Wanted: Puffins on Ramsey Island

PUFFIN CALL: The solar-powered sound system and decoy puffins on Ramsey IslandPICTURE: Greg Morgan

PUFFIN CALL: The solar-powered sound system and decoy puffins on Ramsey IslandPICTURE: Greg Morgan

First published in News

THE RSPB is making use of sound technology in a bid to lure puffins back to a Pembrokeshire island.

Unlike nearby Skomer Island, puffins have not been seen on Ramsey Island for around 100 years. They used to breed there in the 1800's, but with the arrival of rats through shipwrecks they soon fled.

In 2000 the RSPB and Wildlife Management International managed to eradicate rats from the island. The response of Manx shearwaters has been impressive with an increase from 850 pairs in 1999 to 3,835 pairs in 2012.

Storm petrels were recorded breeding for the first time in 2008, but puffins have not made it back yet. That could be about to change though with the introduction of a new solar powered sound system, which plays a recording of the bird’s growl-like call three times a day, at 7am, 12pm and 5pm.

The charity got the idea after hearing how experts in Northern Ireland had enjoyed success in doing something similar.

Writing in his blog, Greg Morgan, site manager for the RSPB's Ramsey reserve, said:

“Following the success of a similar project on Copeland Island a couple of years ago we decided to try it on Ramsey. Nigel Butcher, ace technician in our Conservation Science department at the RSPB made the sound system, which plays the call of a puffin on a repeat loop from a loudspeaker (very loudly).

“German technology then completed the outfit when Michael Hoffman, one of our regular and very talented volunteers, made a sturdy frame on which to securely site the device, plus a solar panel to keep the battery topped up.

"To accompany the sound system are some decoy puffins, made by Ed Tycer. It is hoped these will act as an added attraction if birds make landfall."

Mr Morgan added: “We trialled the system last year for a short four week period with some success.

“Birds were recorded making landfall on low tide rocks below the speaker and on one memorable occasion eight birds landed on the cliff tops among the decoys.

“With the device out for a full season this year it is hoped we can build on this success and see puffins return to their rightful place on the Ramsey Island breeding bird list.”

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