From Wales Online:
Ramsey Island conservation staff serenade Manx Shearwaters as part of population survey
20:43, 1 July 2015
By Liz Day
Conservation staff on an important island nature reserve in West Wales are spending their days serenading seabirds as part of a population survey.
Site manager Greg Morgan said: “This is the only way to accurately survey a species that spends most of its life either at sea or underground.
“We play a short burst of a recording and listen for a response. At this time of year, the birds are incubating eggs, so you have the best chance of getting a response because at least one of the pair should be home by day.”
Greg, who has counted thousands of burrows on the island, is accompanied by his sheepdog Dewi.
“He loves Shearwater surveys, as he can sniff them out long before I get to the burrow,” he said.
“He usually lies down outside a burrow to tell me if it’s occupied or not. He is very well trained and it’s not unusual for dogs to be used to for seabird surveys.”
Greg describes Manx Shearwaters, which have amber conservation status, as the island’s biggest “success story”.
When the RSPB took over Ramsey in 1992, it was full of rats that arrived on shipwrecks in the 1800s and nearly wiped out the species by eating eggs and chicks.
Puffins had become extinct on the island and a survey in 1998 revealed there were just 850 pairs of Manx Shearwaters.
Last year, volunteers on the island installed a puffin sound system and planted decoys in an attempt to lure the distinctive birds to breed on the island, so far without success.
Healthy bird populations
Rats were eradicated from the island in 1999 and although Puffins have not been reintroduced, the population of Manx Shearwaters has rocketed. The most recent population census, carried out in 2012, recorded 3,800 pairs.
It is thought that Pembrokeshire’s three islands – Ramsey, Skomer and Skokholm – are home to more than 50% of the world’s Manx Shearwaters. Skomer is home to 300,000 pairs, while Skokholm has 45,000 pairs.
Greg and his wife Lisa, the island warden, carried out the last full population census in 2012 and between them counted more than 12,000 burrows.
The next full census is due to take place next summer and the wardens are hoping the population will have continue to grow.
“Fingers crossed our next survey will see the population go from strength to strength,” said Greg.
“We have no reason to think that the number will not have increased again. There is plenty of habitat here and the island is still rat-free.”
To ensure that no rats access the island, there is a quarantine process for visitors and all supplies are inspected before arriving.
“This number is down slightly on previous years, but Razorbills are one of the species hardest hit by the storms in 2013, so it is not surprising,” explained Greg.
Later this month, he will attach data loggers to the Manx Shearwaters to monitor their migration to South America.
The birds leave their nest sites in July to migrate 7,000 miles to Argentina where they spend the winter before returning in late February and March.
For more informations, see rspb.org.uk/ramseyisland.