Dec. 5 - The puffin population of the UK's Farne Islands has made an impressive recovery after years of steady declines. Puffin numbers plummeted by a third between 2003 and 2008, leading environmentalists to worry about their future sustainability, but a just completed census has shown that the birds are back. Jim Drury reports.
The Farne Islands off England's northeastern coast.....home to thousands of grey seals and a healthy population of puffins. For conservationists, it's good news. The puffin was thought to be in serious decline just five years ago, but now, it's bouncing back. Head ranger David Steel, says the species has recovered by eight percent over 2008's numbers, to 40,000 pairs. SOUNDBITE (English) DAVID STEEL, HEAD RANGER FOR NATIONAL TRUST ON FARNE ISLANDS, SAYING: "Part of this increase has been down to the good weather of this year but also the amount of food which has been brought in. Plenty of sand eels being brought in by all our puffins, which has resulted in lots of chicks leaving the islands this year and all in all in general the colony is in good health and that's great news for us and the puffins and the Farne Islands." The news was unexpected. Thousands of puffins were killed in last year's winter storms, on top of huge unexplained declines that began in 2003. The rangers say the recovery indicates strong habitat present for all seabird species on the Farnes, a region important to Europe's biological diversity. SOUNDBITE (English) DAVID STEEL, HEAD RANGER FOR NATIONAL TRUST ON FARNE ISLANDS, SAYING: "The Farnes is an amazing wildlife habitat and it hosts nearly 80,000 pairs of seabirds which nest on the Farnes. Also about 5,000 grey seals as well, so it's not only one of Great Britain's but Europe's finest nature reserves." A claim that its residents agree, deserves the seal of approval.