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The Manx Shearwter: Fera & NBC Research Project

The Manx Shearwter: Fera & NBC Research Project

Going fera Rum in the Small Isles

Fera (Food and Environment Research Agency) have appointed NBC with a 3 year contract working on the Isle of Rum on the west coast of Scotland. The Isle of Rum is a national nature reserve and home to a diverse range of wildlife and stunning scenery.

The island has the largest breeding colony of Manx Shearwater in Britain and Ireland and is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) for its seabird colony. However, in recent years there is evidence to suggest that their numbers are in decline. The appearance of brown rats in the colony, along with eggs and chicks that have been attacked and eaten suggests that rat predation may be the cause for the decreasing numbers.

Our role will be to assist Fera in monitoring the impact the brown rat predation has on the breeding success of the Manx Shearwater (Latin name Puffinus Puffinus), a small seabird that lays eggs in burrows to avoid predation by large gulls.

As well as monitoring the rat population during the prolonged field-base study, we will also be responsible for the control of the brown rat population to reduce or eradicate rats in one treatment area and compare this with an area where no rat control is undertaken (the control area).

The monitoring and census of the brown rat population will be conducted using tracking plates in the treatment areas, this will also help establish effective baiting points for the control of the rat populations. The initial stages of the project will focus on the monitoring and control of the brown rat population but during mid May to June when Manx Shearwater burrows will be checked for evidence of disturbance. The burrows will again be checked in mid August to check fledgling Manx Shearwater before the migratory season sees them leave for wintering in warmer climes.


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