Scilly Storm-petrels get nestboxes

A European Storm-petrel incubates its egg on Bryher, Scilly, where rat eradication is also taking place. Photo: Amy Horn Norris (www.rspb-images.com).
A European Storm-petrel incubates its egg on Bryher, Scilly, where rat eradication is also taking place. Photo: Amy Horn Norris (www.rspb-images.com).
The Scilly Seabird Recovery Project has installed nestboxes on some of St Agnes’s boulder beaches to help one of England’s rarest seabirds.

Staff and volunteers working on the project hope the nestboxes will encourage European Storm-petrels and make it easier to monitor their breeding success later in the autumn.

European Storm-petrel is about the size of a sparrow and spends most of its life at sea. It is rather scarce in England, and confined entirely to the South-West as a breeding species. It returned to breed on St Agnes and Gugh for the first time in living memory last year, following the successful eradication of rats from both islands

Jaclyn Pearson, the RSPB’s Isles of Scilly Sea Bird Recovery Project manager, said: “We thank the volunteers involved in making and placing the nestboxes on St Agnes and Gugh. We have recently started monitoring this year’s storm-petrel chicks, so it’s an exciting time. One of the best things about this project is to know the hard work of so many people has opened up habitat on St Agnes and Gugh, where these amazing seabirds can breed in safety without their eggs or young being eaten by rats.”

This summer the project team and the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust joined forces to deliver ‘storm-petrel games’ at the islands' popular summer fetes, raising more than £300 towards seabird conservation. Now, this month members of the community are joining ‘chick-check walks’ to record where the chicks of various seabird species are fledging, and will be able to monitor them for years to come.  

Naomi Stratton, land management lead advisor for Natural England, said: “It was a privilege to join a community ‘chick-check walk’ recently and I was delighted to see Manx shearwater chicks starting to venture outside their burrows before migration. It is great to see bird activity on these protected sites increasing and the local community so involved with the project.” 

If anybody thinks they have seen a rat on St Agnes or Gugh they should call the project’s ‘Rat on a Rat’ hotline on 01720 422153. The project team and islanders will then inspect the area and set up surveillance and rat incursion response measures.

This Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project is a partnership between the RSPB, the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Natural England and the Duchy of Cornwall. The project is funded by LIFE, the EU’s programme for financing key environmental schemes across the continent, and a £269,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.