ITV Countrywise came to Ramsey yesterday, filming for a St Davids’ area special to be broadcast this August. Presenter Charlotte Uhlenbroek was accompanied by a crew of four, when they landed on the island for the day. They had been out by boat first, with local company Voyages of Discovery, to see the island’s caves and cliff nesting seabirds from water-level.
After a quick coffee break we filmed a nice piece about what it’s like to live and work in such a remote location. We than went for a walk across the island to see chough and the farming project that helps maintain their short-grazed habitat.
The main attraction however, was the Manx shearwater colonies on the island’s west coast. It was a great opportunity to talk about these fascinating birds and their incredible life history. As the birds are currently incubating eggs in their burrows, it was also a chance to encourage a male bird underground to call. The shearwaters’ strange and eerie call is unmistakable and with the help of a tape recorded version of the male song, a bird under our feet was soon responding.
By late afternoon the sun had come out and the scenery was stunning, with bluebells and spring squill at their finest. Should all make for a great piece when it goes out on the program later this year. Thanks to the Countrywise crew and especially Charlotte for making it all so easy and enjoyable.
The boys from Natural Power UK finished the Ramsey solar hot water job inside 3 days and left us yesterday evening. Today the sun came out and provided us with piping hot water. A very satisfying feeling when you normally have to lug diesel and gas across the Sound to heat your water!
The boys did a brilliant job and Lisa and I would like to say a big thank you to Lloyd, Paul, Chris and Barry for all their hard work, professionalism and good companionship. See Lloyd's Twitter account for further snippets and photos of their time here.
The Natural Power crew and Dewi, with their handywork on the roof in the background....before the sun came out!
Leaving on the Gower Ranger with considerably less gear than they arrived with!
In 2010 we installed a small wind turbine and photovoltaic panels at the Ramsey farm in an attempt to be more self-sufficient and cut our diesel usage. This has been a hugely successful project and 2 years on we have cut our diesel consumption by a massive 80%. But not happy with that, we are now having solar thermal panels fitted to the farmhouse roof in order to heat our water. This will save more fuel and means that the vast majority of all our power needs will be met by renewable sources.
Early this morning, four engineers from Natural Power UK, arrived in Derek’s big aluminium workboat. They had previously worked on the renewable energy solutions for our Newport Wetlands visitor centre. It was a beautiful, calm morning, perfect for unloading lots of materials and delicate solar panels. Good progress has been made in the first day and we hope to have piping hot water from the sun by Thursday. The weather looks perfect for giving the new panels a good workout.
As I write this there are just 2 ewes left to lamb. They are a stubborn old pair and it is no coincidence they are last! They would have avoided the rams until the last moment just like they manage to avoid coming in whenever we try move them!
So we have had 102 lambs born over the past month and it is has gone pretty smoothly all in all despite some less than favourable weather conditions. Thanks to all the RSPB volunteers and family members who helped out. We used Welsh Cheviot rams from Brecon on our Glamorganshire Welsh ewes (and a few Welsh Mules too). This has produced a tough hardy lamb that is up on it's feet and sucking quickly. We lamb outdoors in 3 fields close to the farm buildings and on a rota system one of us is out there from dawn to dusk. Our sheep dog Dewi has been excellent this year showing great composure when moving ewes with their young lambs. As one of the photos below shows, his patience and good nature is tested to the limit at times!
The main beneficiaries of the sheep are our chough and their season is in full swing now. All our pairs are feeding young and even 'double-white' (see previous posts) and his new lady seem to be making a real fist of it and it appears she is incubating a late clutch which is good news. Our wheatear population also make use of the insect rich short turf that grazing provides. It is too early to confirm numbers yet but it certainly looks like being 100+ pairs again this year - making Ramsey the densest site in Wales for this species.
Yesterday saw a great egret fly over the island, our attention drawn to it by the clamour of gulls that mobbed it relentlessly until it decided Ireland looked a better option 60 miles across the pond! This is only the second Ramsey record in the past 20 years so a real treat for all who saw it. Today's lovely weather saw 2 red kites drift across from the mainland
How many people does it take to deliver a lamb?!
Dewi and his new friend get to know each other!
Dewi in more typical pose
Northern wheatear on Ramsey - over 100 pairs breed here
A Turtle Dove was in the farmhouse valley this morning, our first since 2007 and only the sixth record of this species in the last ten years. They used to be a relatively common spring and autumn migrants here on the Pembrokeshire Islands but have become scarse in recent years.
Ongoing research indicates that potential causes of the decline may include changes in diet driven by alterations in farming practices in the UK and in their African wintering grounds. Hunting in the Mediterranean during migration and the disease trichomoniasis, (common in pigeons and doves) could have also contributed. The Turtle Dove's range has shrunk largely to eastern England, making the turtle dove the UK's most threatened farmland bird.
Find out more about Operation turtle dove, a three-year project in partnership with Conservation Grade and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, supported by Natural England. You can also report your sightings of Turtle Dove on this website.