Anyone who spends a night on Ramsey Island over the spring and summer months will hear as they lie in bed the odd and slightly spooky calls of Manx Shearwaters; it’s all part of the ‘Ramsey Experience’ for volunteers and wardens alike. Even visitors across on the island for the day could hear the calls if they join one of the guided walks. The volunteer leading the walk will play a recording of a dueting pair of shearwaters in the entrance to one of the burrows, in which they raise their solitary chick, hoping to get a response from the residents. If they are lucky enough to get a response, it will be exactly the same call we all hear when the birds fly in at the darkest hours of each night.
Since the island became rat-free in the winter of the Millennium, Shearwaters numbers have made a significant recovery. In 1999, there were around 800 pairs and this grew to nearly 4,800 pairs by the last full island count in 2016, and there is likely to have been further significant growth since. The next full count is programmed for the spring/summer of 2020 and preparations are already being made.
Initial survey work is being undertaken on two plots of Shearwater burrows, one in the north-east of the island and the other on the western side. The work involves visiting pre-identified active burrows every other day over three weeks and noting how often a response is received to that same recording of dueting shearwaters. This initial work partly replicates the full survey, but on a smaller scale, and provides a basis for generating a total island figure for shearwaters with an understanding of how often a response is received from an active burrow.
So, for the next three weeks if you see one of the team lying on the ground with their arm down a hole you will know why!
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