Seabird Recovery Project Update

Tuesday 7th July 2015

The SPA Survey team are briefed by team leader Dr Vickie Heaney. Image © Ed Marshall


Over the last two months, staff and volunteers from the Seabird Recovery Project have been carrying out a census of all the seabirds that come to Scilly to breed during the summer. The surveys will soon be at an end having involved a great deal of work by all who have taken part. The team have made the most of the calmer summer weather to get out to some of the more remote islands which often have more numerous seabird populations and therefore it is all the more important that they are counted.


The last census that was carried out for the seabird populations on Scilly was completed in 2006, so it is important to get updated counts to better understand how their populations have changed in the last 9 years. Since the work of the Seabird Recovery Project started on St Agnes and Gugh in November 2013, it will be especially exciting to find out how the seabirds such as Manx shearwaters, kittiwakes and gulls have coped. It’s an enviable job as many of the locations the team have to work are among the most beautiful and rarely visited on Scilly.


Methods used by the team include “tape play back surveys” for manx shearwaters and storm petrels, which involves playing the call of either species at burrows (typically occupied by Manx shearwaters) or underneath the rocks and boulders around the coastline of islands such as Annet (storm petrels). Equipment such as a digital burrowscope has afforded the team some unique views of the seabirds on their nests. This has lead to the amazing discovery of an adult Manx shearwater sat on two eggs! A very unusual occurrence for this species, as they typically lay only one egg per year.

With seabirds currently incubating eggs and rearing their young chicks, it is all the more encouraging to know that no signs of rats have been found on St Agnes or Gugh for nearly two years now. We hope that this is the second season since the rats were removed, for chicks to successfully fledge from these two islands. The help of both St Agnes residents and holiday-makers has been essential in keeping on top of any potential incursions. All possible sightings of rats have been followed up and no evidence of rats has been found.




Tagged with: Conservation, Isles of Scilly, Project, Recovery, Seabird, SPA, Survey, Wildlife