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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Island birds hit by freak storm
The Farne Islands are home to about 50,00 puffins
A sudden storm has washed away hundreds of seabird nests on an important wildlife habitat in Northumberland.

Inner Farne and Brownsman, two of the Farne Islands, were flooded when a month's worth of rain fell in just half an hour.

Approximately 800 puffin nests, many containing eggs or live chicks, were swept off Brownsman.

But National Trust wardens based on Inner Farne managed to save more than 100 arctic tern nests.

David Steel, the Farne Island's head warden, said boat tours to the island had to be called off as lightning stuck the islands and surrounding sea on Thursday afternoon.

I've been out here over the past seven years and I've never seen anything like that before
David Steel, National Trust

About 20mm of rain fell during the 30-minute storm - more than in the entire month of April.

Mr Steel said: "I've been out here over the past seven years and I've never seen anything like that before, nor have any of the boatsmen I've talked to.

"We managed to save all of the tern nests because they nest on the surface, but puffins dig a burrow for their eggs so those were flooded and swept away.

"It's a shame, but they'll be back next year to lay more eggs. We've dug ditches and now we're waiting for the water to drain away on both islands."

The Farne Islands' 50,000 puffins are popular with tourists, who travel by tour boat from nearby Seahouses.

The area is also home to a colony of grey seals, as well cormorants and wild rabbits.


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