Guernsey Press

Puffins have returned to Burhou in good numbers

PUFFINS are returning to the Bailiwick in strong numbers once again.

Puffins have once again returned to the Bailiwick with populations stable. The Alderney Wildlife Trust started its Puffin Watch project last year, using cameras to monitor and the record population.

There are 150 pairs inhabiting Burhou, the protected island off the coast of Alderney where they go to nest and breed.

Puffins arrive in the Bailiwick from mid-March and leave around the end of July.

The Alderney Wildlife Trust said the puffin population has remained stable over the last 20 years, with a storm in 2014 causing the only real dip in numbers which quickly returned to normal.

Last year saw a peak of 184 pairs recorded.

AWT marine ecologist Alex Purdie described what makes the Bailiwick so desirable to the sea birds.

‘There’s many good fisheries so plenty of sand eels to eat and an island like Burhou provides a great place to nest, due to its good soil for burrowing and its isolation, so they are safe from wildlife like rats.’

Once a puffling leaves the burrow for the first time, it heads straight for sea and does not return to land for about five years until it is ready to breed.

While population is expected to stay stable for years to come, Mr Purdie said there were still dangers that could see numbers fall.

‘The big scary one is climate change, the water will get warmer and push our fish population further north,’ he said.

Rats and disturbances are two of the other main risks to puffins.

With the birds proving a popular sight, islanders often take to Herm and its surrounding islands, where there have already been multiple reported sightings this year, to spot them.

However, this can often be harmful due to the disturbances caused by visitors when getting too close.

Island Rib Voyages managing director Dan Meinke said that personal puffin viewing trips should be kept to a minimum.

‘Businesses like Outdoor Guernsey and ourselves put on puffin watches which I would recommend.

'We know the correct distances and procedures to ensure no harm is caused,’ he said.

Last year AWT launched its Puffin Watch project, using cameras to monitor the size and productivity of the puffins on Burhou, providing accurate data and statistics for how many are breeding.

Following a successful launch year, the charity is now appealing for volunteers to help collate all the information.

Interested islanders should email or phone 01481 822935.

The AWT website is at