Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Techno Puffins

Adult Puffin (by David Still)
Dr Richard Bevan releasing a Puffin back into its burrow (by Barry Pells)

Tagging a Puffin (by Barry Pells)

Wednesday 1st July comments:

Press release by National Trust Farne Islands:

Technology brought in to solve the Puffin puzzle
New research starting this summer will aim to explain why puffin numbers have fallen so dramatically in the last five years by using GPS technology to track their movements. 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.

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.”

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 island. Further work will be carried out using time-depth recorders on the Farne Island 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. 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.

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.”


Jan said...

WOOHOO just watched the little film clip on the BBC website, techno-puffins indeed! Well done to all involved, it must be arduous and probably a bit dangerous too. Hopefully now there will be more data about the puffins, and where they go etc. Very exciting for you all. Congrats.

kezia said...

Yahaaaaaay just watched you , great to see it and lets hope it answers some questions wow tagged puffins . I have also now booked my boat trip so weather permitting etc I will be there 17th July , wanted to do the two islands and also Glad Tidings so thought it safer to book , looking forward to meeting you all , should I introduce myself ???? just a PS my real name is Valerie !!!

Farnes said...

Hi everyone - a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes and yes, if you do visit, introduce yourself, its always great to meet new faces on the islands (especially fans of the blog!). Enjoy the visit.