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Farne Puffins to Be Tracked By GPS to Find Why They Are Declining So Fast


Animals  (tags: animals, puffins, GPS, declining numbers, AnimalWelfare, environment, habitat, protection, wildlife, wildanimals )

Cher
- 3550 days ago - wildlifeextra.com
New research will aim to explain why puffin numbers have fallen so dramatically on the Farne Islands in the last five years by using GPS technology to track their movements.



   

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Jamie L (195)
Wednesday July 1, 2009, 8:39 am
awww... those are one a my favorite birds... thanks Cher!

Technology brought in to solve the puffin puzzle on the Farne Islands

July 2009. New research will aim to explain why puffin numbers have fallen so dramatically on the Farne Islands in the last five years by using GPS technology to track their movements.

GPS transmitters
Puffins living on the Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, will be tagged with GPS transmitters - a world first for these birds - in order to shed new light on puffin movement and behaviour. The tags, which are glued onto the birds' feathers and fall off after several days, will help map their movements to find out where they go to fish, how they get there (either directly or do they hunt en route for sand eels) and what they do on arrival.

Search for missing puffins
David Steel, National Trust Head Warden on the Farne Islands, said: "This has become the case of the disappearing puffins. Young puffins are successfully fledging each year and it would seem that their staple food, the sand eel is in good supply, but they're just not coming back to the islands. This research, including further counts, is designed to shed some light on what is happening."

Detailed puffin counts
A team of researchers from Newcastle University will work with National Trust wardens on Brownsman Island on the Farnes to tag and ring puffins. Further detailed puffin counts will take place on four of the islands.

Dr Richard Bevan from Newcastle University with a puffin and a GPS tag on the Farne Islands. Credit NT.

Dr Richard Bevan from Newcastle University with a puffin and a GPS tag on the Farne Islands. Credit NT.
Time-depth recorders
Further work will be carried out using time-depth recorders on the Farne Islands puffins. These devices provide information on diving behaviour, such as how often they dive and how deep, and sea temperatures. This information will help in understanding how puffins might be affected by climate change and possible changes in sea temperatures.

Puffin numbers down by 30% in 5 years
A survey of the breeding pairs of puffins carried out on eight of the Farne Islands in the summer of 2008 found that numbers were down by one third compared to the previous survey in 2003.

Geolocators to discover where the puffins go in winter
In mid July, before the puffins depart the islands for winter, geolocators will be attached to a leg ring on some of the birds. When the data is collected from returning puffins the following year it will provide an outline of the birds' movements while they wintered at sea.

Dr Richard Bevan of Newcastle University said: "Technological developments now mean that we're getting closer to finding the pieces of the jigsaw to help solve the puffin puzzle. The new data will help explain what the puffins are doing when they're on the Farne Islands and hopefully then help us to understand why numbers have declined so dramatically."
Farne puffins

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Records for the number of breeding pairs of puffins found on the Farne Islands date back to the 1930s but the first detailed count took place in 1969 when there were 6,800 pairs.
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In 2008 the figure was 36,500 compared to 55,674 breeding pairs in 2003. The Farne Islands has the largest colony of puffins in England and is the fourth largest colony in the UK.
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The Farne Islands consist of 16 islands at high tide and 30 islands at low tide.
The oldest puffin recorded on the Farne Islands is 31.



puffins in the Uk

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There are at least 500,000 breeding pairs of puffins in the UK with half of the population at a handful of significant colonies. The last complete puffin survey on St Kilda, which is more than 40 miles to the west of the Outer Hebrides, and is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, showed that it had the biggest concentration of puffins in the UK. The birds fall under the Amber List species because of their concentration in certain locations.
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Adult puffins arrive at the breeding colonies in March and April and leave again in late July and early August. Puffins feed on fish, especially sand eels.
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More than 43,000 people visit these iconic islands every year between April and the end of September - with regular boat trips from Seahouses. Puffins leave the islands in late July/early August. Situated just two miles off the Northumberland coast these windswept islands are home to more than 80,000 pairs of seabirds and a healthy population of grey seals.
 
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