Nov 11

A project has begun on the Isles of Scilly to eradicate the invasive brown rat population in an attempt to secure the future survival of 14 seabird species.

The Isles of Scilly are composed of 5 inhabited islands and over 300 smaller uninhabited islands, which provide extremely important breeding habitats for many seabirds. There are 14 different seabird species which use the islands to breed, including the common tern, razorbill, lesser black-backed gull, puffin, shag and the European storm-petrel. In total, the breeding seabird population on all of the islands is around 20,000 individuals.

European storm-petrel image

The European storm-petrel is one of the 14 bird species which breed on the Isles of Scilly

An unwelcome visitor

The brown rat was first introduced to the Isles of Scilly from shipwrecks in the 18th century, which subsequently led to the establishment of a wild population. The brown rat is known to be one of the most successful and harmful invasive species in the world and causes tremendous damage to habitats it has been introduced to. On the Isles of Scilly, brown rats are known to predate the eggs and young of nesting birds, and they also carry and transmit various diseases. The total population of brown rats on the Isles of Scilly is thought to be around 34,500.

Brown rat image

Brown rat feeding on hen’s egg

How, where and when?

The project, starting at the beginning of November 2013, will cost over £755,000 and aims to eradicate the brown rat population on St. Agnes and Gugh, which are two of the inhabited islands in the Isles of Scilly. The company conducting the project is using techniques which have proven to be successful at eradicating brown rats in other areas while not causing damage to non-target species. Once all the brown rats are thought to have been eradicated from the two target islands, a long-term monitoring programme will begin and the local community will be encouraged to take precautionary measures to ensure that the areas remain rat free.

Puffin image

The Isles of Scilly provide an important breeding habitat for the puffin.

Taking responsibility

Johnny Birks, Chair of the Mammal Society, said, “Brown rats are not native to Britain… it’s our own fault they are so widespread and that makes it right for us to repair the damage we’ve caused.” The Heritage Lottery Fund and the EU Life Fund have both awarded money to the project, as have the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Beauty Sustainable Development Fund and Natural England.

Read more on this story at BBC News – Isles of Scilly rat eradication to ‘save seabirds’ begins.

View photos and videos of bird species found in the UK on ARKive.

Hannah Mulvany, ARKive Content Officer.

Apr 24

This year ARKive and Bristol Festival of Nature are both celebrating their 10th anniversaries! Each are marking the occasion in very special ways: while ARKive is asking the world to vote for their favourite species, the Festival of Nature is setting out to discover Bristol’s wildlife with Bristol99 – an exciting project that aims to connect people in the city with nature on their doorstep through a variety of wildlife events across Bristol’s ninety-nine best sites for nature.

Wherever you live, there are always fascinating species to be found, and with these two celebrations happening at the same time, it seemed like a good idea to talk about the three of ARKive’s shortlisted favourites that you might find right here in the city of Bristol: the red fox, the peregrine falcon, and the barn owl.

Red fox 

Red fox raiding dustbin for scraps

First, the red fox. If you live in the UK, it’s probably the species you’re most likely to have on your tick list, and with Bristol being home to the famous BBC Natural History Unit, it’s become a bit of a film star over time. Foxes began colonising Bristol in the 1930s, when suburbs of semi-detached houses sprung up on the city outskirts, with large gardens that provided an ideal habitat. The population grew rapidly, spreading to the city centre, and foxes can be seen regularly across the city. Keep your eyes peeled after dark!

Peregrine falcon

Urban peregrine falcon ssp. anatum at nest with large brood of four chicks

Peregrine falcons are best known for being the fastest animal in the world, reaching speeds of up to 200mph! In the UK, peregrines have increasingly moved into urban areas in recent years, and Bristol has a number of residents and visitors. Last summer, a pair nested on a ledge of a building by the city’s harbour and were regularly spotted circling the city centre hunting for food for their single chick. The steep cliffs of the Avon Gorge are the best place in Bristol to view these birds, with one viewing spot even named Peregrine Point! Here local enthusiasts gather between April and October, when the peregrines are most active, and observe their day to day activity.

Barn owl

Barn owl photo

Finally, the barn owl. This beautiful bird suffered a decline in numbers throughout the twentieth century which has been attributed to the use of certain agricultural pesticides and an overall loss of habitat. You are more likely to spot a barn owl in the countryside, where it inhabits riverbanks, field edges and roadside verges, but Bristol is blessed with a number of large parks on the outskirts of the city such as Ashton Court and Stoke Park, where if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of an owl at dusk as they come out to hunt.

Nature on your doorstep

With three of the nominated 50 species in the running for World’s Favourite Species being found on our doorstep here in Bristol, it just goes to show that you don’t need to visit the  most exotic places and habitats to find amazing wildlife. Wherever you live, there are a whole host of exciting species just waiting to be discovered.

If you live in the Bristol area, then join us for Bristol99, as we explore our local green spaces to see what fascinating species we can uncover. It all starts with the Bristol BioBlitz on 3rd and 4th May and finishes with the Festival of Nature on 15th and 16th June, where you can join ARKive and over 150 other organisations for the UK’s largest free celebration of the natural world!

But no matter where you live, get out and enjoy nature. And don’t forget to vote for the species which deserves to be the World’s Favourite Species.

Lucy Gaze, Bristol99 Project Officer

P.S. our vote is for the peregrine

 

Bristol Festival of Nature                                         Bristol 99

 

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