May 31, 2013 — Atlantic Puffin numbers on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve (NNR) off Scotland's east coast are at similar levels to 2009 despite this spring's severe weather.
The results of the latest puffin survey carried out by scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are released today. They indicate that a total of 46,000 burrows showed signs of use by puffins this spring, an almost identical total to the last count which was completed in 2009.
The Isle of May NNR is home to the largest colony of puffins in the North Sea and has been the main centre of the UK science community's research into puffins for nearly four decades.
The result is a surprise as, earlier this year, just as they were returning to the colonies in March, severe weather resulted in the deaths of thousands of seabirds along the coasts of eastern Scotland and north-east England. Examination of the bodies of some of the 3500 dead puffins and ringing recoveries suggested that many of the birds involved were breeding adults from local colonies.
Images of dead and dying puffins had resulted in great concern about the future of the major puffin breeding colonies in the region, especially since there was a 30% decline in the numbers of puffins on the Isle of May between 2003 and 2009.