Can you volunteer to help on Coquet Island?
Preparations for the new breeding season on Coquet Island will soon begin, with wardens starting the necessary maintenance tasks. Coquet Island is an important RSPB reserve which is home to puffins, eiders, fulmar, kittiwake and the UK’s only colony of Roseate terns, Britain’s rarest nesting seabird.
The Ambler spoke to Stephen Westerberg, RSPB site manager for the island. “We’re getting the island ready for the next breeding season, which includes doing any ground work needed, and managing the terraces for the Roseate terns. We’re really interested to know if there are any volunteers who would like to help – they would be very welcome.”
Volunteers would be asked to help with the maintenance, doing things like cutting the grass, moving nesting boxes and setting up hides. In addition, the RSPB would like to hear from anyone with any boat qualifications.
They are also hoping to be able to improve sanitary provision in the cottages, with the use of bottled gas power and improvements to the solar panels. Water will run though a UV filter to kill viruses.
The sanctuary is popular with between 60 – 80,000 sea birds, who return year after year. “Coquet Island has more breeding birds per square metre than any other RSPB reserve,” said Stephen.
The Ambler understands that popularity could have a double edge, as sadly it is possible that those species which nest close to one another may have experienced the worst of the impact of the Avian Flu.
Avian Flu is not far from the minds of the wardens. Two years of the deadly HPAI virus caused devastation on the bird sanctuary, and meant staff were unable to remain on the island, having instead to rely on day trips to monitor the birds. Stephen told us he was hopeful the staff would be able to remain on the island full time once again during the breeding season. “Staff will be monitoring for bird flu, and if it is detected, we may have to do day visits,” he said.
Security is still important and the RSPB hope to improve the CCTV coverage in order to protect the birds and their eggs. Landing is not permitted on the island, and anyone disturbing the birds causing them to fly up during the breeding season is committing an offence.
However, the staff are well aware of how popular the birds are, especially the puffins. The bird cameras on the island have been in place for several years, and some of them are situated inside the nests of the Roseate terns and puffins.
“I was at the Puffin Festival last year and I know how much people want to see the puffins,” said Stephen “so we’ll make sure that the coverage continues.”
If you would like to volunteer with the wardens on Coquet Island, contact Stephen Westerberg directly: Stephen.Westerberg@rspb.org.uk