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National Trust: UK sea birds being hit by extreme weather, predators and human disturbance

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

  • National Trust: UK sea birds being hit by extreme weather, predators and human disturbance

  • National Trust: UK sea birds being hit by extreme weather, predators and human disturbance

  • Little terns, left, Atlantic puffins, centre, and Manx shearwaters, right, have all been suffering in recent years, the National Trust says

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UK seabirds are being hit by a triple whammy of extreme weather, predators and disturbance by humans, the National Trust has said.

A study by the trust of seabird sites along the 742 miles of coastline it cares for revealed that the most prevalent threat to breeding colonies of birds such as little terns and Atlantic puffins was extreme weather.

Extremes such as the winter storms in the past year and the heavy rains that washed out the summer in 2012 are expected to become frequent and intense as the climate warms.

The storms this winter hit the trust's Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk, where severe storm surges changed the beach profile and forced more than half the little terns there to nest in low areas.

The nests then flooded in the high tides that followed in mid-June, leading to a very poor breeding season with just ten chicks fledging from 108 breeding pairs.

Little terns in Long Nanny in Northumberland have faced a similar threat, the trust said.

Atlantic puffins are also threatened by extreme weather, with the wet, windy summer in 2012 hitting the population of the charismatic bird on the Farne Islands.

Heavy flooding of the puffin burrows during the summer meant that one of the islands failed to produce any chicks, despite being home to 12,000 of the islands' 40,000 strong puffin population.

The puffin colony recovered and is the second largest in the UK, but it faces a challenging future, the trust said.

Another major problem for seabirds is predators such as foxes, rats and non-native mink, according to the study carried out by the National Trust to evaluate the importance of its sites for seabirds and assess issues which affect breeding success.

In 2001, Manx shearwaters on Lundy Island, Devon, were virtually unable to breed because of predation from rats, but a project to eradicate the predators saw the birds make a spectacular recovery.

The trust said managed removal of predators was now a priority.

The third most common risk facing breeding seabirds was disturbance by humans.

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