Choughs began nest building on 22 March, eight days later than last year. I suspect the very cold winter meant they weren't in peak condition coming into the season and needed a bit more time to stock up on reserves before they got going. A second pair started building on 23rd; they were diving into the farmyard to collect old dagging wool that was waiting to be cleared away! Most of the other usual pairs are in their territories and over the next week or two we should have them all confirmed as nest building I hope.
There is a daily trickle of wheatears now and the first chiffchaff was seen today. Still no goldcrests. It sounds like they had another tough winter so it remains to be seen how many will pass through Ramsey on migration this year. Still very few stonechats around either - another casualty of the winter perhaps?
Won't be long till lambing now and there are some very heavy looking ewes about. The official first due date is April 6th. Visitor boats start running on the 1st so any early visitors should get to see some of our new born lambs. If you are thinking about coming over we've added some links to the sidebar that might help. One is for our boat operator, Thousand Islands Expeditions, who deal with all the visitor bookings (tel: 01437 721721 or 721686). If you are looking for somewhere to stay, Lisa and I can highly recommend Trefeiddan Cottages (self catering), Pembrokeshire Sheepdogs (both self catering and catered) or Amber Cottage (B&B).
Group of feeding choughs on Ramsey (photo: L Lomax)
First nest building chough today. This is a week later than in 2009, but it just looks like being a slow start and nothing more sinister. All 8 pairs have been in attendance at their nest sites, feeding and displaying but none have looked interested in the serious business of nesting until now. Both male and female were taking in twigs to their rock crevice site on the west coast.
Couple of sand martins skimming along the coast into a stiff wind this afternoon and two more male wheatears on the stonewalls at Aber Mawr. Lone seal pup on Porth Lleuog beach is filling out nicely and the cow has been very attentive despite the rough seas conditions.
The first days of March have been glorious, clear and cold with frosts at night but increasingly warm sunshine by day. St Davids day was fantastic and we all took some time out to enjoy it, humans and cattle alike!
We have our first daffodil in flower and this morning our first seal pup of 2010, just a couple of hours old, with its mother in attendance on Porth Lleuog beach. These out of season pups are fairly common around our coastline, with the odd pup likely in almost any month outside the main season between late August and November.
If this pup was expecting a quiet windswept beach to spend its first weeks, forget it! Porth Lleuog is one of two beaches used by moulting adults at this time of the year. In the last week we have had anything up to 130 animals hauled out on the pebbles, keeping dry whilst they moult their old coat. It is mainly the big males that are moulting as we come into March and April, so our lone pup is surrounded by massive bull seals, although mum is on guard to stop them getting too close.
Of course the arrival of spring is never official until wheatears return to the island. We had our first early male on 7 March followed by another yesterday. Smart male birds usually return first, having spent our winter in western Africa. They can be back for over a week before the females start to arrive. This allows them to set up territories in advance of their potential partners making it home.
Skylarks were up and singing this morning, five lapwings were tumbling over the arable plot in the centre of the island and stonechats seem to have returned after an absence during the cold spell in January and February. Choughs are calling and bounding around their cave nest sites. We expect to catch our first nest building pairs in the next few days if the weather holds.