Jersey trio make the top 10!

by Liz Corry and Glyn Young

biaza-logoAs the State of Nature prepares to release its 2016 report that warns Britain’s wildlife is facing a “crisis” with more than 120 species at risk of extinction due to intensive farming, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) reveals the top ten native species being supported by its members. Three of those species are being supported in Jersey through the work of the Birds On The Edge team and it’s supporters.

BIAZA’s Director, Dr Kirsten Pullen, says, “Most people equate zoos and aquariums to holding and protecting animals that are exotic to the UK. Certainly, during their visits, the public expect to see a wonderful range of creatures from all around the world. What is not well-known is that not only do modern zoos do considerable amounts of conservation work globally, they also provide their skills and resources to help wildlife at home.”

Native species conservation efforts are often collaborative with BIAZA members setting up projects with other BIAZA zoos and aquariums as well as wildlife charities and NGOs. Modern zoological establishments provide husbandry expertise, support breeding programmes and help raise funds to ensure Britain’s wildlife has the best chance of survival in the face of increased pressures from climate change, agriculture and persecution.

The red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), number two in the top ten, is a perfect example. Today, much of Jersey’s coastal habitat, formerly an important resource for farming and grazing animals, is dominated by extensive swathes of bracken. With these changes the Island has seen the loss and decline of many birds such as the skylark, yellowhammer and stonechat.

Red-billed chough in Jersey. Photo by Liz Corry

The Birds On The Edge partnership between the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, States of Jersey Department of Environment and the National Trust for Jersey has, through the active management of Jersey’s coastland, endeavoured to restore populations of birds and bring back the red-billed chough to the Island after an absence of 100 years.  Supported by Paradise Park in Cornwall, Durrell began to release captive-bred choughs in 2013. By 2015 the birds had successfully nested in the wild and bred again in 2016, so far resulting in a wild population of 30 individuals (July 2016).

Agile frog. Photo by Department of the EnvironmentAnother example, and number three on the list, is the agile frog (Rana dalmatina). Jersey is the only place in the British Isles where this frog species can be found. Its population has been declining in both range and numbers since the early 1900s and by the late 1980s there was a single fragile population in the south-west of the Island.

To prevent extinction, the Agile Frog Group, a collaboration of local environmental and conservation organisations including Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, launched a comprehensive Action Plan detailing threats and actions needed to save the frog. On going research since 2000, habitat restoration, and captive rearing at Durrell for release using collected spawn to tadpole and froglet stage (head-starting) have all helped to increase the species survival chances.  Today, nearly 50,000 froglets have been released since the project began in 1987.

Staff monitoring the agile frog release in Jersey. Photo by Gerardo Garcia

A few of the species on the list are absent from the Channel Islands such as the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and common crane (Grus grus). In the case of the cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) considered locally extinct in Jersey after an eleven year absence, a few individuals returned naturally and have been nurtured and protected by the Birds On The Edge team ever since. Their numbers have grown steadily from the one pair which settled in 2011 to seventeen individuals including eight young from this year’s breeding season.

Cirl bunting at Grouville, Jersey. Photo by Mick Dryden.

 You can learn more about BIAZA’s top ten native species by going to


Chough release 2016

by Liz Corry

The first release of this year’s captive bred choughs got underway on the 21st July. Six two-month old chicks from Durrell Wildlife Park were released from their aviary at Sorel to join the current flock of twenty four free-living choughs.

Adults and chicks enjoying the summer weather on the cliffs at Sorel. Photo by Liz Corry.

With more birds outside the aviary than inside, including four very loud wild chicks, the release cohort had more of a ‘hard’ release than the gradual introductions of 2014. The hatches were opened in the late afternoon much to the bemusement of the inhabitants. Once all thirty had mixed and mingled they were called down for food at the aviary, and then left to get on with it under the ever watchful supervision of the field staff.

Recently released chicks joined the free-living group for flying lessons. Photo by Liz Corry.

The release cohort is a mix of parent-reared and foster-reared birds which meant they had two different approaches to the ‘outside’ world. The parent-reared chicks had a tendency to follow the adults which meant they quickly learnt where the best foraging sites are, where to shelter from the rain, and how to react to potential threats most notably the peregrines. The foster four were not quite as willing or confident and tended to look to their foster parents for support.

A foster-reared chick doing its part for the Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Photo by Liz Corry.

After the first evening flying at liberty around Sorel the six chicks returned to the aviary along with a few older birds and went to roost. The excitement of it all must have taken it out of them as the birds went in almost two hours before sunset and didn’t leave again until the morning.

Sunrise at Sorel: A panoramic view of the release aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Staff returned at sunrise to find one group of choughs breakfasting over on the other side of Mourier Valley. The begging calls of the wild chicks carried over the valley giving away their location.

The begging calls of the wild chicks carried over the valley giving away their location. Photo by Liz Corry.

Whilst another group were by the cliff path at Sorel. The foster chicks were at the aviary. On seeing their ‘parent’ (i.e. me) arrive over the brow of the hill the flew out to warmly greet and/or demand breakfast off her. This also involved landing on said parent’s head and backpack.  At first this behaviour was very concerning. Would they behave like this around other people? Are they going to be naive when faced with potential threats?

The foster reared chicks had to take things one step at a time when it came to the release. Photo by Liz Corry.

Over the next few days the chicks were put to the test by undercover bird keepers and unsuspecting public. They even had a few peregrine encounters. They passed every test and demonstrated how intelligent corvids really are. The foster four can identify their ‘parents’ from fifty metres away and will fly straight over to greet them. Or to be more exact if they think they can get an easy meal out of us. However, if we are with other people they won’t come near. As they grow in age and confidence and begin to find enough food to support themselves they should start to depend less on their foster parents.

Their young age is apparent not just by their behaviour, but by their physical appearance. The youngest chicks have a grey-yellow bill. Those a few weeks older have an orange colouration which should develop into the trademark red bill in another month.

A two-month old chough discovering the tasty morsels life in the wild has to offer. Photo by Liz Corry.

There are now thirty choughs flying free on the north coast of Jersey. It won’t be long before they start exploring and making appearances in other parts of the island.

Will the choughs decide to visit the newly restored Plemont headland this year? Photo by Liz Corry.



Chough report: July 2016

by Liz Corry

“The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss”.
Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything.

Wild and captive-bred chicks fledged and took flight this month. Photo by Liz Corry.

July was the month of learning and adventure for the captive-reared and wild-raised chough chicks at Sorel as they spread their wings and took the air for the first time. Fledging at the beginning of the month and, for the captive chicks, release into the wild before the close. And I’m happy to add that they landed on the ground safely.

Captive-reared chicks

The four foster chicks locked in the release aviary had already started stepping out of their nest-box and exploring their surroundings during feed times. In between they would hop back inside, preen and chat amongst themselves before falling asleep until the next feed. A simple life we all envy.

As they got older they spent more time exploring and by the 5th they had been given access to a section of the poly-tunnel to practise short flights and learn to fly to target areas for food. Weaning them off hand-feeding followed the same pattern as previous years although these four were less willing to find their own food than previous chicks.

Weighing the foster-reared chicks. Photo by Liz Corry.

The two parent-reared chicks at Durrell joined them on the 7th. They were caught up, given clearance by the vets, and transported to Sorel by keeper Jess Maxwell and student Bea. These chicks are two weeks older than the foster chicks and, therefore, a bit more independent by the time they arrived at the release aviary. That being said, at two months old they still have very strong associations with their parents and depend on them to bring most of their food.


Parent-reared chicks from Durrell moved to the release aviary at the start of July. Photo by Liz Corry

Separation from their parents and the move to an unfamiliar environment  meant they were naturally stressed upon arrival. They appeared to adapt quite quickly though, finding food bowls in the aviary and some level of solace from the chough flock calling outside of the aviary.

After a day to adjust, they were mixed with the foster chicks and the group given access to the entire first half of the aviary. A week later they had the whole aviary to themselves and the free-living group were locked out. Observations before the move confirmed that no one was using the aviary as a roost site anymore so no one was being cheated out of a secure night’s sleep.

Chicks inside the aviary feed alongside those outside. Photo by Liz Corry.

Target training the captive chicks in preparation for their release was a challenge. The parent-reared chicks wanted to be with the free-living group. They could see and hear the wild chicks being fed by their parents just metres away and wanted in on the action. They also didn’t want to go down to the target areas on the floor as they had little trust in the people putting the food out. The latter was solved by setting up a target area on the shelf between the captive chicks and free-living group. This way the chicks could get to food straight away and start associating the sound of the whistle with the arrival of the adults and food.

The foster chicks on the other hand had no problem with going to the food. Just as long as the people putting out the food stayed with them. Their behaviour changed from curiosity over the ‘outsiders’ whilst in the nest-box to abhorrent fear of twenty-four noisy choughs descending en masse at feed time. Opting to hop in to a shelter-box and act all nonchalant or just go for a nap in between feeds.


Adults arriving at the aviary in anticipation of an early feed. Photo by Liz Corry.

Trying to target train the chicks in between feeds, when the free-living group had left, was not successful either. The pressure on the parents to find food for the wild chicks meant they kept a keen eye on the aviary. Any hint that the keepers were going in or even near the aviary with insects for training and they would be over like a shot.

With time the foster chicks grew in confidence and started to eat alongside the adults and the parent-reared two settled down a bit around the keepers. Did they finally succeed in their target training? The ultimate test is always once they are outside of the aviary when they get released.

In the meantime…

Durrell’s breeding pairs return to their flock

Tristan and Iseult had a few days to adjust to the loss of their chicks followed by revelling in the peace and quiet of not having something insistently follow you around begging for food, before the other two pairs were moved back into the display aviary for the non-breeding season.

Gianna also moved back on show to join the flock, promptly ignore then, and turn her attention to her adorning fans (at least that’s how she views the public and keepers). This year she has the added enrichment of Durrell’s new keeper talks. Three times a week she has an audience to play to whilst we explain the important role the captive choughs have in the re-introduction project and Birds On The Edge.

Quarry capers

Viewing point in Ronez quarry used for observing chough nests. Photo by Liz Corry.

The wild chicks left their nests in the quarry sometime around the very end of June and first few days in July. As all choughs chicks do at that age they spent time exploring their nest sites, i.e. inside the quarry buildings, before making an appearance outside. The parents could be seen taking food back to their respective sites, but not always venturing inside. On one occasion Dingle or Red went to the staircase at the side of the building, perched at the doorway (opposite side to the nest), and started feeding something. Presumably her chick and not one of the quarrymen. We were able to record this activity because Ronez Quarry kindly gave staff access to the viewpoint. Our vantage points from Sorel or the Ronez loop road would not have had the same line of sight.

Once the chicks had ventured outside it was a bit easier to track their movements. They were the choughs that stayed on the buildings when every other chough flew away to the aviary for supplemental feeds. White and Mauve’s two chicks had a tendency to walk back into the building once their parents had left. Who can blame them with black-backed gulls nesting close by and the juvenile peregrines having introductory lessons on how to hunt in and around the quarry.

Two wild-hatched chicks making their first appearance in the quarry. Photo by Liz Corry.

Green and Black continued to return religiously to their nest site, often carrying food. The debate over whether or not they still had a chick was fuelled further when a fledgling was spotted on the roof of their building. Was this the fifth chick or was one of the other four making its way out of the quarry one building at a time?

The answer came when the chicks made their first flight out of the quarry. On the morning of the 4th four chicks were spotted at the bottom of Sorel Point with the other choughs. Lee, released last year, was observed pulling at the tail of one of the chicks. Not your typical welcome greeting. By the afternoon they had followed the flock to the aviary and were merrily feeding and begging and feeding and begging and feeding…

Dingle, a hand-reared bird, with one of his wild hatched chicks waiting for supplemental food. Photo by Liz Corry.

Mauve with one of her two wild-htached chicks at the release aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Anyone with experience of wild choughs will know how loud and incessant chick begging can be. And it lasts several weeks much to the dismay of the parents. Green and Black did not have a chick with them. Hopefully not having to participate in the cacophony of chick begging was some sort of consolation to them.

A wild chick being fed the supplemental diet by a parent outside the aviary. Photo by Liz Corry.

Veterinary intervention

Black was not in the best of health anyway. We had noticed for some time that she was returning from the quarry sneezing. Her symptoms started to worsen as fledging time approached. We intervened on the 6th after managing to get an individual faecal sample from her in the wild.

To catch her in order for the vet to administer drugs we tried trapping the group in the aviary at the feed. Normally this is an easy task, but the presence of the wild chicks meant that the chough families were on high alert and scarpered at the first sign of a staff member approaching the release hatches. The only two birds we could lock in before they had time to realise were Black (because she was ill) and Flieur.

This turned out to be useful as Flieur had lost her colour ring a couple of weeks prior so a replacement was fitted and she was released. Black was caught up, weighed, treated and released. Her breathing was very laboured and the worst we have seen to date. There was potentially a need to give a follow up wormer in two weeks times. Normally treated choughs stop sneezing within a day or so and don’t need the second injection. Black continued sounding rough for a week before clearing up. As always we observe daily and submit group faecal samples to the vets once a month to monitor the birds’ health.

Dusty, Egg, and Chickay

The nest site discovered in June potentially belonging to Dusty and one of his females failed to produce anything. Not too surprising as all three are quite young and it was their first attempt. Dusty and Egg continued taking food from the aviary to the quarry. Chickay remaining faithfully by their side feeding and preening Dusty when asked. As with Green and Black it would appear they were simply caching food for themselves away from the flock. Very sensible as competition grew over food bowls at the aviary in response to an increased demand for food.

Summer finally arrived…for a day

The 19th July saw temperatures in the aviary reach 34°C and the hottest July in Jersey. In fact the third hottest day since records began. Extra water trays were provided at the aviary. For the public the sight of sunbathing choughs might have appeared quite alarming since they often look like they have just been shot and fallen from the sky. They are just making sure every feather gets a piece of the UV action and any feather mites zapped out of existence.

A sun-bathing juvenile chough. Photo by Liz Corry.

Their main struggle with the weather was the fact that Sorel had not experienced much, if any, rain for a few weeks. With no shade cover or water the sun-baked ground had hardened to the point of cracks appearing. No chance of getting to any insects in the ground, assuming there were any. The sheep dung was also absent of insect larvae. Wild food resources for the choughs had become depleted and their dependency on the supplemental feeds increased. The effect it had on the flock added an extra challenge to the 2016 chick release.

The heat also appeared to have an effect on humans and their awareness of their surroundings. Scorch marks on the dry grass land at Sorel and Devil’s Hole show that people have had disposable barbecues and in one case a log fire on National Trust Land. The latter is illegal. There also seems to be an increase in the number of cigarette ends left around the site. With sun-parched grassland and heath these activities can be extremely dangerous. Exemplified by an incident at Grantez in which memorial bench was badly burnt when somebody left a used disposable BBQ under it.

Disposable barbeque damage to a memorial bench on National Trust land in July. Photo by Jon Parkes.

Preparations for release

As well as target training the captive chicks for their imminent release, staff worked on preparing the aviary. Simple tasks of oiling locks and hinges turned into DIY repairs to replace hinges and framework. A spot of up-cycling turned a pallet board and reclaimed wood from Durrell’s wood skip into steps and benches so keepers could securely reach the hatch locks. In the past we relied on conveniently placed logs and rocks. Not necessarily health and safety compliant, made worse by wear and tear over the years. The added bonus of the new additions was their unintentional enrichment benefits for the choughs.

The bracken started to fight back against the sheep this month. Photo by Liz Corry.

The biggest task was clearing the bracken from the embankment to allow the choughs to see from inside the aviary over to the grazed land. This helps with the release and provides an extra area for them to forage close to the aviary. This time of year the bracken reaches record heights in some places towering above both sheep and people. Removing the bracken by the aviary revealed a few desiccated toads and opened up areas for a slow worm and the occasional green lizard. It also meant the rats had fewer places to hide.

Bracken clearance alongside the aviary provided extra foraging ground for the choughs as well as a clear view. Photo by Liz Corry.

The aviary netting started to get to a lot of unwanted attention from rodents once the hatches were closed off to hold in the captive chicks. With no obvious way in and out to get to any spilt food left by the choughs the rodents took to chewing holes in the netting. The battle is ongoing with the rodents favourites to win.

Rodent activity in and around the aviary creating problems with the netting. Photo by Liz Corry.

Final preparations

Before take-off, the chicks need a clean bill of health. On the morning of the 19th chick V was missing from the melee that is breakfast time. A quick search of the aviary found her perched in one of the shelter boxes holding her head back and to the side. She wasn’t saying much and didn’t come for food straight away. With a bit of coaxing she came down and walked along the shelf to the food and the other chicks. She half halfheartedly begged and ate a mealworm then shuffled off into another shelter box.

Chick V was under the weather on the 19th, but perked up on hearing the threat of a vet visit. Photo by Liz Corry

Close, very close, observations of her throughout the morning showed no change and a tendency to hold her neck awkwardly. The Vet visited in the afternoon to examine her. She had perked up by that point (as animals always do when they know the Vet is on the way), yet still not 100%. With nothing obvious to diagnose a blood sample was taken and sent off to the lab. We had a two-day wait before hearing she had the all clear. By which time she was back to normal and understandably a little cautious around keepers.

Congratulations it’s a boy, and a girl, and another girl, and a boy….

The day after the vet visited we heard back for the diagnostics lab regarding the sex of the 2016 chicks. We now know that the foster four are all female and the parent-reared zoo chicks are both male.

In the wild we have a nice 50:50 split. We have a question mark over one of the samples so we cannot be 100% sure without taking another blood sample. Looking to tarsus (leg) length as an indicator it suggests the individual is female. If it turns out to be male then we have three males in total hatched in the wild this year.

Operation Chough

Paradise Park successfully raised ten chough chicks this year including two hand-reared. Once they have their sexing results they will work out which chicks can be sent over to Jersey to take part in the release. The plan is for the Durrell chicks to be released as early as possible to learn what life is like outside the aviary and acquire skills. When the Paradise Park choughs arrive we will call the Durrell chicks in to the aviary and lock the group in together whilst the UK birds fulfil their quarantine requirements.

After which point, the two groups will have socialised and formed relationships or at least connections. Once released, the Paradise Park chicks will hopefully follow the Durrell chicks and learn from them.

Paradise Park established Operation Chough in 1987. Our partnership since 2010 has now helped their objective to come to fruition. With the second release this year involving their chicks, Jersey’s free-living flock could reach a total of 36 individuals.


How many birds are there in the Channel Islands? – an update

Kestrel and Elizabeth Castle. Photo by Romano da CostaHow many birds are there in the islands? That is bird species. Not individual birds as we can never really know that (well, except for the choughs). Each, since year since 2006 we have jointly published a list of the species seen on Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and the sea area and smaller islands associated with each. The latest list, updated to the end of December 2015 is now available to download here and on our islands’ local bird sites.

Disappointingly there were no new species for the region recorded during 2015 but there were some minor changes to the individual Islands’ lists. Guernsey picked up its first glossy ibis (one at Vale Pond in October) and Alderney its first long-tailed skua (at sea in August). Alderney (on 8th November) and Jersey (on 22nd November) saw their first rose-breasted grosbeak – both records presumed to be the same bird (Guernsey had one of these North American vagrants in 1987 and Sark one in 1975).

Dartford warbler July 2006. Photo by Mick DrydenA remarkable 26 roseate terns were recorded in Jersey during the year and may possibly have bred. A tree sparrow put in a rare appearance in Guernsey – this bird has been recorded each autumn flying over Noirmont, Jersey, in recent years – and 22 bee-eaters were recorded in Jersey. Dartford warblers had mixed fortunes with two of these former breeding birds recorded in Guernsey but none were in Sark where the species had been breeding since 2002.

Other notable birds included Canada geese in Jersey and Guernsey, Guernsey’s sixth record of the rapidly increasing great egret, Alderney’s third black stork and second great bustard (like the 2014 bird the latter came from the UK reintroduction project), Little (house) swift. Photo by Mick DrydenGuernsey’s second and the islands’ third little (or house) swift, Jersey’s fourth red-footed falcon, Alderney’s third rose-coloured starling and Guernsey’s fifth black-headed bunting (all Channel Island records of this bird are from Guernsey).

And, of course, the first red-billed chough (Dusty) to hatch in the wild in Jersey for around 100 years put in an appearance in June.

Jersey’s bird total has risen to 330 and Alderney’s to 287. Guernsey’s, however, has actually dropped to 323 as they have removed three species of wildfowl from their list as their provenance is unknown (i.e. they could have hopped over someone’s fence). These three, barnacle goose, mandarin and red-crested pochard are renown escapees but two (the goose and the pochard) have been recorded reliably in Jersey. Mandarin have established, from formerly captive birds, a small but seemingly self-supporting population in Jersey as they have in the UK. Interestingly, a flock of, at least formerly, captive barnacle geese commute regularly between Guernsey and Jersey.

How will 2016 change things? One thing is certain, since the launch of the Alderney Bird Observatory, we could have a much clearer idea of bird migration through our islands.

Barnacle geese fly in. July 2016. Photo by Mick Dryden

Download the Working list of Channel Islands birds to December 2015 here 


Jersey cirl buntings – are they nearly back yet?

Cirl in Grouville, Jersey. Photo by Mick Dryden 28-4-2016 (5)

The decline and subsequent disappearance of the cirl bunting in Jersey was one of the catalysts behind the formation of Birds On The Edge. With 17 singing males recorded across the Island in 1997 (by Mick Dryden and Nick Milton) the species appeared extinct locally when the ‘last’ one was seen at Beauport in 2004. Cirl buntings had undergone a longer decline in the UK but conservation efforts, led by the RSPB, were initiated in the late 1990s. Jersey watched the UK work closely, and liaised with the RSPB to see whether there were areas of the work that we could replicate over here (Note BOTE’s Cris Sellarés was part of the UK bunting team – report here).

Cirl in Grouville, Jersey. Photo by Mick Dryden 7-7-2016 (2)We discussed in Jersey the bunting’s decline with the RSPB’s Cath Jeffs, RSPB Cirl Bunting Project Manager, who visited the Island to look at the bird’s former sites and assess possible measures that could be addressed to restore the bunting to its Channel Islands’ home. In June 2011 our hopes (fanciful dreams?) of the species’ return were realised when a male cirl was found at Les Landes Racecourse (by Mick again). Later that month a pair were found in Grouville on one of the BOTE bird monitoring transects (see the BOTE report here). Breeding was confirmed in 2012 when Mick found a chick with the adult pair.

We held a meeting to discuss how best to manage the habitat of the one bunting pair in October 2012 (report here) and were grateful to the Société Jersiaise Ornithology Section, National Trust for Jersey, Durrell, Grouville Tenants, Royal Jersey Golf Club in Grouville, Department of the Environment and Cath Jeffs for their support. Areas discussed included sensitive management of the existing breeding habitat of the cirl buntings and the monitoring and supplementary feeding of the birds.

Cirl in Grouville, Jersey. Photo by Mick Dryden 28-4-2016 (4)

Food has been provided for the buntings, notably by the fantastic Richard Perchard, without whose tireless effort our story might have been different, to ensure that any food-finding problems the buntings might encounter in the remaining Jersey habitat throughout the year were cancelled out. The bunting’s story was updated in 2013 and 2014 and, despite setbacks (see report of a fire here) they appeared settled.

This year, 2016, was chosen for a British Isles-wide survey (well, Devon, Cornwall and Jersey in the most part) to see just how the cirl bunting population was doing with all the effort being put in. And so, we waited to discover what Jersey’s population had done in 2016. Mick Dryden once again led surveys of the site in south-east Jersey and with a team of volunteers counted each and every bird in April, at the start of the breeding season, and again in July.

So, how are we (well, the buntings) doing? Mick reported that there were six birds in April, at four territories – this meant that potentially there were also unseen (nesting?) birds. And, in July, after they’ve had a chance to breed? Mick and the team reported 17 birds including eight young from three pairs!




Puffin and shearwater numbers surge on Lundy after rat eradication

Atlantic puffin (3). Photo by Mick DrydenFrom Rare Bird Alert

More than 300 individual puffins have been counted on Lundy Island this year, compared to just five birds ten years ago, thanks to a seabird recovery project.

Rats, which feast on the eggs and chicks of burrow-nesting birds such as puffin, were eradicated from the island between 2002 and 2004 as part of the Lundy Seabird Recovery Project, with the island being formally declared rat-free in 2006. See the BOTE report on the project in the Isles of Scilly and Lundy here

Other seabirds have also thrived, including Manx shearwater, with the most recent figures recording some 3,400 breeding pairs, from a low of only 300 pairs when the recovery project was planned and conducted.

Helen Booker, RSPB senior conservation officer, said:  “We expected Manx shearwater would benefit from rat eradication, and we have certainly seen that, but we were much less optimistic about puffin. Ten years ago its population had reached such a low level we worried whether it would survive, to see that puffin is now doing so well really is exciting.”

Becky Macdonald, the Landmark Trust’s warden on Lundy, said:  “The increase in Lundy’s seabird colonies, particularly the enigmatic puffin and elegant Manx shearwater, illustrates the importance of seabird recovery projects and the need to protect our seabird populations from controllable threats, such as predation by non-native mammals.”

Atlantic puffin (2). Photo by Mick DrydenThe Lundy Seabird Recovery Project was mainly intended to boost the population of Manx shearwater, which were a higher conservation priority at the beginning of the century. But the puffin’s problems have multiplied since: the bird is struggling in northern Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland, following a crash in the number of sandeels, the puffin’s preferred diet, probably triggered by warming sea temperatures.

There has been no breeding at all in some of the northern colonies in ten years. Whereas birds in places such as Lundy, but also in South Wales, Ireland, and elsewhere around the Irish Sea, have been able to exploit alternative food sources, such as pilchards and anchovies, numbers of which appear to be increasing in the southern parts of the puffin’s breeding range.

Dr Euan Dunn, RSPB seabird specialist, said: “puffins are facing serious threats, so it’s really important to have healthy colonies in places like Lundy in order for the bird to retain a resilient population, especially to combat the effects of climate change.

“In numerical terms, Lundy’s population is still modest but in terms of establishing a UK-wide halo of viable puffin breeding stations I attach real significance to this recovery.”

Manx shearwater. Photo by Mick Dryden (2)The Lundy Seabird Recovery Project was a partnership between the RSPB, the Landmark Trust, Natural England, and the National Trust.

John Holmes, Natural England’s area manager, said:  “This is fantastic news and a remarkable result over a relatively short time. It just shows what a concerted effort by a committed group of partners can achieve.”

Rob Joules, the National Trust’s general manager for Lundy, said:  “It’s great to reach the ten-year milestone of Lundy being rat-free and to see its wildlife thriving in direct response. This was an incredibly important and worthwhile project to be involved with and it’s great to know the lessons learned are being implemented on other offshore islands around the UK.”

Storm-petrel, which nests in small burrows or crevices among rocks, and whose breeding sites are also often plagued by rat predation, was recorded breeding on the island for the first time in 2014. Because the bird nests in inaccessible places precise figures are difficult to obtain, but up to 100 are now thought to be present.

Atlantic puffin. Photo by Mick Dryden