Seabird chicks hit by recent downpours on Farne Islands

Seabirds nesting on the remote Farne Islands have been hit by heavy rain which killed many of their young, the National Trust has said.

Arctic terns, puffins, guillemots and shags all suffered losses as chicks including pufflings – baby puffins – were battered by nearly 5in of rain in 24 hours on June 13 on the islands off the Northumberland coast.

There was five times as much rain as fell on the islands in the whole of June last year, at a time when the baby birds were at their most vulnerable.

Ground nesting Arctic terns may see numbers fall by a third as a result of the bad weather (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Ground nesting Arctic terns may see numbers fall by a third as a result of the bad weather (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ground-nesting Arctic terns were hit by exposure of their chicks to the elements, and threatened puffins saw the burrows they raise their pufflings in flooded.

It will take time to see if the rain has a significant impact on bird numbers in subsequent years but the National Trust warns climate change could be having an effect with more frequent summer storms.

Gwen Potter, countryside manager for the National Trust, said: “The significant rainfall sadly caused many ground-nesting Arctic tern chicks to perish due to exposure to the elements.

“We don’t know the full impact yet but estimate that tern numbers are likely to dip by up to 35% this year.

Guillemots were among the birds hit by the torrid weather earlier this month (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Guillemots were among the birds hit by the weather earlier this month (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We also know that 300 pufflings perished on one of the islands. Puffins are ground-nesting birds and unfortunately their burrows flooded.

“We’re continuing to monitor the wildlife on the islands closely.

“Our rangers work throughout the year to protect these special seabirds, including providing a 24-hour watch during nesting season.”

Trust staff were among thousands of people who descended on Westminster to lobby their MPs to pass ambitious new laws for wildlife and people, and back efforts to halt climate change.

Puffins nest in burrows which were flooded by the heavy rain (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Puffins nest in burrows which were flooded by the heavy rain (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Ms Potter said: “The complex effects of a changing climate on nature are becoming increasingly frequent and difficult to solve.

“We are now seeing frequent summer storms washing out nests on the Farne Islands on a regular basis and a decline in the numbers of surface-feeding species such as terns.”

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