:
Monitoring the puffins every year will help the Trust track numbers against likely causes of population change – could changes be down to climate change, changes in the sand eel population or something else completely
Meantime, the puffin remains on the British Trust for Ornithology's red list for the UK, indicating concern for its future.
Three things we can do to help puffins are:
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Peter Fearnhead, CEO, African Parks Network, South Africa