Yesterday we were delighted to welcome 5 members of staff from the Marine Conservation Society to Ramsey for the day. We enjoyed a really productive day sharing ideas and discussing ways we can work together in the future. The marine environment has been seriously overlooked to date but it is hoped the passing of the recent Marine Act will help redress this imbalance.
As you can see from this photo, Lauren and Rachel couldn't help themselves from seeing what Ramsey had to offer beneath the waves!
A little warm weather has done wonders for the island's butterflies and moths. Last week saw our first Graylings of the year, appearing a week earlier than last year on the stony path down to the harbour and Meadow Browns were out and about on 26 June.
A massive emergence of 5-spot burnet moths was a real treat on 24 June with hundreds flitting over the stream and damp grassland at the Waterings. Bird’-foot-trefoil and thistles were the major attraction for these black and red moths.
Yesterday was the hottest of the year so far, at a dizzy 24 degrees and with just a small moon it was ideal for the moth trap. 24 different species were recorded in the farmhouse valley and four Barrett’s Marbled Coronet were the highlight. These moths have a very limited distribution in the UK, confined to coastal sites in the southwest of England and Wales.
Meanwhile at the bungalow, Nia was having less luck with her trap, with another bulb going black and failing, eventually resorting to opening the bungalow doors with the lights on and using the whole building as one giant trap! Using portable heath traps is never easy on the island; a sudden change in the wind or a shearwater returning to it’s burrow are very likely to knock the whole trap over and the ponies and deer are rather fond of playing with them during the night.
Still, a quick email to the experts and we have some much needed advice about moth trap electrics and some new bulbs in the post. I can highly recommend the prompt and friendly service offered by Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies, if you are tempted to dabble in a little moth trapping yourself; their website is a wealth of advice and information and has an on-line shop. – Thanks Jon!
It is fascinating to open the trap in the morning and see what is inside. It is interesting to see all the different species come and go as we move on through the year and important to re-record some of the nationally scarce species that are resident on the island.
It’s not just our choughs that are learning to fend for themselves. Our four ‘molly’ lambs are now weaned, grazing and independent. I stopped their milk at 50 days of age and after a week on their own they look in tip top condition.
Thanks to all the volunteers, family members and staff who helped to mix over 40kg of powdered milk over the last seven weeks and for help at feeding time when four hungry lambs can be quite a handful.
Our first chough young fledged yesterday with 1 out of the nest at the harbour site. Today it was joined by another 3 siblings - to get 4 away is a great achievement especially given how dry it has been making feeding difficult as the ground became rock hard. Also today another 2 nests fledged young, one getting 3 away and the other 2. With another 3 nests still to go it looks like being a good year. These birds usually hang around their nest sites for a week or so before dispersing more widely across the island. Visitors at this time of year should get good views. The young birds look similar to the adults but at this early stage have paler legs (light orange) and a much paler beak. They also still have that distinctive gapeshown in the top photo below and usually give themselves away by begging noisily.
.......2 of the 4 chough young from the harbour site begging for food
....... and 2 learning to feed themselves
We have all been busy counting seabirds since the beginning of June. We don’t count all our birds every year because of the amount of time involved, a complete island count happens on a five yearly basis. In between we monitor study plots, small sections of the colony that give as an indication of what is happening to seabird populations across the island as a whole.
Most birds can be counted from solid land but some of our black-legged kittiwakes, fulmars and auks are only visible from the sea and so we enlist a local skipper and boat to help us out. Our friends Tim and Beth at Venturejet have an extremely manoeuvrable jet boat, called Shearwater, with no propellers under the water, enabling us to get into the caves around the island’s indented coast line.
It’s not always easy counting birds that are way up above the boat and the rolling swells off Ramsey’s west coast can turn even the most experienced warden green, but Nia and I were lucky when we went out on Friday that it was a calm day. Over 70 pairs of Kittiwake build their nests in and around the small island of Cantwr off Ramsey’s south coast and the Shearwater was able to get us deep inside this impressive cave, in order to count them.
Kittiwakes are currently incubating eggs and the numbers for Ramsey appear to be holding their own at 206 pairs in 2011, similar to the previous two years. We will continue to monitor their breeding success throughout the season.