Sunday, 19 January 2014

Rodent monitoring

The IOSSRP project relies on us being able to detect any rats that may be still on the island, or in the future, detect them if they re-invade the islands. To do this we have been making a variety of ‘monitoring tools’. Candle wax with coco melted into it is attractive to rats and you can clearly see any teeth marks too.

Rat gnaw marks on the chocolate wax

After having chocolate wax out for a while we added some hotel soap, just in case any rats didn’t like the chocolate wax. The soap was particularly attractive to shrews it seems, so it’s a useful tool to see how their population increases after the rats are removed too.

20140115-DSC_3012Chocolate wax and hotel soap, both rat gnawed

You can identify rat gnaw marks by the pair of chisel like incisors that scrape down through the wax, and by their size, being bigger than 1mm. Shrews have needle like teeth which bite from both the bottom and top, and leave a narrow W shaped groove which is less than 1mm wide.

Shrew chew marks on the soap

We have also made wax with peanut butter mixed in, for those rats that might not like chocolate or soap, and our latest creation is coconut wax! Fingers crossed we’ll carry on finding nothing but shrews.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project

This partnership project aims to protect the seabirds in Scilly by keeping St Agnes and Gugh and the uninhabited seabird islands 'rat-free'. I am here as a volunteer for the winter, to work with Wildlife Management International Ltd to carry out the rat eradication phase of the project. This is valuable work as the rats predate the eggs and chicks of seabirds, please visit their website: IOSSRP

An old moped in a bramble patch

The first task was to make sure that there was nowhere a rat could hide without being detected. This meant clearing up anything that could act as a home to a rat, or a food source. Sheds across the island were tidied, and contents put onto pallets so that we could check under and behind everything, and place bait stations, monitoring points and tracking tunnels all over the island. The fields were given the same treatment, with gaps trimmed into the hedges to allow access to the walls behind.

Rows of narcissus in flower, this is a bad thing as it means they haven’t been sold!

The Isles of Scilly are mild, and rarely experience frost or snow. There used to be a thriving cut flower industry here, although cheap foreign imports have reduced this somewhat. There are a few farms that still grow narcissus though, one of whom grows on St Agnes.

The barn, at the Parsonage, which is our accommodation for the project

The whole team is staying at the Parsonage, with 4 of us in ‘The Barn’ and others in self contained flats in the Parsonage itself. We all eat together in the barn which has a big living room/dining room/kitchen, and we all take it in turns at cooking too. Puddings are especially welcome Smile

Narcissus in the morning dew and sunlight

The bait stations are spread every 50m over the island, so we have pretty much covered every inch of the place. We head out at 8am each morning to do rounds of the bait stations and monitoring points. When the sun shines it’s a beautiful time to be out.

A small fishing boat on the Pereglis slipway

The old lifeboat building and slipway is at Pereglis, the second slipway is used fairly regularly, and boats are often moored in the bay too. Burnt Island and Tins Walbert are two islands which we can only get to when the tide is out, so you have to keep an eye on the tide times so as not to get stuck out there! During stormy weather you get some incredible waves crashing on this shore, and pretty much over burnt island!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Photos from a while back! South Georgia

20130114-DSC_5721A fur seal pup outside my tent on the Busen

20130106-DSC_5268 PanoramaA tussac covered stack at the mouth of Husvik bay

20130125-DSC_6177Light mantled sooty albatross chick at Coral bay

20130125-DSC_6202Fur seal pups playing in the plunge pool at the back of Coral bay

20130215-DSC_6506 PanoramaSmall island with lighthouse outside Husvik bay