Mixed fortunes for birds

Razorbill Alca torda, Isle of May National Nature reserve, June

Razorbill Alca torda, Isle of May National Nature reserve, June

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THERE have been both winners and losers among the breeding colonies at RSPB Bempton Cliffs this year.

A survey of the seabird colony has revealed that razorbills enjoyed a great season with the average number of fledged young up almost a fifth from last year.

Fulmar

Fulmar

It was also a successful year for guillemots, with productivity increasing nearly a tenth.

But it was not good news for all species at the Yorkshire reserve as staff at RSPB Bempton Cliffs recorded a 15% decline in productivity for fulmars, while the average number of fledged kittiwakes per nest dropped by almost a quarter.

These figures are particularly concerning as, nationally, both kittiwake and fulmar populations have declined 40% over the past decade.

Helen Quayle is the RSPB’s Marine Conservation Officer for the North East and Yorkshire and said: “It is great to see that the razorbills and guillemots have had a good year.

Razorbill Alca torda, pair displaying, Isle of May National Nature reserve, June

Razorbill Alca torda, pair displaying, Isle of May National Nature reserve, June

“Both species are really charismatic and I love going to see them in action at Bempton during the breeding season.

“However, the news about the kittiwakes and fulmars is worrying.

“These birds have suffered big declines in recent years, which is one of the reasons we are currently campaigning to ensure that seabirds are protected while they are out at sea.”

Although all nesting seabirds in the UK are protected on land, currently there is no equivalent legislation to safeguard the birds once they leave dry land.

Guillemot

Guillemot

This means they are vulnerable to the growing threats posed by over-fishing, dredging and offshore development.

In 2009, the Government committed to creating a network of marine protected sites - called Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) - around the English and Welsh coast.

However, government guidance has meant the draft network currently being considered delivers very little for our visiting seabirds.

For example, the Flamborough-Helgoland front off the coast of Yorkshire is a vital foraging area for some of the thousands of seabirds that breed at Bempton Cliffs, yet because of the guidance, it is not being considered as a Marine Conservation Zone despite calls from conservationists.

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, adult in flight

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, adult in flight

Helen continued: “We need MCZs to deliver for seabirds so we are asking people who enjoy watching these amazing creatures to sign our marine pledge.

“The more signatures we can get, the more pressure we can put on the Government to help ensure that seabirds get the same level of protection at sea as they enjoy on land.”

To step up for seabirds and sign the marine pledge visit: www.rspb.org.uk/marinepetition.

Kittiwake

Kittiwake

Guillemots

Guillemots

Fulmars

Fulmars