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Critical year for determining how puffins are doing on the Farne Islands as National Trust rangers start this year’s count - National Trust

A pair of puffins on the Farne Islands in the North Sea, cared for by the National Trust. Credit National Trust Images & Nick Upton
A pair of puffins on the Farne Islands in the North Sea, cared for by the National Trust. Credit National Trust Images & Nick Upton

National Trust Rangers on the remote Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland are about to start this year’s puffin count – in what will be a critical year in assessing how these quirky seabirds are faring in light of the complex challenges they face in the North Sea.

With full surveys unable to be carried out in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s figures will be vital for understanding how the seabirds are doing now that the 14-strong ranger team can return to live on the Inner Farne to conduct full surveys across eight of the 28 islands. 2022 is also the fifth year in the count cycle for being able to determine any sort of population trends.
With puffins nesting underground, the count involves rangers monitoring burrows for signs of whether they are occupied. The birds – which are the size of a small bag of sugar - return to breed each year after spending the winter out at sea, arriving back on the islands in late March or early April. They stay until the last chicks fledge in mid-August.
Puffins have traditionally done well on the Farnes thanks to the work of the rangers, the protection of the marine areas around the islands, a lack of ground predators and the availability of suitable nesting areas.
Last year 36,211 breeding pairs of Atlantic puffins were recorded across four islands, compared to 29,546 pairs on three of the islands in 2020. This compares to the 42,378 pairs in 2019 and 42,474 pairs recorded in 2018. Although numbers appear to be relatively stable despite a 15 per cent drop in numbers over the past four years, the 2022 count will be a telling year for these popular seabirds.


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Posted On: 25/05/2022

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