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Tirricks in sharp decline

TERNS and kittiwakes in Shetland have had an abysmal breeding season, according to statistics from charity RSPB.

This contrasts with reports from some Welsh reserves where warden recorded the highest number of Arctic and common tern for many years.

On Mousa, the 700 Arctic terns (tirricks) present at the start of the season failed to produce a single chick, the RSPB said on Tuesday.

Other sensitive species like kittiwakes have been abandoning chicks, failing to nest and, in some cases, not returning to nesting sites at all.

Similar scenarios are also reported from Orkney where only 356 Arctic terns returned to the North Hill reserve, a site that held more than 3,000 pairs in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, numbers of great skuas (bonxies) also appear to be in decline, while gannets continue to do very well.

RSPB reserves ecologist Doug Gilbert said: “Although 2010 has been a patchy year for seabird breeding, the terrible season for the critical colonies in the far north warns us that seabird populations in the UK remain in real danger.

“This is against a backdrop of long-term decline for many species. Such declines are an indictment of our stewardship of the marine environment.”