A SINGLE rat which had been terrorising an island off the East Lothian coast which is home to endangered seabird species has been removed after a near-two-year project to remove the "very elusive" rodent.

Rodent signs were discovered on The Lamb, near North Berwick, in autumn 2020 before it was later established that just one brown rat was living on the island.

East Lothian Courier:

The rat caught on camera at The Lamb. Image: Scottish Seabird Centre

However, successful community action has now dealt with the problem and seen the island, off the North Berwick coast, declared free of invasive predators.

Rats can cause a catastrophic effect on breeding seabird populations, such as puffins, by targeting their eggs and young.

The project was headed up by experienced kayakers Tim Gibson, Chris Gordon and Neil Black of the Lothian Sea Kayak Club, who made 35 trips to the island, which is famously difficult to reach using larger boats.

East Lothian Courier:

Members of Lothian Sea Kayak Club were crucial to the project at The Lamb. Image: John Hunt

They concluded through the use of motion-triggered cameras that there was likely only one individual rat present on the island.

The project also included the expertise of Biosecurity for LIFE, a conservation group launched in 2018 that has helped protect 42 islands that host endangered seabird populations across the UK.

Sarah Lawrence, biosecurity officer with the Biosecurity for LIFE project, praised the work of the volunteers and thanked all involved for their efforts of ridding The Lamb of its "very elusive rat”.

She said: “The dedication of Lothian Sea Kayak Club’s volunteers on The Lamb is a fantastic example of a community coming together to protect their local seabirds.

“The volunteers have spent two winters navigating harsh weather, Covid restrictions, and the frustrations of seeking a very elusive rat – and thanks to their hard work we are confident that The Lamb’s puffins and other seabirds will return to nest on a rat-free island this year.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with the Scottish Seabird Centre and Lothian Sea Kayak Club on this project, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration to protect the Forth Islands SPA from the arrival of invasive predators in the future.”

East Lothian Courier:

The island is home to puffins. Image: Emily Burton

Emily Burton, conservation officer at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, was relieved that The Lamb had been made safe for the endangered seabird species and thanked all the individuals involved.

She said: “It is a huge relief to know that The Lamb is free of invasive predators, ready for the seabird breeding season ahead.

“Some incredible birds, including puffins, kittiwakes, cormorants, and guillemots, will be returning to a safer island to breed this spring, thanks to the tireless dedication of our kayak volunteers over the past 16 months.

East Lothian Courier:

Guillemots are another seabird species which nest on The Lamb. Image: Emily Burton

“The support and expertise of the Biosecurity for LIFE team has been invaluable in tackling this challenge, along with the RSPB, who have supplied resources and advice.

“I think this project is a testament to the things that are possible when conservation charities and communities collaborate to protect wildlife, in a time when nature urgently needs our help.”

Neil Black, one of the kayak volunteers who supported the project, said: “I was really pleased to have been involved in this project and I now have a better understanding of all the cooperation that goes on between different conservation bodies to achieve an overall aim.

“It certainly helped mentally to be doing something constructive within our sport to help the environment, as part of the enjoyment of kayaking is always the interaction with nature.”