Like many other animals who have reclaimed their habitats during the COVID-19 pandemic, puffins are enjoying the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland in northwest England, refreshingly free of tourists.
The seabirds started returning to the Farne Islands in March as they do every year, and now, the islands are full of them.
Owned by the National Trust, the islands are usually open to visitors from spring to fall, with mid-April to late July being the best time of the year to see birds. But they’re currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, which is a bummer for avid birdwatchers, but great news for the puffins that can expand their nesting grounds in the absence of tourists.
Harriet Reid, National Trust ranger on the Farnes, said, “Puffins build their nests in burrows and in the absence of visitors we may see them expanding their usual nesting grounds to new parts of the islands. Areas such as the picnic spots on Inner Farne, which are usually popular with our visitors, could possibly see new guests this year.”
The puffin population on the Farnes Islands was estimated to 43,000 pairs of birds last year during the first annual survey of the colony. This year, the survey likely won’t take place due to the lack of rangers on the island during the health crisis, but the few who are there will keep observing and monitoring the colorful birds while they breed and nest.
There are very few predators on the island, making it a sanctuary for Atlantic puffins, a species listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Without visitors, it will be even safer and more peaceful for the birds.
Besides puffins, the Farne Islands are a habitat for seals and many other kinds of seabirds. It’s reportedly Sir David Attenborough’s favorite place in the UK for wildlife viewing.