PUFFIN ISLAND SITE OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST
What is ‘special’ about Puffin Island SSSI?
Puffin Island has one special feature:
The island supports more than 1% of the breeding Great Britain population of cormorants (and 1% of the NW European population).
As well as the features listed above, Puffin Island has other features that contribute to the special interest. These include sea cliffs, maritime grassland, and intertidal rocks. Of particular marine interest are lower shore under-boulder communities and rock-boring seashells (piddocks) and seaweed communities. This mixture of habitats is important for much of the wildlife including plants reflecting the early monastic occupation (such as alexanders), sea spleenwort, puffin, guillemot, black guillemot and razorbill, together with eider duck, shag, fulmar, kittiwake, herring gull, greaterblack-backed gull and lesser black-backed gull, the rare spider (Meta bourneti) and grey seals and these too are key components of the special interest of the site. Unless specified below, management of this site should aim to look after these habitats as well as the listed features of interest.
What management is needed on Puffin Island SSSI and why?
Although Puffin Island is an excellent place for wildlife it will only remain so if the necessary management continues. CCW’s aim is to work with you to ensure that this management is carried out.
What does this mean in practice?
There are many factors that could damage the special features at Puffin Island if they are not properly managed. These are the ones we regard as most important:
Disturbance: Breeding seabirds require secure nesting sites, free from human disturbance. Visits to the island should be controlled during the nesting season (February to July inclusive) and any visits necessary should seek to avoid disturbance to sensitive areas, particularly nesting cliffs. No dogs (except guide-dogs) or cats should be permitted at any time. Passing vessels, including pleasure cruisers and canoes, can cause birds to panic and thereby leave eggs and nestlings vulnerable to predators. Judgement should be exercised to give a wide berth (>100 metres) to the colonies, at nesting time, commensurate with navigational and safety requirements. Similar consideration should be given to resting seals, particularly if young are present in the autumn.
Predators: Breeding seabirds require freedom from ground predators to thrive. Small offshore islands should be naturally ground predator-free. Rats, cats or other ground predators can decimate breeding colonies. Although cormorants appear to have thrived alongside brown rats until their eradication in 1998, other seabirds appear to have been confined to marginal habitat. Every effort should be made to avoid introduction and to eradicate any ground predators present. Avian predators such as peregrine or greater black-backed gulls should be tolerated.
Grazing: Some seabirds, notably puffin, can benefit from short turf, which enables burrowing and permits visual contact to be maintained between birds on the ground. The island was formerly grazed since monastic times, latterly by rabbits. Eradication of the rats appears to have accentuated the development of bramble and elder scrub by removing their foraging and gnawing activity. Proposals to reintroduce grazing (by goats, sheep, rabbits or geese) should be considered in the light of best available evidence and expert opinion.
There are a number of off-site factors that have the potential to significantly impact on the features of this site. These factors are highlighted below:
Food supply: Nesting seabirds require a regular supply of suitable fish (sandeels and other small pelagic fish) available to foraging birds within a short distance of the colony. Any actions or events likely to impinge on this resource should be resisted.
Our knowledge of wildlife is far from complete. It is possible that new features of value may appear and new management issues may arise in the future, whilst other issues may disappear. This statement is written with the best information we have now, but may have to change in the future as our understanding improves. Any information you can provide on the wildlife of your site, its management and its conservation would be much appreciated.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of your SSSI, or have any concerns about your SSSI, please contact your local CCW office.
Your local office is;
Cyngor Cefn Gwlad Cymru/Countryside Council for Wales
Llys y Bont,
Ffordd y Parc,
Gwynedd, LL57 4BN,
Fax: 01248 679259