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Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch

Birds on the Farne Islands off Northumberland, England’s biggest breeding colony of Atlantic Puffins, were fitted with ‘sat nav’ devices for the first time last year.
Tiny tags were glued onto the feathers of a dozen birds and collected after a few days. The scientists were then able to download data from the global positioning system or GPS device, which works in a similar way as a sat-nav system in a car.
 Initial results show the birds travel 20 miles out to sea several times a day to feed in sand eel ‘hot spots’.
The birds, which mate for life, stuff up to 7 sand eels in their colourful beaks each time to feed one chick in a burrow.
The research, carried out in partnership with the National Trust, sheds light for the first time on why the population of the Farne Islands crashed by 30 per cent between 2003 and 2008. It is thought the birds were unable to find enough food because climate change had ‘disturbed the food web’ and pushed the sand eels further north to cooler waters.
The colony is now recovering, with the population up five per cent in the last year to around 40,000 breeding pairs, but conservationists remain concerned about the long term survival of the seabird.
Dr Richard Bevan, of Newcastle University, said the new information showed that birds rely on particular areas of the ocean to feed.
He suggested new ‘Marine Conservation Zones’, where commercial fishing will be banned by the Government, should be set up in areas of the oceans where seabirds such as Puffins feed.
“Technology has come into its own here in the Farne Islands,” he said. “Knowing where these seabirds go to feed is a vital factor in their survival. For the first time we can accurately pinpoint where Puffins, Kittiwakes and other seabirds are going to forage, work towards conserving and monitoring these feeding grounds and securing the future of the birds themselves.”
However Dr Bevan stressed that further research is still needed into the complete life cycle of Puffins in order to prevent another crash in the population.
There are around half a million breeding pairs around the UK, mostly around the Scottish islands.
At the moment several theories are being considered.
One is that herring fisheries have exploded in the last 50 years because the fish are no longer popular with consumers. This means that herring are eating the sand eels that Puffins would usually rely on to survive.
Another idea is that more extreme weather conditions over the North Atlantic caused by global warming are wiping out Puffins.
Dr Bevan is currently studying data collected from a different kind of ‘geo-locater’ device that should show where Puffins are feeding in the winter.
“There could easily be another crash in the Puffin population until we know enough to stop it happening again,” he warned. Lets hope this research helps the Puffin population and that they continue to increase. Would you like to see Puffins in North Wales? We can help! Drop us an email and we can have a wonderful day birding in spectacular places and enjoy those Puffins,


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