Recovery of the Manx shearwater on Lundy. Have the Welsh invaded?

Lundy

Lundy

We are celebrating the recovery of the Manx shearwater on Lundy Island. Owned by the National Trust and leased to the Landmark Trust, Lundy has always been famous for its seabirds. Lundy, in Norse, means Puffin Island and there are puffins there today. But the real gem is the Manx shearwater.  Most of these birds (over 90 %) breed on islands off the British and Irish coasts. Until a decade ago it was doing badly, almost certainly because of predation by rats. With just a few hundred pairs left on the island and their eggs and chicks eaten by rats, there was real prospect of losing them completely, as happened on the island of Canna (Inner Hebrides).

Back in 2002, the Seabird Recovery Project partnership of National Trust, RSPB, English Nature (now Natural England) and Landmark Trust was formed to try to save Manx shearwaters on Lundy. Our priority, removing the brown rats (common) and black rats (ship). Globally both are widespread and abundant. In Britain and Ireland the black rat is only found on a few islands and dockland warehouses – it is really rare.  How could we remove one of Britain’s rarest mammals from one of its few refuges? Our priority – indeed our global responsibility – was to rescue the dwindling population of Manx shearwaters on Lundy.

By 2013, nearly a decade after rat removal, there are now thousands of shearwaters breeding on Lundy, and their burrows are in many more parts of the island than when the rats were present. The speed of recovery has been remarkable. Manx shearwaters spend the first five or six years of life at sea, in the south Atlantic. The contribution of these home-bred birds to the increase must have been small  - it must have involved birds from other colonies. I reckon that shearwaters from the massive colony on the islands off Pembrokeshire have always visited Lundy, and they may have tried to breed. But until the rats went they were always deterred or their eggs and chicks were eaten.

Manx Shearwater (Omarrun)

Manx Shearwater (Omarrun)

Removing rats from islands with shearwater colonies does not always result in a quick recovery of the shearwaters. It did on Ramsey off Pembrokeshire, but it has not happened on Canna where rats were also removed about a decade ago. This is curious. Canna is next door to the huge shearwater colony on the island of Rum. Does Rum have enough birds to export to, and recolonise, Canna? We have high hopes rats will be removed from the Calf of Man (where there really should be lots of Manx shearwaters), and also on Scilly, to allow the recovery of this amazing bird. My hunch is that if  and when the rats are removed from the Calf, the shearwater population will recover quickly. We already know that Welsh island birds spend the later part of the summer in the northern half of the Irish Sea, so are in the area for some of the year. But where would immigrant shearwaters to recolonise Scilly come from? Recovery there may take some time. In the meantime, on islands where rats have been removed you seem to get a recovery of ground-nesting and other birds and large insects such as big beetles, so rat eradication from seabird island – however unpleasant – is an ecological win win.

Stop press – Great to see that the puffins on the National Trust’s Farne Islands have recovered from their low count in 2008. A stonking 40,000 pairs!

Granite stacks on the west coast of Lundy.

Granite stacks on the west coast of Lundy.

  • Dr David Bullock- Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust

A light at the end of the burrow?

“Within a generation, island seabird colonies in south west England could be thriving and free from the threat of rats”. That’s the view of conservationists this week as they reveal the amazing results of the Seabird Recovery Project on Lundy ten years after the project started, and embark on a similar major new project to eradicate rats that threaten burrow nesting seabirds on St Agnes and Gugh on the Isles of Scilly.

Puffins on Lundy (James Wright)

Puffins on Lundy (James Wright)

Survey teams from RSPB with funding from The National TrustThe Landmark Trust and Natural England returned to Lundy this spring and found a tenfold increase in Manx shearwater numbers since the rat removal operation a decade ago.

Helen Booker, RSPB Senior Conservation Officer in the South West said: “This is such an exciting result, better than we expected, and the rate of increase is an indication of just how important rat free islands like Lundy are as breeding site for seabirds”

The Lundy Seabird Recovery Project was a partnership initiated in 2003 between the National Trust, English Nature (now Natural England), RSPB, and Landmark Trust. The aim of the project was to recover the Manx shearwater population, which was then at a very low level with around just 300 breeding pairs. Ten years on, there are over 3,000 pairs.

Puffin numbers have also increased from 5 to 80 birds and guillemots, razorbills and shags have also seen substantial increases. Anecdotally, other species such as pygmy shrew and wheatear are also more numerous.

Derek Green, Lundy General Manager said: “We are delighted with this result which is showing benefits for a range of species on the island and shows just how much can be achieved. Lundy has been a wildlife haven for many years, although rats were always a problem we had to live with.

Their removal has transformed the island for both wildlife and visitors alike, and we’re watching with great anticipation and excitement as the cliffs and slopes of Lundy fill with the eerie calls of thousands of birds once again. “

Dr. David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation for the National Trust said “Once the rats had gone from Lundy, the number of pairs of shearwaters on Lundy went from 100s to 1000s in matter of a few years which is outstanding news.

“Such a rapid recovery is unlikely to have been due to “home bred” birds. Shearwaters from other colonies must have settled to breed on the island. We do not know where these birds came from, but there is a massive shearwater colony on the islands off Pembrokeshire in Wales. So was Lundy repopulated in part by the Welsh?”

The striking results from Lundy are an indication of what can be expected a couple of hundred miles to the south west as the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project gets underway this summer.

This ambitious project seeks to also secure a legacy for similar seabirds and the Scilly shrew, as well as the community that lives and works not just on the islands of St Agnes and Gugh, but across the Isles of Scilly.

The Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project, now the largest community-based island restoration project of its kind in the world, will provide a raft of benefits in the islands for the 25 years of the project’s life, and beyond. It is managed by a coalition of groups including RSPB, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Duchy of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership and a representative from the islands of St Agnes and Gugh, with support from the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.

Jaclyn Pearson, Project Manager for the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project said: “Lundy has pioneered this type of project in the UK and it demonstrates just what devastating effects the rats were having on the island’s wildlife. Lundy is now the most important place in England for Manx shearwater, leaving the Isles of Scilly in its wake. This really has thrown down the gauntlet and in years to come it will be very exciting seeing the changes here.”

David Appleton of Natural England, who has been involved in both these projects, said: “Following Lundy’s example, in the 25 year lifetime of the Isles of Scilly project we can only imagine what the population of Manx shearwater and storm petrel will be in the South West of England.”

The first phase lasts five years and represents a significant investment of time and money. The funding has come mainly from the EU LIFE fund for environmental work – a dedicated pot that makes up just a fraction of a percentage of the EU budget – and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which aims to sustain and transform a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy.

Alongside the removal work, the project will also work with residents and visitors to highlight the importance of the islands for seabirds.

Darren Mason, a volunteer with the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project, is already working alongside local businesses, telling people about the important seabirds, the threats they face and what we can do to help. “Our seabirds are amazing, long-lived birds but species like the Manx shearwater and storm petrel are particularly vulnerable as they nest in burrows and crevices where rats like to forage. It is amazing to think that the storm petrel is a relative of the albatross, as they weigh the same as a few coins. I hope we will soon hear the delightful “purring” of these tiny ocean wanderers from many more places in the future as the result of the project.”

Young farmer wins keys to iconic Welsh farm

Caryl Hughes (23) a young farmer from Wales has won the keys to an iconic one million pound farm in Snowdonia in the first ever National Trust Llyndy Isaf scholarship.

Caryl, from Dyffryn Ceiriog, near Llangollen, beat off stiff competition to win the opportunity to farm and care for this iconic 614-acre upland farm in Snowdonia for 12 months from September.

 

The farm, Llyndy Isaf, on the shores of Llyn Dinas near Beddgelert drew international attention in 2011 when a million pound appeal to rescue it was spearheaded by Welsh Hollywood actor Matthew Rhys and supported by Catherine Zeta Jones.

Llyndy Isaf-8 resize

Caryl who will move into the farm with her dog Mist said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I intend to take full advantage of.

“It’s not every day you get the chance to farm a 614-acre farm, especially not at the age of 23 and especially if you are female.

“I’m a bit nervous of taking on Llyndy, it is a daunting challenge, especially because it hasn’t been farmed for a number of years, but I’m really excited about it and all the new experiences and opportunities I’m going to get over the next year. I’m really looking forward to working with the National Trust and getting to know the whole team and all of the Trust’s work – especially in agriculture.

“The scholarship appealed to me because it was a type of farming that I am familiar with and I’m eager to learn more about. I enjoy the variation that farming offers – from being out on the mountain in rain and thunder to sorting out paperwork. In my opinion everyone should see that farming is really important – without farming we have no food for the country.

Caryl Hughes with Ken Owens (previous farmer of Llyndy Isaf).  Picture credit Aled Llewellyn Athena Pic Agency NT

Caryl Hughes with Ken Owens (previous farmer of Llyndy Isaf). Picture credit Aled Llewellyn Athena Pic Agency NT

“My priorities will be to re-establish a flock here with good grazing management to retain this natural environment around us. That’s Llyndy’s unique quality and challenge all in one.

“Ultimately, I’d like to think that someone else will offer me an amazing job with a massive big farm at the end of it. I’m sure I will look back on the scholarship with pride, and the skills and experience I gain will live with me forever.”

The scholarship was organised in partnership with the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (YFC) and aims to encourage the next generation of farmers.

Jonny Williams, Rural Affairs Chairman Wales YFC, said: “The Llyndy Scholarship is a unique and innovative opportunity, groundbreaking within the agricultural industry. I am extremely confident that Caryl will be an outstanding candidate and role model for all young farmers throughout Wales and beyond.

“I would like to thank the National Trust for providing Wales YFC members with this opportunity for years to come at Llyndy Isaf.”

Trystan Edwards, National Trust General Manager for Snowdonia and Llyn said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for a young farmer to experience what it is like to run an upland farm.

“We are all really looking forward to working with and mentoring Caryl over the next 12 months, to help build her confidence and skills in stock management, business, and practical management through formal and informal training as well as work experience.”

Gardeners urged not to panic over the heat

Keep flowers in bloom during the heatwave with our gardener tips

Keep flowers in bloom during the heatwave with our gardener tips

Gardeners have only two rules to follow when dealing with long periods of heat, according to National Trust gardeners.

These are: water pots and herbaceous beds in the morning and evening only and don’t panic into watering grass.

With a 25 acre garden to look after, the 6-strong team at the National Trust’s ScotneyCastle has more than 84 years of experience between them and is well placed to offer gardening advice.

Paul Micklewright, Garden and Estate Manager at ScotneyCastle, said: “Like other National Trust places, at Scotney we never water grass, even in a heatwave.

“Grass is very good at dealing with a lack of water, even if it turns brown it will be able to bounce back when the rains return later in the year.

“For pots and herbaceous beds, it’s best to water first thing in the morning or last thing at night to avoid damaging plants.

“When the sun shines on water it can act like a magnifying glass, burning the leaves below, so it’s best to avoid the times that the sun as it its highest.”

For more tips on caring for your garden in the heat, visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gardens

Puffin numbers rally after 2008 crash

Results from a three-month survey of puffins on the world famous National Trust Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, have shown an eight per cent increase in the number of breeding puffin pairs since 2008 when the last census showed a dramatic fall in numbers.

A team of eleven National Trust rangers carried out a full census of the population, which happens once every five years, across eight islands with the final figures showing that there are just under 40,000 (39,962) pairs of nesting puffins.

2003 was the peak year for puffins on the Farne Islands with over 55,000 (55,674) nesting pairs recorded and numbers had been steadily increasing since the 1960s. However the 2008 survey revealed a dramatic crash in numbers by nearly one third to just 36,835 pairs.

 David Steel, Head Ranger on the National Trust Farne Islands, commented,

“The results of the puffin census come as a real relief following some difficult years for them – with the flooding of burrows last year and a very challenging winter.  We had feared that the numbers of puffins would be down again as has happened on other colonies, including those on the Shetland Islands.

 “The bad weather during recent seasons has had some impact on numbers, but with a good nesting habitat secured by us and a plentiful supply of food in the area, numbers have been recovering pretty strongly, which is great news for the puffins and other seabirds.”

 Extreme weather has had a major impact on puffins in the north-sea in the last couple of years.  The 2012 breeding season was hit hard with the second wettest summer on record flooding many burrows, where puffins live.

Earlier this year, just as puffins were returning to the colonies in March, storms resulted in the deaths of thousands of seabirds along the coasts of north-east England and Scotland. Over 3,500 bodies were collected and ringing recoveries suggested that many of the birds involved were breeding adults from local colonies.

 Professor Mike Harris from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology added,

“The wreck was unusual in that it occurred when puffins were returning to their colonies and were close to land.  It’s likely that a very high proportion of the total number of birds that died were found, therefore exaggerating the severity of the mortality.

 “The Isle of May puffin population, 100 km to the north of the Farnes, has also shown no sign of a decline in numbers following the winter puffin disaster. Puffin survival over the last winter was not exceptionally low, despite fears after the wreck.”

The unmistakeable puffin with its bright beak and slightly comical walk is a much loved symbol of the British coastline. During the survey, which began in May, the rangers put their arms into holes to make sure that the nests are occupied.

Puffin census_infographic

 David Steel concluded,

“The poor spring weather affected the timing of the breeding season, with the birds that did survive, breeding late”.

“However this late start may result in puffins remaining at the colonies until later in the summer than normal, giving people even more opportunity to enjoy watching them.”

 For the first time, nest cameras have been inserted into puffin burrows to record the birds’ behaviour in intimate detail. The footage, along with details on how the rangers are progressing with the 2013 puffin census, can be seen at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/puffins or follow progress on twitter at #puffincensus.

Celebrating unsung heroes of environment movement

A group of green space guardians marking their silver jubilee, a red squirrel champion and a passionate birdwatcher are this year’s green heroes celebrated in the National Trust’s Octavia Hill Awards.   

The three winners, who saw off strong competition to claim the ultimate accolade, feature in the July issue of Countryfile Magazine, with an awards ceremony for all of the shortlisted finalists in the autumn.

The awards are named after Trust founder and social reformer Octavia Hill who died in August 1912. They are being run in partnership with Countryfile Magazine.

Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director at the National Trust and one of the judges, said: “Being a volunteer is in our national DNA and it’s great that these awards recognise and celebrate the commitment, passion and determination of the people that care for the green spaces that matter so much to them. 

“The standard of nominations for the Octavia Hill Awards this year was really high and shows that the spirit of volunteering is alive and well.”

The 2013 winners are:

- “Green Space Guardians” – Stroud Valleys Project in Gloucestershire – Now into its 25th year the Stroud Valleys Project works with a variety of volunteers to ensure green spaces and unused land is taken care in the area. This year it has launched a ‘Get Growing’ project in 23 local schools and they’re now looking to improve 25 wildflower meadows, and if they can’t find enough, are willing to create them.

Runners up: Friends of Russia Dock – London; Gunton Woodland Community Project – Suffolk.

- “Love Places” – Allan Davies, County Antrim in Northern Ireland – Having walked 20 long-distance footpaths, taking him around the whole of the UK and thoroughly enjoying the experience, Allan felt that having retired, it was time to give something back.  Now, a volunteer at Cushendun for almost three years, Allan has been proactively working to increase the number of rare and much loved red squirrels on the site, creating a better habitat for them, and helping to improve disabled access.

Runners up: Dianne Lang – Lake District; John Weeks – Somerset.

 - “Natural Hero” – Mike Barrett in Norfolk – At 89 years old, Mike has been interested in nature all his life.  He ran a 15-acre nature reserve at the power plant where he worked and has helped with the Marsh Harrier Monitoring project at RSPB Titchwell Marsh reserve.  Today Mike is still volunteering at Titchwell Marsh, four half-days a week helping people with wildlife queries and hands-on reserve management.

Runners up: Margaret Sweet – Birmingham; Martin Woolner – Berkshire.

The awards attracted more than 140 entries and a final shortlist was selected by a panel of judges. Sitting on the panel were Helen Timbrell, Volunteering and Community Involvement Director at the National Trust, Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile Magazine, Grahame Hindes, Chief Executive of Octavia House, Julia Bradbury, Countryfile presenter, and Matt Smith, who were both winners of a 2012 Octavia Hill Award.  The public then voted, in their thousands, for the shortlisted entries.

Fergus Collins, editor of Countryfile Magazine, said, “If it wasn’t for an army of volunteers offering their skills, energy and spare time for free, we would have significantly fewer beautiful, wild green spaces in both countryside and cities. From conservationists to craftspeople, campaigners and gardeners, these people are the unsung heroes who deserve all of our thanks.

“Octavia Hill understood the enormous value of green spaces for the physical and emotional well-being of local communities. She would certainly have been proud of this year’s winners.”

Each of the winners will receive a specially commissioned bowl made by Tony Alderman who works at the National Trust’s Chartwell in Kent. The bowls have been made using English elm, oak and yew collected from woods near to Crockham in Kent where Octavia Hill lived.

Weekly Witter: Picturing the Camera Obscura

For seven weekends from the 31st of August this year, the National Trust will be exploring seven aspects of the landscape (Uncovered: the story of British Landscape). Seven properties (Attingham, Chartwell, Ham, Northey Island, Sheringham, The North Lakes and Wimpole) have been selected to present a different aspect or use of the landscape whether for agrarian purposes, woodland management, the management of large, self sufficient estate, recreation, reflection, inspiration or how environmental forces have moulded the coastal landscape. A wide range of talks, walks and demonstrations by various experts will reveal our landscapes from these different perspectives.

Johannes Keppler in the early 1600s coined the phrase “camera obscura” which comes from the Latin meaning “dark room”

As part of this programme, I have been exploring the history and use of the camera obscura as a tool used by artists to capture images of the landscape. The phenomena of an image forming of an object when light passed through a small hole to create an inverted image of that object on a surface was first noticed by Aristotle. The earliest type was simply a room with a hole in the wall or the window blind which projected the inverted image onto the opposite wall. Johannes Keppler in the early 1600s coined the phrase “camera obscura” which comes from the Latin meaning “dark room”. Since then various types of cameras have been developed which incorporate a lens to focus the image, a mirror to invert the image and a ground glass plate on which the image is projected. The cameras were made in a variety of sizes from a large free standing box room to a smaller camera which could be fixed on a tripod within a tent like structure to the simple hand held camera.

The advantage for the artist was that it enabled him to capture the perspective of the landscape or an interior without using the more complex method of lines and vanishing points.  By placing a semi transparent paper over the ground glass surface, he could trace the image which could then be transferred to canvas.  Large complex scenes could be created by taking several tracings of different parts of the landscape and compiling them into one large image.

Various art historians and artists have attempted to identify which artists have used the camera obscura in their work as there is little documentation from artists as to their use of this method.  The most intriguing study in recent years has been the work undertaken by the British artist, David Hockney, and the physicist, Charles M Flaco, in their book,  Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. 

As part of Uncovered: the story of British Landscape, we are making a hand held camera obscura for use during the event to show visitors how it would have been used to record our stunning landscapes.

  • Christine Sitwell- Paintings Conservation Advisor for the National Trust
  • The Weekly Witter is a regular mouthpiece for our many specialists to talk about what’s on their minds at the moment.

Words on former Director-General Sir Jack Boles

 

Sir Jack Boles was Director-General between 1975-1983

Sir Jack Boles was National Trust Director-General between 1975-1983

Sir Jack Boles, who has died aged 88, served as Director-General of the National Trust between 1975 and 1983.  Below, former Historic Properties Director at the National Trust, Merlin Waterson, reflects on the time that Sir Jack spent at the helm of the Trust:

“Under the guiding hand of Jack Boles – as Secretary and then as Director General – the National Trust re-established its confidence. Shortly after he joined the Trust in 1965 there was a bruising but ultimately beneficial row with a section of the membership concerned that the charity had lost its way. During the 1970s and 1980s Jack played a crucial role in carrying through reforms in all its areas of activity. Membership increased at a rate that delighted some and alarmed others; a commercial arm was set up that rapidly became profitable; and great estates and miles of unspoilt coastline were given to the Trust. The Trust’s dedicated but often sceptical staff was encouraged to accept changes which brought much greater professionalism to what had been a largely amateur organisation. He achieved this with a mixture of conviction, integrity, administrative efficiency and exceptional human warmth. His generous-minded and unpretentious nature enabled him to empathise with those on whom the Trust depended, from the donors of country houses, members and visitors, to the wardens, tenants and gardeners responsible for the day-to-day care of its properties. To work for the Trust when he was Director General was to join a band of like-minded enthusiasts. Jack knew them all; and they regarded him as an utterly reliable source of wise counsel, encouragement and support.”

Peter Nixon, the current Director of Conservation of the National Trust, added: “When I joined the Trust in the 1980s Jack’s legacy as Director-General was very clear – a great man who had brought about real and positive change in the organisation whilst maintaining its spirit. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him”

Weekly Witter: Our green energy story

Since our energy strategy, “Grow your own” was published back in 2010, we’ve embarked on a journey of energy-awareness.  We set ourselves two big challenges, to reduce our energy by 20% and to generate 50% of that remainder through renewable and low-carbon energy resources.  We’ve committed to do this by 2020.

Some of this is nothing new for us.  We’re lucky enough to have access to some amazing natural resources – water, sun (well, sometimes sun) and woodlands.  Previous owners of our properties knew this – for example, at Cragside, Northumberland (where Lord Armstrong installed what was probably the first hydro-electric scheme in 1868).  Not to mention many historic milling sites, such as Patterson’s Spade Mill, Morden Hall Snuff Mill, Winchester City Mill, to name a few.  We’ve brought water-power back to Morden and we’re bringing it back to Cragside.

We’ve already done some great work at enthusiastic properties – from charging an electric mower through a small solar panel at Nymans Gardens to installing our first solar panels on a Grade-I listed castle at Dunster Castle (our latest listed building installation is at Lindisfarne Castle).  We also do less obvious work behind the scenes, by replacing our oil-fired boilers with wood-fired ones – for example, Uppark, Chirk Castle, Calke Abbey, and Castle Drogo.  Last year, we generated 6% of our energy needs through renewables.

Green energy at Snowdon

Green energy at Snowdon

Our biggest project to date is happening right now, in Snowdonia.  We’re installing a 600kW hydro-electric system on one of our farms. This scheme will generate the electricity equivalent of over 600 3-bedroom homes.   The project team there have just run a very successful open-day.  Despite the constant rain, over 200 very keen people were in attendance to see the site and ask questions.  We want to do more of this.

We’ve identified just over 40 sites (a mix of hydro-electric, wood-fired systems, and heat pumps) which will help us achieve our goal of 50% generation.  Recently, we announced a new partnership with Good Energy, an energy supplier.  For every new customer that signs up to their electricity and/or gas tariffs, a donation (£40 for dual-fuel) is made to the National Trust to support our energy strategy and investment in renewables.  We’re exploring other options too.

On the energy-saving front, which is arguably more important for us, we have seen lights and equipment being switched off, new heating controls, roof insulation and secondary glazing being put in – all the actions we’d do at home.  South Somerset properties went even further quite recently.  Their green team held a “green week” which featured a fuel-free Friday, local apple juice and use of thermal images (which shows heating leaks from buildings) – all good ways to encourage energy-saving and the use of local resources.

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Last year’s winter was so cold, that we did not quite meet our energy saving target.  However, actions like those of South Somerset’s team are just what we need to manage and take ownership of our energy use.  We know that whatever we save has a global impact, as well as local impact.  Whatever you believe about climate change, we’ve seen the very real impact that freakish weather patterns has on our properties – from flash-flooding affecting historic buildings and contents to storm damage of centuries-old landscapes and ancient woodlands.

  • Kirsty Rice has been the Energy Adviser for the National Trust since 2007.  She is responsible for devising national energy strategy and reduction targets, in addition to providing advice on energy efficiency and renewable or low-carbon technologies.  Her background is in project and financial management, working on environmental projects for the last ten years in public and private sectors.
  • The Weekly Witter is a regular mouthpiece for our many specialists to talk about what’s on their minds at the moment.