2014 was a dreadful year for Puffins in Pembrokeshire. Research by Dr Matt Wood at the University of Gloucestershire* is revealing the harsh consequences of last winter’s’s storms for thousands of puffins on Skomer Island.
Around 50,000 dead seabirds, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills, were washed ashore in a severely emaciated state, starved as storm after storm prevented them from catching enough fish to eat. With unknown numbers dying out at sea, this was the biggest seabird wreck recorded in Europe. By the end of 2014’s breeding season, the numbers of adult puffins was down by 25% on the previous year: a quarter of the puffins on Skomer and Skokholm islands may have died, around 5,000 birds.
Field assistant Ros Green found that Skomer puffins bred unusually late, their chicks hatching two weeks later than usual and being fed at only a third of the rate in 2013. As a result, breeding success dropped markedly by 25%, with only just over half of puffin pairs raising a chick.
The puffin colony needs to recuperate in 2015. Here’s hoping for fewer catastrophic weather events in the year to come.
*Reported by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.
Finally, on a related topic, here are some of my favourite Puffins. Do you remember yours?