Thursday, 17 August 2006

Of mice and men

<![CDATA[ Canna mouseIn the early days of Island Blogging Western Isles, I reported on the campaign to relieve Canna of its rat problem. Although we briefly enjoyed the presence of Cannablog, this seems to be on holiday, so I'll just finish the story, seeing as I started it.

Canna was plagued by an infestation of 5,000 rats. They predated on ground nesting birds, by eating eggs and chicks. Rather than just dosing the island with a load of rat poison, special precautions had to be taken first. Canna is home to a species of mouse not found elsewhere, and the rat poison would have wiped them out as well. So all the wee mice were caught and transported to Edinburgh for safe keeping. After all the rats were poisoned, back in February, a check was kept on Canna for 6 months, to verify that they really had all bitten the dust.

The National Trust for Scotland, who own Canna, are delighted to announce that the eradication of the rats was a success. Numbers of nesting birds have risen dramatically, with numbers of razorbills up tenfold and shags up 50%.

Manx Shearwater in flight (pic from RSPB website)A colony of Manx Shearwaters, which at one time numbered 1,500 breeding pairs, had been reduced to a pitiful 1 pair in 2002. NTS staff used a recording of the shearwater's call to lure the birds back to Canna, and it seems to have worked. Shearwaters also nest on the neighbouring island of Rum, 4 miles to the east. They use abandoned rabbit burrows for breeding, but otherwise spend their lives at sea. ]]>

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