CONCERN is growing for the future of the Scottish colony of the small seabird species Leach’s storm petrel which is suffering a serious decline in numbers off the Scottish coast.

Climate change is also being blamed for the decline in numbers of other species around the Scottish coast.

Though the Leach’s storm petrel is plentiful in numbers on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of North America, it is in decline on this side of the Atlantic where St Kilda, under the care of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), hosts the largest colony for the species.

Named after the great English zoologist William Elford Leach (1791-1836), the NTS stated yesterday that there is “serious concern” about the eponymous Petrel, which is now officially classed as a “vulnerable” species.

NTS officials revealed that to try to unravel the reasons for recent declines, 47 nest boxes have been installed on St Kilda, with just three chicks hatching this summer.

The trust added that wild weather conditions in early summer made it very difficult to monitor other seabirds on St Kilda. Another species which had been in decline seems to have staged a small rally, according to NTS statistics on the population of kittiwakes.

Over the past few years, the charity has been highlighting concerns about the future of the kittiwake which has been in serious decline at all of its sites. This year there is some cause for optimism as the populations increased slightly at both Canna bird sanctuary south-wast of Skye and St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve on the Berwickshire coast.

This year 4803 kittiwakes were counted at St Abb’s Head, up from 2779 last year — still well below the historic level of over 17,000 in 1990.

Elsewhere there is good news on bird populations with the Outer Hebridean island of Mingulay having had its best seabird season since 2000.

The NTS, Scotland’s largest conservation charity, has been monitoring seabird populations on Mingulay since it became responsible for the protection of the island. Summer 2017 has been a bumper year guillemots with the population reaching more than 19,000 this year — an all-time high.