It is the time of year when our Manx shearwater fledglings get ready to leave their burrows. They have spent around 65-70 days underground being fed at night by the adults. The adult birds feed them until they are heavier than they are and then leave them to their own devices. The young birds whittle down their fat reserves until in early September a combination of hunger and instinct drives them to leave the burrow and head on a remarkable journey that will take them to the coast of South America for our winter.
Every year some of these birds get lost and end up inland. If they leave on foggy or wet nights they can become confused by mainland lights and head the wrong way. I had a call from a local farmer yesterday saying he had one in his dustbin! As our passenger boat was coming over I told him to pop it in a box and send it over for release on the island. As the skipper was on his way over he noticed another bird hiding in the corner of the deck so we ended up with two birds to release! Happy that neither were injured I took them to a headland on the island and launched them on their way. They both flew strongly out to sea to resume their epic voyage.
The Pembrokeshire Islands are the world stronghold for this species with around 50% of the world's population nesting here. Skomer has around 120,000 pairs, Skokholm 40,000 pairs and here on Ramsey we have 2,000 pairs, (the Ramsey population was limited by rats through the 20th century but is now increasing steadily since eradication 10 years ago).
Both of our spectacular Pembrokeshire islands have been in the full glare of the media over the last two weeks. Grassholm and Ramsey will feature on prime-time television over the coming weeks and months.
Firstly, Greg took BBC Coast out to Grassholm. They are filming a new series and we were determined to show off the only gannetry in Wales. Although it was pouring with rain as the film crew set of out to sea, by the time they got to the island the sun was breaking through, making for some stunning footage. It was great to get some publicity for all the hard work that has been quietly going on over the last 4 years. Steve and James, researchers from Plymouth University, went along with Greg to explain more about their ongoing project. The aim is to learn more about where our gannets are foraging and over-wintering and the routes they take in between.
Then this week we welcomed a film crew from BBC Countryfile to Ramsey. It was a beautiful day full of chough, seals, peregrines and deer. In fact, everything on our wish list performed for the cameras. We even managed a sheepdog training session with our trainee Border collie, Dewi, Greg and presenter Matt Baker, who gave us some valuable tips. Dewi seemed to know he was on film and was on his best behaviour, showing good style and stealing the show!
This special Pembrokeshire, episode of Countryfile, featuring Ramsey, should air a week on Sunday, in the programs’ usual, early evening, time slot. It will also feature many other interesting projects and stories from the county, many of which link into the conservation work we do on the island, so do not miss it.