Regular readers will know that in 2000 Ramsey became one of the first (and at the time the largest) island in the UK to be cleared of an invasive predator. In the 1800's brown rats were accidentally introduced to the island via shipwrecks and decimated the burrow nesting seabird populations that had evolved over millions of years with no defence against mammalian predators in their ecosystem.
A team from New Zealand, Wildlife Management International, along with RSPB staff, successfully completed the project over the course of that winter. The results have been remarkable. Manx shearwaters were reduced to less than a thousand pairs, with that population rarely if ever rearing young as eggs and small chicks were preyed on by the rats. It was only through immigration from the mega colonies on nearby Skomer and Skokholm that any birds hung on. At the last full survey in 2016 the population had jumped to just under 5,000 pairs and fat Manxie fledglings are everywhere in September.
It's easy to see why invasive predators introduced to delicate ecosystems that evolved long before we had the chance to mess them up are one of the biggest threats to seabird populations worldwide
Puffins were numerous judging by some of the first natural history accounts of Ramsey but they too succumbed and, as yet, haven't recolonised.
European storm petrels, the smallest of the UK seabirds had never been recorded as breeding on Ramsey but in 2008 the first pair was discovered at a west coast site amongst boulders. Today that population has grown to at least 12 pairs but it is likely many more breed in areas of our precipitous western cliffs that we just can't reach. Like Manx shearwaters, stormies are nocturnal at their nest sites and in mid summer large numbers of non breeding birds visit colonies prospecting for future partners and nest sites.
I set up a trail camera on a single nest site and the video below is a short summary of the nights activities. From just after 11am to around 3am the breeding pair from this site (which have a small chick) defended their site against a host of incoming would be usurpers. When I think back to finding that first pair in 2008 when the colony lay silent at night, it is amazing and very gratifying to see it now bustling with life
Make the video 'full screen' and turn the sound up for full effect, the remarkable purring song of the storm petrel is one of the sounds of the seabird world. Listen out too for different vocalisations, in particular the 'angry' sounding 'terr-chick' noise during fights. I only wish you could smell them too - the night air would have been thick with the scent of musty old Barbour jackets! And look out for the wren in the day time shot at the end. (The night scenes are illuminated by the trail camera's infra red light and is invisible to the birds).
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