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Best seabird breeding season for Outer Hebrides island since 2000

A charity finds razorbills and guillemots have experienced a good breeding season in the Outer Hebrides this year.

The island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides has had its best seabird breeding season since 2000, according to new figures.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said 2017 has been a “bumper year” for razorbills and guillemots.

In fact, the population of guillemots reached an all-time high of more than 19,000 this year, the conservation charity said.

Island of Mingulay seabird breeding season

The NTS has been monitoring seabird populations on Mingulay since it became responsible for the protection of the island.

It also cares for some of Scotland’s most significant seabird nesting sites, including St Kilda world heritage site, St Abb’s Head national nature reserve in Berwickshire and Fair Isle, Shetland, which are home to more than a million seabirds of all species every summer.

The charity said there is serious concern for the vulnerable Leach’s storm petrels on St Kilda, which has the largest colony of the species in the north-east Atlantic.

Some 47 nest boxes were installed at the archipelago but just three chicks hatched this summer.

Island of Mingulay seabird breeding season

The organisation has also highlighted concerns in recent years about the future of the kittiwake, which has been in serious decline at all of its sites.

It said there is some cause for optimism this year as the populations increased slightly at both Canna and St Abb’s Head.

This year, 4,803 were counted at St Abb’s Head, up from 2,779 last year but still well below the level of more than 17,000 in 1990.

NTS senior nature conservation adviser Dr Richard Luxmoore said: “Some species have had a really strong season this summer at sites across the country.

“However, we remain very concerned about the long-term plight of the kittiwake, which despite a more successful season at a few locations this summer, continues to decline at an alarming rate.

“It is always difficult to disentangle the many factors at play here and change in the availability of prey is often implicated.

“In the case of kittiwakes and puffins, which feed largely on sandeels, the long-term trend has been linked to the inexorable rise in sea temperatures caused by climate change which is obviously a real concern.”

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