Mystery Solved: How Thousands of Rubber Bands Got to an Uninhabited Island in Cornwall

JaggedPixels/iStock via Getty Images
JaggedPixels/iStock via Getty Images

Mullion Island, just south of Cornwall in England, seems like it should be an idyllic place. There are no permanent residents on the island, and anyone looking to step foot there needs to obtain a permit first. But the isolated patch of land is plagued by a problem that's common in cities: Rampant pollution. Rubber bands have been turning up there by the thousands, and experts think the problem stems from the bands' resemblance to worms, Smithsonian reports.

The rangers who managed the island owned by the National Trust were initially baffled by the appearance of the bands. The knew they weren't coming from the site's visitors, so something else had to have been transporting the trash there.

Birding organization West Cornwall Ringing Group investigated the mystery further this year. Mullion Island is a sanctuary for gulls and other types of seabirds, so the researchers visited their old nesting area to clear the built-up waste and possibly identify its source. They found what they were looking for in pellets of bird poop: The feces contained remnants of rubber bands and fishing line, indicating that the birds had been mistaking them for food. They likely picked up the bands while looking for food on the farms of nearby Cornwall. Many of these farms grow flowers and use rubber bands to secure them together, and scientists believe birds searching for food in the fields then eat the bands.

If the Mullion birds are swallowing rubber and plastic and feeding it to their young, that could have disastrous consequences for the population. Researchers reported that the 2019 nesting season was "disappointingly poor" for the 70 pairs of great black-backed gulls on the island. The presence of litter on the island was likely just one factor at play: Warming seas and dwindling fish stocks have driven the decline of seabirds across the UK in recent years.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Beavers on Devon's River Otter to Become England's First Permanent Population in Centuries

Beavers were hunted to extinction in England in the 16th century, so locals were surprised to find a group of the mammals living on Devon's River Otter in 2008. Instead of moving the beavers, the Devon Wildlife Trust monitored the population to see how it would interact with the local environment. Now, as The Guardian reports, the government has deemed the beaver reintroduction program a success, meaning the species now has a permanent home in the country for the first time in centuries.

Though the North American beaver is better known, beavers are also native to Europe. Hunting reduced the Eurasian Beaver population to 1200 specimens by 1900. Their numbers have recovered in the years since, but they're still mainly limited to Scandinavia, Germany, France, Poland, and central Russia.

The beaver group currently living on the River Otter likely originated with either an accidental or unauthorized release. When local authorities discovered the beavers were breeding in 2014, they intended to relocate them to protect the local ecosystem. The Devon Wildlife Trust proposed an alternative: Allow the population to live on the river undisturbed for five years, and only remove them if they were proven to cause harm by the end of the trial.

The beavers did not hurt the environment—they actually added several benefits, according to the five-year study. The population, which now consists of 15 family groups, constructed 28 dams throughout the river system. These dams helped slow water flow during floods and contained water during droughts that would normally dry up riverbeds. The beaver-engineered habitat also allowed an increase in the number of water voles, fish, and amphibians.

When the trial officially ends on August 31, the beavers will become permanent residents of Devon in the eyes of the government. They're concentrated on the River Otter for now, but they're expected to expand beyond it, potentially starting new beaver populations in other parts of England for the first time in modern history.

[h/t The Guardian]