After three months of counting, measuring, and putting plasters on fingers, the puffin census 2013 was complete. An 8 per cent increase on 2008 was the big news, meaning that there are 39,962 pairs nesting on the Farnes, as opposed to 36,835 five years ago. Also the lateness of the breeding season means that the birds arrived here later into the summer, which was good news for visitors.
Our team of National Trust rangers surveyed the entire Puffin population across nine islands. With several colony counts complete we are now well acquainted with these tough little seabirds. While a few rangers had one or two bitten fingers we are glad to report that no Puffins were harmed in the counting.
As well as counting we also carry out vital scientific work including ringing and the taking of biometrics of Puffins. This allows us to see the state of the birds during the breeding season and is part of a longer running study.
Which way to the toilets?
It's not as simple as you may think, surveying Puffins. Burrows can go down 4 or 5ft and some build two chambers; one for a single egg and another for a toilet. It's often a case of lose - lose for the rangers; either get bitten or put your hand into the bird's toilet!
A hole lot of puffins
There are about 90,000 puffin burrows on the Farne Islands and over the course of the census, each one had a ranger put their arm down there and feel for beaks. If we felt one, we knew that a breeding pair occupied the burrow.
For the first time, we have been able to observe Puffins in their underground burrows. This is thanks to Puffin Cam, which was installed last season. Please click on the video below to learn more; already we have seen a egg being laid, and even the chick hatching!
Puffin-cam: our first chick
In 2013 for the first time ever we installed cameras in puffin burrows on the Farne Islands. These cameras recordedd highlights throughout the breeding season, charting the ups and downs of these plucky little birds. This incredible video shows a newly hatched chick emerging from its egg.
Seal tours in October
We'll once again be offering seal tours this year following the success of the previous two Octobers. Watch this space for more details of how to get up close and personal with the UK's biggest population of grey seal pups.
In 2013 we counted over 1,500 new-born pups on the Farnes with Staple Island - the destination for our Seal Tours - being the biggest contributor.