Ten Manx shearwater chicks have been spotted for the first time in living memory on St Agnes and Gugh in the Isles of Scilly. The babies were seen outside their nest burrows after the first year of a project to eliminate the island’s rats began.
Although Manx shearwaters have bred on these two islands for decades, eggs and chicks were always eaten by rats while they were still in their burrows. However, a programme to remove resident rats has resulted in the first healthy youngsters surviving to leave their nests, to the delight of local conservationists, who have recorded ten chicks so far.
The chicks are now coming outside their burrows at night-time to stretch their wings and to ‘stargaze’: by looking at the stars they learn the location of their natal colony so they know exactly where to come back to when they leave the islands during migration.
RSPB Project Manager Jaclyn Pearson said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce this news. It is down to the help of everyone involved in the project so far, particularly the community living on the islands who continue to keep these islands rat –free.”
Isles of Scilly Seabird Ecologist Vickie Heaney said: “For so many years now I’ve been returning to the burrows looking for evidence of chicks fledging, only to find old cobwebs over the entrances and no signs of life. So it’s been really brilliant this year for myself, project staff and volunteers to see live chicks stargazing. With their remnants of fluff, they looked fit and healthy; ready for their awe-inspiring migration.”