First puffins return to Farnes

A puffin on the Farne Islands with its beak full of sand eels. Picture by Jane Coltman
A puffin on the Farne Islands with its beak full of sand eels. Picture by Jane Coltman
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The first puffins are back on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast after their winter break away.

The Farnes, two to three miles off the coast midway between Seahouses and Bamburgh, are an important breeding ground for the little birds with the colourful beaks, with 36,285 pairs counted in 2012.

Billy Shiel’s Boats, which runs trips to the islands from Seahouses, yesterday (Sunday) tweeted: ‘NEWS FLASH!! First Puffins back at the Farne Islands today, Sun 8th Mar.’

The Atlantic puffin spends the autumn and winter at sea in cold, northern areas and returns to coastal stretches at the start of the breeding season in spring.

It nests in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single white egg is laid. The chick mostly feeds on whole fish and grows rapidly. After about six weeks it is fully fledged and makes its way at night to the sea. It swims away from the shore and does not return to land for several years.

Billy Shiel’s Boats also tweeted that the Inner Farne is open to the public from March 28.