Puffins’ Farne Islands nesting areas ‘may expand without tourists’

Puffins breeding off the Northumberland coast may expand their usual nesting grounds as tourists stay away because of coronavirus, experts have predicted.

The seabirds began returning in March, the National Trust says

The National Trust said the birds had once again returned to the Farne Islands, which have been closed to the public during the outbreak.

Last year more than 43,000 pairs of birds were recorded in what was the first annual survey of the colony.

A lack of predators has meant numbers have remained steady in recent years.

The first of the returning seabirds were spotted in March, the trust said, and the islands were now at “full capacity”.

The puffins are back in strong numbers, the National Trust said

Ranger Harriet Reid said she and her colleagues had seen “plenty of bill tapping and puffins with muddy fronts, which is a sign they’re readying their burrows for their precious eggs”.

“Puffins build their nests in burrows and in the absence of visitors we may see them expanding their usual nesting grounds to new parts of the islands,” she said.

“Areas such as the picnic spots on Inner Farne, which are usually popular with our visitors, could possibly see new guests this year.”

The coronavirus outbreak has meant a full ranger team has not been able to be on the islands and so a detailed survey of the seabirds was not going to be carried out.

Instead, observations and footage from remote cameras would be used to record their wellbeing.

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