We welcome Holly Paget-Brown as the newest member of the Biosecurity for LIFE team. Here she introduces herself, explains the distance she has covered between biosecurity projects is an impressive 1200KM spanning the breadth of the country. From Scilly to Shetland, Holly brings a wealth of experience to the project.
The team has been busy uploading useful resources onto the website. Simply head to the homepage and 'resources' where there are six sections for you to explore or click on the section which will answer your specific questions. Whether you are a boat owner preventing stowaways to special islands, an island manager writing your own biosecurity plan or a teacher planning a school trip to an island, these resources will assist you to protect seabirds on islands through biosecurity. Plus, for land managers, having a rodent incursion response plan at the ready for if a rodent does breach biosecurity measures is a must. The ‘Incursion response’ section provides useful documents in this one easy to find location.
The Isles of Scilly are home to our Biosecurity Officer, Northern Ireland, Wales and SW England (Jaclyn Pearson). The inhabited islands of St Agnes and Gugh in particular are very special for seabirds. Here, brown rats were removed in 2013 to protect species including Manx shearwaters and storm petrels and the results have been incredible, not just for wildlife but for the community too. Together the 85 residents of St Agnes and Gugh continue to carry out rodent biosecurity with the support of RSPB and Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust.
Together these islands are estimated to hold a remarkable 67% of the world population of breeding Manx shearwater. These birds are diurnal but will only come ashore or go out to sea under the cover of darkness and nest underground so you’re unlikely to see them when you visit the islands unless you stay overnight. You will see that the ground is covered in burrows and is therefore extremely fragile so take care to stay on the paths when you visit. Skokholm is also home to the fourth largest storm petrel colony in the UK, holding 8% of the UK breeding population. These birds’ nest in crevices in stone walls or quarries and are also nocturnal when on land to avoid predation. The islands most famous resident however is the puffin, these birds nest underground but come out in the day so you are likely to see rather a lot of them if you visit between April and July. All these ground-nesting species are particularly susceptible to invasive non-native mammalian predators, they would not survive if rats, mink or stoats arrived on the islands.
In these times of self-isolation and global concern most of us currently find our access to nature and wild spaces being restricted from what we are accustomed to. There is now an increased opportunity to take the time to find pleasure in the nature living on our doorsteps. To discover those species we so frequently by-pass, on our way to perceived grander locations. As spring advances, to find solace in the opening of a flower or the movement of a queen bumblebee past a window.
In light of the hedgehog’s mainland declines, it may seem a little surprising that they are considered an invasive species on the UK’s offshore islands. In fact, hedgehogs have been found to survive at higher densities on some islands than in their native mainland range. This is partly because their natural predators like the European badger are absent, and climate change is leading to more favourable conditions for hedgehogs on islands. This in turn leads to very high levels of hedgehog predation on the eggs of ground-nesting birds: on one island hedgehogs were found to drive a 39% decline in breeding shorebirds over ten years – and were responsible for up to 50% of all breeding failures
Grassholm is one of those islands that assaults your senses upon approach with both the smell, noise and sight of over 36,000 pairs of gannets. On a round island boat trip you’ll see them on their nests or flying overhead like aeroplanes before folding their wings back and diving at speed to catch their prey in the surrounding waters. 6.8% of the world population of Northern gannets breed on this lump of rock just 10 hectares in size. In fact, the majority of the island is now white in colour due to the animals and their guano, with only a relatively small strip of grass remaining where they are yet to colonise. Grassholm is the third largest gannetry in the UK after the Bass Rock and St Kilda – two other sites we’re also working on.
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