A project to remove rats from Lundy has seen numbers of burrow-nesting seabirds on the island more than triple. In 2001 there were only around 150 pairs of Manx shearwaters, but a survey by the RSPB this year recorded 560; and conservationists believe the

A project to remove rats from Lundy has seen numbers of burrow-nesting seabirds on the island more than triple.In 2001 there were only around 150 pairs of Manx shearwaters, but a survey by the RSPB this year recorded 560; and conservationists believe the number may actually be far higher.The birds are counted by playing a tape of their call at the mouth of burrows during the day and a note is made if there is a call in return. But experts believe the response rate is only around 50 per cent, so there are likely to be many more Manx shearwaters than the survey recorded.RSPB spokeswoman, Sophie Atherton said: "This means there are probably more than 1,000 pairs of Manx shearwater on Lundy, which is the beginnings of a healthy colony."Bird numbers have increased much faster than was expected so this is doubly good news."The Seabird Recovery Project, a partnership between Natural England, the RSPB, the Landmark Trust and the National Trust began in 2001 and aimed to increase Manx shearwater numbers on the island to provide an insurance policy for the species as a whole.More than half of the world's population of the birds breeds on the Pembrokeshire islands of Skomer and Skokholm and a disaster such as an oil spill there could have a major impact on the species.David Appleton of Natural England said: "The higher numbers of Manx shearwaters now on Lundy may partly be down to immigration from other islands, as the birds do not start breeding until they are six years old."Without the removal of the rats though, Lundy would not be a safe place for these birds to come to and the species may have become extinct on the island."The survey also showed the highest numbers of guillemots and razorbills since 1981. Puffin numbers are also on the rise. In 2004 there were just five birds but this year's survey found 14.Sophie added: "We wouldn't have anything to celebrate if the rats were still there.