From the RSPB in Britain:
UK’s smallest breeding seabird weathers the storm
Last modified: 15 September 2008
Greg Morgan, RSPB Ramsey Island warden, discovered five sites with resident storm petrels on the west coast of the island during monitoring sessions in July.
Greg said: ‘Storm petrels nest underground in burrows and inside rock crevices so we use a recently developed method of checking whether a potential nest site is occupied. We play a tape-recording of the male bird’s call at the entrance to likely habitat and listen for a response.
‘Repeat visits are needed to capture all the responses for an area as not all birds respond all the time. This is quite time consuming so a full survey will be carried out in 2009. However, given that we had responses from five sites on several different visits this year during the breeding season, we are confident that the birds were breeding here.’
The discovery of the nest sites is extremely encouraging and is testament to the success of the rat eradication project, carried out on the island in 1999. Manx shearwaters [see also here], another ground nesting seabird, have also increased in numbers over recent years.
‘Rats found their way onto the island around 200 years ago, probably from shipwrecks. Nine years ago we made a concerted effort to eradicate the rat population to make the island a more suitable nesting site for certain bird species. The arrival of storm petrels here is a sign that our conservation efforts are working and we hope to see their numbers increase here over the years to come.’
Storm petrels have a later breeding season than many other seabirds, so if the birds have produced young this year, they could be expected to fledge during the next month. The birds will then leave the island to spend winter off the coast of South Africa but it is hoped that they will return again in May for another breeding season.
Though the cliff-nesting seabirds have left the breeding colonies to spend winter at sea, September and October are great months to visit Ramsey Island and see hundreds of Atlantic grey seal [see also here] pups on its beaches. To find out more about how to get there, visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves. or to book your trip, contact Thousand Island Expeditions (01437) 721 721.
Puffins of Skomer island: here.
Guillemots on Skomer Island are at the forefront of a project to use computers to monitor vulnerable habitats: here.