We are yet to see our first day visitors of 2011 due to the raging swell in our harbour and around the lifeboat station.
We did however manage to sneak over two new arrivals at slack water on Saturday afternoon. Our newest member of staff, Nia Stephens, will be with us for 5 months as Reserve Assistant. She will be helping me look after volunteers, leading guided walks and boat trips and a million and one other things besides!
Also on board was regular volunteer Mike who will be giving up 6 weeks of his time to help on the reserve this year. Now we just need our lambs to start arriving. The ewes are all in the lambing fields near the farm and we are checking them regularly, but nothing is happening just yet.
More new arrivals in the form of our first lambs. The first was born on 5th April and as of this morning we have 12. We lamb outside but bring all the ewes down into 3 lambing fields near the buildings so we can keep a close eye on them. No ground predators here but still a risk from Ravens. So far so good. All have been born naturally up to now without us having to intervene. It won’t last I’m sure!
In the past we have crossed our Glamorgan Welsh mountain ewes with either Blue Faced Leicester or Charollais rams. This year, in order to produce some hardy replacement ewes, we used Lleyn rams. As a result they should be easier for our relatively small mountain ewes to lamb. Let’s hope this weather lasts as having the sun on their backs must make a big difference. It certainly does to those of us watching over them!
All this is done to enable us to graze the island to keep the habitat suitable for our important chough population. There are around 220-250 pairs breeding in Wales of which 7-8 pairs breed here on Ramsey. They require short grass in which to feed and our combination of sheep, pony and cattle grazing help in this respect. Not to mention the importance of their dung in supporting invertebrate life.
Another new arrival yesterday was our eagerly awaited topographical model of Ramsey that was made by Nige Emery of Model Mountain
The model was kindly sponsored by one of our Friends of Ramsey and it is a wonderful addition to the visitor shed (‘centre’ is too grand a word!).. It is perfectly to scale and allows people to see the shape of the landscape before they set off and work out which hill they want to climb and which one to avoid! Lisa and I are really pleased with it so a big thanks to all involved.
In amongst all this we finally had our first visitors on 7th April once the wind eased. Call Thousand Island Expeditions on 01437 721721 for more details on day trips to the island.
Lambing is in full swing with over 60 born as of dusk this evening. It has been a full-on Team Ramsey effort. Derek has been covering the early mornings, with Greg, Nia and I taking over duties from midday to dusk. Our volunteers have been out on patrol, keeping corvids away from newborn lambs and raising the alarm if ewes in labour need our assistance. They have also been helping me to bottle feed a lamb whose mother didn’t have enough milk of her own.
Sheepdogs Dewi and Sweep are a real help this year, now that they are a little older and more experienced. They help us to bring lambs and ewes into the farm buildings to be checked over and tailed before we release them from our maternity fields back onto the island. They show great constraint when moving the young lambs that are only a couple of days old and can be a bit slow over the ground.
Reserve Assistant Nia Stephens reports on her first days on the island:
"Well it’s a couple of weeks into my season on Ramsey and the island already feels like home. Having only spent a few days here last year it’s been a great opportunity to explore all the nooks and crannies, find the nice places to sit on my day off and to get to know Greg, Lisa, Derek, Dewi and the volunteers.
My first experiences of the volunteer’s bungalow were wood fires, folk music sessions and red wine, lovely! My trailer reversing skills are improving along with my moth ID and I’m learning lots about the island’s history and its birds. The shearwaters have started making a racket at night outside my bedroom and I’ve got within a few feet of the Aber mawr peregrines on several occasions. So far my swimming things have been used 0 times and my thermal base layers have been used almost every day, but it’s definitely getting warmer!
I love how much island life is dictated by the weather. Rough days mean no boats and time to catch up on lots of little painting and mending jobs in the workshop (unless the sheep decide to have problems lambing in which case you get soaked out in the fields!) while on sunny days it’s time for breeding bird surveys, visitors and butterfly transects. This afternoon the plan is to get the freshly painted puffins out onto the cliffs, take Roxy the molly lamb for a walk and do a spot of chough watching....it’s a hard life!"