THE ups and downs have been recorded of almost 80,000 pairs of seabirds which bred last year on the Farne Islands off Northumberland.
Of the 179 species logged, razorbills, with 390 nesting pairs, guillemots and fulmars achieved their highest ever population counts.
A total of 276 pairs of fulmars nested and 156 chicks were ringed.
But during this process two chicks were seen to regurgitate polystyrene balls and aluminum foil.
“A worrying indication of the threats the species face from human activities,” says David Steel, head warden on the National Trust islands, who compiled the report published by the Natural History Society of Northumbria.
Wardens also rescued and released two gannets with fishing line wrapped around their bills.
“Sadly the same could not be said about three birds tangled together as two birds had to be destroyed, evidence of the dangers of discarded line,” says David.
With 47,977 guillemots, it may not be long before the islands pass the 50,000 mark.
But they did have to contend with heavy nest raiding of eggs and young by herring gulls, of which 759 pairs nested.
“As the breeding season started, birds began to switch their diets from foraging at sea to nest raiding, with birds patrolling the cliffs and meadows, in search of an easy meal,” says David.
Later in the season, the herring gulls switched their attention from guillemots to Arctic terns, black-headed gulls and eider ducks.
A dozen pairs of great black-backed gulls – “a bruiser of a gull” says David – bred on the islands.
“These imposing scavengers are renowned for their aggressiveness and some astonishing behaviour was observed, when a pair of adults killed and ate two shags, an adult and a juvenile,” says David.