Each year one of the key tasks for the Rangers on the islands is to survey the thousands of breeding birds. The information gathered each year adds to a knowledge base of seabird population health, movement and well-being within the bird and scientific community.
Why do we monitor bird populations?
How do we do it?
Counting ever changing colonies of seabirds is not easy. They don't stay still for long. The cliff-nesters, such as Kittiwakes and Guillemot, require an early morning start, a relatively flat sea, and a number of Rangers in their Zodiac inflatable boat. All the cliff-nesters are counted ten times, over ten mornings, from both the boat and the land, and the figures averaged out. Some species which have a prolonged nesting season, such as Eiders, are mapped, while Terns are counted in one day - the Rangers judge the optimal time for this.
|Numbered, painted stones you will see around the islands marking monitored nests|
How will this coming year compare to last year?
Kittiwake up 21% to 4,175 pairs (from 3,442)
Eider up 16% to 639 pairs (from 552)
Sandwich Tern up 16% to 959 pairs (from 824)
Arctic Tern up 15% to 2,212 pairs (from 1,921)
Guillemot up 4% to Farnes record of 51,883 individuals (increase of 1,835)
The year also gave a welcome boost for the Shag population following heavy mortality during the winter of 2012-13 which halved the Farnes breeding population the following year. There was also welcome news for Kittiwakes as the population increased by 21% and good numbers of young fledged; a positive step forward following recent poor breeding seasons.
As has been the case in recent years, it was also another good year for the islands' breeding auks with Guillemots at record levels, Puffins producing huge numbers of fledglings and the Razorbill population maintaining itself. Other birds to show increases included both the Arctic and Sandwich Terns, whilst Eiders (also known as Cuddy Ducks) made a welcome increase. Other highlights included the Farnes' first ever confirmed breeding of Shoveler whilst Northumberland's only breeding pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers nested again.
In general, it was an excellent breeding season. Strong population numbers, a plentiful food supply and the summer's settled weather contributed to high numbers of young fledging the islands. Encouragingly this success story was mirrored along other east coast seabird colonies; halting the well documented declines witnessed in recent years.