Why is the recording of the call of a single storm petrel chick on the Shiant Isles causing such delight?
The remote Shiant Isles are located out in the Minch, the Atlantic sea channel between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland. The Shiants are a very special place for their history and natural environment and are one of our most favourite places to drop anchor and go ashore. Everyone who loves islands, the Hebrides and wild places should read the book “Sea Room”, beautifully written by Adam Nicolson who fell heir to the Shiants on his 21st birthday, purchased by his father in 1937.
There are no permanent residents on the islands but it is a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of seabirds which breed there every summer, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, shags and great skuas. However, for hundreds of years, non-native black rats occupied the island, eating the eggs and chicks of the breeding seabirds and preventing other rare bird ground nesting bird species such as storm petrels and Manx Shearwaters from nesting at all. It is only very recently the rats have been eradicated, due to an intensive and challenging 4-year project.
During the summer of 2017, the distinctive calls of adult storm petrels were recorded on the Shiants for the first time but there was no evidence of chicks. The recording released today provides the evidence that the island restoration has make a difference to nesting seabirds and that the project was very worthwhile.
Our vessels have been privileged to visit the Shiants while Adam Nicolson is in residence. About the evidence of breeding storm petrels he said: “The tiny, vulnerable peeping of the storm petrel chick was one of the most optimistic sounds to have been heard on the Shiants in living memory. In that one sound, and extraordinarily quickly, all the effort, skill and organisation of the Shiant Isles Recovery Project has already begun to find its reward. This is only the beginning. At a time when the news from the natural world is consistently dire, this is a small move in the other direction, and one which carries within it at least some hope for a better future.”
Our guests who visit the Shiants find it an unforgettable and unique experience. We still have 3 cabins for 2019 on our “Skye, Small Isles and Shiants” 8 night cruise departing August 17th and good availability for 2020.