Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Farne Islands puffin census starts

National Trust ranger Will Scott holds a puffin found in its burrow on the Farne Islands as the census begins
National Trust ranger Will Scott holds a puffin found in its burrow on the Farne Islands as the census begins
The Farne Islands puffin census takes place every five years

A puffin census is under way on the Farne Islands as National Trust rangers attempt to determine how many breeding pairs of the birds live on the iconic habitat.

The count takes place every five years and will take about three months to complete, as through driving rain or blazing sun the team of eleven rangers search every burrow they can find.

This is where the birds nest and is necessary to get an accurate number of how many puffins live across the eight islands.

Until 2008, each survey since the census began 65 years ago showed a steady increase in pairs of puffins on the North East islands, but the last count indicated numbers had fallen by a third.

The 2008 survey recorded 36,500 pairs of puffins compared to the 55,674 pairs living on the islands in the 2003 census.

David Steel, head ranger for the Farne Islands, said: "We've been monitoring a small section of the Farnes every year since the last census in 2008 and have seen a small increase in numbers in this area.

"We're hoping to see an increase in overall numbers this year but you can't tell after the winter we've just had.

"This March was the coldest on record since 1962 and this could impact on breeding numbers.

"The extreme winds affected the puffin's ability to feed as they made their way back to their summer breeding grounds.

"It will be interesting to see the results of the puffin census, which we will have available to share in July."

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