Over the last two weeks we have been busy working out on Grassholm Island, which lies 7 miles southwest of Ramsey. You might just have heard of this amazing, 9-hectare, piece of low-lying rock in the middle of the Irish sea. It is the oldest RSPB reserve in Wales and is home to nearly 10% of the world population of northern gannets. In fact at the last count, (don’t ask how we did it), we had 39, 292 pairs breeding on the island.
Greg and I have been working with the amazing seabird biologists from University of Plymouth to find out what our Grassholm gannets get up to when they are away from the island.
One exciting piece of work that is currently underway looks at non-breeding gannets. They do not have a nest site but do visit the colony in large numbers to visit ‘club sites’, a little like a youth club for teenage gannets. These sub-adults can be anything from 2 years to 4 years old. As they are not yet constrained to any one colony, they are able to range over wide areas of ocean, visiting other gannetries and potentially putting themselves in contact with a wide range of threats.
By attaching a small satellite transmitter to12 birds, we are able to follow their every move, in real time, live on-line. To find out where our birds are heading, just go to:
In the nine days since we deployed these devices, one of our birds has covered over 1,300km, it left Grassholm on 5 July, headed south around the tip of Cornwall and then travelled east along the English Channel. It is currently heading up into the North Sea. Will it really go anticlockwise right round the coast of the UK to get back to Grassholm?
It is vitally important that we find out more about the lives of these birds when they are away from the security of sites like Grassholm.
Reserve Assistant, Lyndsey Record has been living and working on Ramsey since April. We have made several improvements to the bungalow that is her home for the summer over the past year, but the most significant of all went live yesterday.
“We have light!! Well up at the volunteer bungalow anyway. The engineers finished installing the solar panels that will power all the lights in the building and provide enough electricity to charge our mobile phones and camera batteries. This means no more arguments about who has to go out in the dark to switch the old petrol generator off and no more reading by the light of a head torch! As you can see by the photo, it was an exciting time.
The engineers from AM Power now need a few more days to get the wind turbine and solar panels finished and working at the farmhouse. Staying on the island proved to be a challenge for them, but one they embraced and I think enjoyed. They managed to do a spot of fishing off the harbour one evening and I am sure we can turn them into budding birders by the time they leave the island.
By the end of next week, the island will be well on the way to sustainability, producing a large proportion of the energy we use from renewable sources.”