Soggy chicks warm up with a little help from a hairdryer

Feature on puffins on the Farne Islands.
Feature on puffins on the Farne Islands.

Bird colonies on the Farne Islands will recover despite a ‘wipeout year’ caused by the weather, says a warden who cares for their home.

This year’s heavy rain has caused havoc for the islands’ wildlife, particularly its 36,000-strong puffin colony.

Puffins lay just one egg per year in burrows they dig in the soil - but heavy rain has caused many of them to fill with water.

There are more than 36,000 breeding pairs on the Farnes, and in some areas up to half have been affected.

“Somewhere in the region of 9-10,000 burrows have been flooded,” said Graeme Duncan, senior ranger on the Farne Islands for the National Trust.

“Any eggs that were down the burrows would get chilled and would die off. If there were any chicks they would drown or be pushed out.”

Other bird colonies, including kittiwakes, shags and arctic terns, have also been badly affected.

Despite what he calls a ‘wipeout year’, however, Mr Duncan said that wildlife on the islands will soon recover.

He said: “It’s a lot less bad than we were dreading because the food supply is so good. The chicks that have not succumbed have done really well.”

Most of the bird colonies will recover naturally, he said.

But National Trust staff have been giving drenched arctic tern chicks a little extra care - with the help of a hairdryer.

“All they need is a bit of warmth and to dry them back out again, and then you can put them back outside when the rain stops,” Mr Duncan said.