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Lucky Lundy

First Manx shearwater chicks recorded on Lundy for 50 years…

The first survey to count the declining Manx shearwater on Lundy since the end of the first phase of the Seabird Recovery Project there has found at least 10 chicks, the first confirmed breeding record for exactly 45 years.

We could not have expected such fantastic news on our first visit, Helen Booker, Conservation Officer, from the RSPB said. We were really surveying the island to establish how best to monitor the birds in the future and were not sure if we would find any chicks at all. We didn`t know it, but it was exactly 45 years ago, to the day, that the last official record of Manx shearwater chicks was made on the 7th of September 1954.David Appleton, leading the project from English Nature, commented: This is very exciting news from the island but unfortunately it is far too early to tell if it is as a direct result of the work the partnership did over the winters of 2002 and 2003, but we sincerely hope that it is. A lot of hard work was done to improve the island to give the birds every chance of breeding successfully: from eradicating the rats, to better waste management and improved security on the boats to make sure that the rats do not return. It might take decades for numbers to increase substantially, but we hope to see a slow but steady increase of these beautiful and majestic birds.The Seabird Recovery Project is run by English Nature, the Landmark Trust, the National Trust and RSPB. They believed that rats eating the eggs and chicks of the birds that nest in burrows in the ground had pushed them to the point where they may be lost from the island altogether. Puffin numbers plummeted from over 3,500 pairs since records began in 1939 to less than 10 pairs in 2000; and there were only 166 pairs of Manx shearwaters found in 2001, far fewer than expected [it is not clear whether their attempts to nest met with failure because of the rat problem]. The first phase of the project on the island has protected nationally important and vulnerable breeding grounds for seabirds like Manx shearwaters and puffins from rats, but they will not know if the island is completely rat-free until 2006. Lundy Island lies in the Bristol Channel, about 11 miles off the coast of North Devon. It is a granite outcrop three miles long, half a mile wide and rises 400 feet above sea level. It is home to many plants and animals some of which only occur on Lundy and is particularly important for its birdlife. It is nationally recognised and legally protected for the valuable wildlife it supports and the surrounding waters hold England`s only Marine Nature Reserve. The seabird colonies are one of the reasons the island has protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and there is a statutory obligation to protect, enhance and maintain those colonies. A fact-sheet is available from the contacts listed below. The UK holds around 75% of the World`s Manx shearwater with some 290,000 pairs. Lundy Island has only 166 pairs of Manx shearwater but is believed to be able support around 2,000. The total UK puffin population is estimated to be around 900,000, about 10% of the world`s population. They have been counted on Lundy since 1939 when the population was estimated to be 3,500 pairs. The 2000 survey found only 13 individuals. The Lundy Seabird Recovery Project formed in 2001 to find the best way to eradicate rats from Lundy, which do not occur there naturally, but arrived over the years on ships visiting the island. Detailed plans for the eradication were designed, paying special attention to the safety of islanders, visitors and the other wildlife on the island. A resident work party waited until the winter, when the breeding birds had left the island, before laying a grid of bait-stations, which they checked weekly over the winter. The Project is led by - English Nature, the Government agency that champions the conservation of wildlife and geology throughout England. http://www.english-nature.org.uk with The Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity that rescues and restores architecturally interesting buildings and historic buildings at risk, giving them a future by letting them for self catering holidays. The Landmark Trust manages Lundy Island. http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk The National Trust, Europe`s largest conservation charity with over 3 million members. Founded in 1895, it is the largest non-governmental landowner in Britain, and protects over 612,000 acres of countryside, moorland, beaches and coastline across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and looks after over 600 historic sites including houses, gardens and industrial buildings. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk RSPB, The RSPB is Europe`s largest wildlife conservation charity, with more than one million members, and is the UK Partner of BirdLife International, the global network of bird conservation organisations.www.rspb.org.uk For further information, contact:
English Nature Helen Payn, Press Officer, 01733 455190, out of hours 07970 098005
Landmark Trust Katherine Oakes, Communications Co-ordinator, 01628 825920
National Trust Mike Collins, Press Officer: 020 7447 6657/6755 or Claire Bolitho, Communications Officer, Devon, 01392 883105
RSPB Sophie Atherton, SW Media Officer, 01392 453753, out of hours, 07834 147 359

4th July 2014