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National Trust for Scotland working to protect its seabirds

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The National Trust for Scotland protects some of Scotland’s most precious historic places and landscapes.  Battlefields, ancient houses, mills, gardens, castles, coastlines, islands, mountain ranges – these are just some of the examples of places the charity works to protect.

Some of these are off the beaten track. One of the key projects the Trust has been involved with is that of the seabirds on the island of Canna.

To protect Canna’s beautiful seabirds, the National Trust for Scotland, the EU Life Fund, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Natural Heritage funded an important project.

Research undertaken by the Highland Ringing Group and the Trust had discovered that manx shearwaters and other seabirds on Canna were dropping in number.

Manx Shearwaters were dropping in numberse
Manx Shearwaters were dropping in numbers; 
now they are returning, thanks to the work of this project

Brown rates were preying on seabird nests – and some birds were abandoning the places they’d used as breeding sites for years.  They were nesting in caves and on ledges, moving to more inaccessible sites.   And yet their numbers continued to fall.  BY 2005, only 1 or 2 pairs of shearwaters survived in these isolated areas or inaccessible sites.   Yet in the 1980s, 1,500 pairs of these birds had been recorded. 

So in 2005, a project was funded to eradicate Canna’s brown rates.   A New Zealand team, supported by volunteers, set up and replenished bait stations.  The team recorded when and where the rats were taking the bait.  By March 2006, it was thought all the rats had gone – and two years later, the island was declared to be rat-free.  Canna is now quarantined to ensure that the rats don’t make a come-back.

Razorbills resting on a cliff edge
Razorbills resting on a cliff edge

And now, manx shearwaters are coming back to Canna and breeding successfully.  Puffins and shags have also increased in number, which is great news.

A seal on the coastline

Today, Canna’s coastline supports over 20,000 breeding seabirds.  It’s also home to lots of wild creatures from porpoises and whales to puffins and eagles – and it also has a small crofting community.

To get there, you can take a passenger ferry from Mallaig (no cars).

Join the National Trust of Scotland or give a gift membership and you can help the Trust continue its work to protect beautiful places in Scotland.