Seabird Update: The Auks

Now it’s time to have a closer look at the seabird season for our three resident Auk species, the Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin. For starters, it’s good news, with the Guillemot and Razorbill populations both showing an increase on last years counts and lots of chicks surviving to fledging age.

DSC_0208The number of individual Guillemots has risen by 12% from 14,248 in 2013 to 16,601 in 2014. We then do some fancy sums and convert the number of individuals into an estimate of the number of pairs, with this showing an increase of 7%. We do this as some of the birds that are present and counted during the spring aren’t actually breeding. We get a good number of younger birds sitting on the cliffs seeing what is happening, looking out for future potential breeding space and a mate.

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The Razorbills have also shown a population increase of 20% from 2,987 individuals in 2013 to 3,796 this year. Again, we can convert this into an estimate of pairs which equates to a 4% increase. Razorbills are a particularly long lived species, with some birds surviving to the ripe old age of fifty. Like our other Auks, they have just one chick per season, so they put all their energy and time into raising a strong, healthy chick. With this season seeing lots of chicks fledged and an increase in the population, it bodes very well for future years, when hopefully the offspring raised this year will return.

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And finally for that colourful crowd pleaser, the Puffin. We only count the entire Puffin population every five years as it takes so long to count individual burrows. However, they did seem to have a fair season with plenty of chicks fledging across the island. Some did struggle with the long grass this year, with many birds getting tangled up and wet. The longer grass also made it hard for them to access their burrows. This is a knock on effect from the Rabbits having a bout of myxomatosis, hopefully they’ll bounce back and get grazing before next season!

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