Ecologists To Survey St Agnes Ahead Of Rat Project

St Agnes viewed from Gugh

St Agnes viewed from Gugh

A group of ecologists from Cornwall will be starting a complete survey of animal and plant life on St Agnes and Gugh today as part of the £900,000 Seabird Recovery project.

The 25-year programme will aim to eradicate the rat population on those islands in the hope this will boost the numbers of storm petrel and Manx shearwater on St Agnes and neighbouring uninhabited islands.

Adrian Spalding and his three-strong team from Truro will be here for ten days although they’ll be making more trips in the next few months.

They’re conducting a baseline survey on St Agnes and Gugh so that the real effect of the rat eradication project can be measured.

So if, for example, the numbers of shrews leap up once all the rats have been removed, then they can say this was due to the absence of rats.

They will be working on Bryher too as a ’control’ site.

The group will be monitoring everything from insects and land birds to shrews and natural vegetation. They’ll even be counting rabbit droppings.

Some of the information they gather will be fed to children at St Agnes school, who are carrying out their own shrew project on the island.

They’re due back again in June, July and September and while they’re here, they’ll train the two local project staff, Jaclyn Pearson and Bob Dawson, plus a number of volunteers so they can continue with the work on their own in 2014 and 2015.

Rat removal itself is due to start this November.