Puffins have started to return to their breeding grounds on the Farne Islands two weeks early thanks to the milder spring temperatures.
The National Trust, who look after the Farne Islands, reported sightings of over 500 puffins on the islands just last week. It is thought this could be one of the earliest sightings on record by the national conservation charity.
Due to an annual moult, most puffins are flightless between January and March.
David Steel, lead ranger for the National Trust on the Farne Islands, said: “It is unusual to see puffins returning to Farne waters so quickly.
“In a normal given-year, we would not expect to see them until the last few days of March at the earliest. This is in complete contrast to the previous season where birds did not start returning until early April.”
Two species of butterfly - a red admiral and a small tortoiseshell - have also been spotted on The Farnes. This is another indication of just how mild March has been this year, with butterflies not usually recorded there until late April/May.
The team is now hoping that this mild spell of weather will be a sign of things to come and the puffins and other seabirds of the Farne islands have a successful year.
In 2008, 36,000 puffin pairs were recorded on the islands, and numbers have increased over the last five years. Last year’s puffin census found that the Farnes were home to just under 40,000 pairs of puffins during the spring and summer months.
The Farne Islandsare open for visitors from April 1. To keep up to date with puffin news and signs of spring with the National Trust in the North East like their Facebook page www.facebook.com/NorthEastNT