Saturday, 18 June 2011

Manx joeys

Was it a dream or did I just see an orchid meadow being grazed by Wallabies? No, I've been on the Isle of Man and my collection of British wildlife poo has just increased by one. A population of around 100 Red-necked Wallabies is now claimed after an initial accidental release of a pair from a nearby wildlife park around 1970.  There are surely more; we easily saw at least 5, including young, and there were droppings everywhere. There is a relaxed view on the presence of these animals. They appear to be mildly beneficial through their grazing activities - at the moment! They are certainly amusing, hiding low in vegetation before bounding away at the last moment, thumping the ground.

This was the beginning of a 4-day tour of the Isle of Man looking at some key conservation issues. Choughs are doing well on the island; around 160 pairs. Where natural cliff sites are absent, the birds are known to nest in artificial sites. However, of interest is the recent use of active farm buildings, such as barns, rather than disused or derelict buildings. Nesting birds are being carefully monitored by Manx Birdlife.

In contrast to the tolerance of wallabies, a Brown Rat control programme to benefit breeding seabirds has been progressing on the Calf of Man. After becoming extinct on the island that gave them their name, Manx Shearwaters returned to breed in 2000. With a reduction in Rats, the population has increased to around 100 pairs. Total eradication of rats must surely be the aim to maintain this iconic bird on the island.

At Close Sartfield meadows excellent restoration work by the Wildlife Trust using green hay following scrub removal has created the spectacle of thousands of orchids of six species.

The uplands hold Curlews, Red Grouse and a good, but declining, population of Hen Harriers. Looking at various areas of moorland, we stumbled (literally) over good numbers of Lesser Twayblade and also abundant Moonwort around the old lead mines.

Below - nestbox (upstairs Chough, downstairs Muscovy Duck), Choughs calling to young, ringing young Chough (under licence).

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