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, which looks after the Northumberland site, has reported sightings of more 500 puffins on the islands earlier this week (Wednesday).

It is thought this could be one of the earliest sightings on record by the national conservation charity.

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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. It is now hoped 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.

"The Farne Islands are open for visitors on April 1 and we're looking forward to welcoming visitors once again. "

The Farne Islands are home to 40,000 pairs of puffins during spring and summer.

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