With the first week of March nearly over our chough should start nest building any day now. The first date in 2014 was 9th March, with the final pair not starting until 21st March. Most of the regular pairs are together in their territories and are bust feeding up in readiness for the rigours of the breeding season to come.
Its been a little surprising to see at least 3 of the regular pairs in groups of 3. In our experience its not usually a good sign! It is documented that pairs will sometimes end up with a third bird helping feed chicks. This additional 'helper' is usually a young pre-breeder that has yet to find a territory of its own. However in over 20 years of annual nest site watches on Ramsey there are no records that this has ever happened here. In fact the opposite is usually true. All the 'menage-a-trois' encounters we have witnessed have ended in breeding failure as the presence of the third bird becomes too much of a distraction and the pairs (usually the male) spend so much time trying to 'see off' the interloper that the small matter of raising chicks gets pushed to one side.
In our experience three chough is never usually a good sign!
It could be a good sign in some ways. Ramsey has limited breeding sites and, given territory size, the usual 7-9 pairs is probably the carrying capacity of the island. It could mean that good numbers of first and second year birds have survived the winter and are looking for sites of their own. With no vacancies they might be trying to muscle in on existing pairs. One of the pairs 'affected' is that containing our oldest known chough who is 15 this year - see here - maybe the others sense his time is coming to an end?
Or it could just be that following the tight social groups that formed over winter the bond between these birds is still there and it will take a little more persuasion for the youngsters to take the hint!
We will keep you posted on chough activity over the coming weeks, its never dull!
The harbour chough pair are very active at the moment and should start nest building within a week
Another member of the corvid family is already well underway with nestbuilding. Today it was a joy to watch our east coast pair of raven busily trekking from their nest site past the front of the house in their quest for fresh nesting material. Two days ago they were taking large dead heather twigs, today the twigs were much smaller. Watching them made a nice change from cleaning as we took a coffee break!
Raven carrying nesting material this afternoon - the islands old Norse name was Hrafens-ey (which morphed over time to become Ramsey) - it means 'Raven's Island'
Dispelling rumors that we never leave the island we returned to Ramsey yesterday after a 4 week break! We spent 2 fantastic weeks birding in Costa Rica with ace birder Diego Quesada where we saw an impressive 372 species including 29 species of hummingbird! Visits to family and friend made up the rest of our break
The aptly named Green-crowned Brilliant!
We then bumped our way back across Ramsey Sound yesterday to find the island in good shape. The weather had been pretty benign in our absence but it looks like a series of storm systems are pushing in this week.
Crossing the Sound yesterday
Today saw the biggest high tide we will see in 2015 at 7.84m - by contrast the low tide, just 6 hours later was a mere 0.06m (the second lowest we will see in 2015). We took advantage of the low tides to explore some areas we don't get to very often.
Comparison between high and low tide today
We scrambled down to the foot of our highest seabird cliff at Glyma.It was quite impressive looking back up at the 100m high cliffs. It won't be long before the birds are back and they will be echoing to the growls and cries of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes (the fulmars have kept us company all winter of course!)
The empty seabird cliffs on the west coast of Ramsey
Water running off the cliffs at the bottom of Glyma
You know a westerly storm is coming when the RNLI bring the boat across to the sheltered east side of the island! Batten down the hatches again it would seem....
As forecast today was a stormy affair! Winds gusted to 60mph (force 10 to 11) around the middle of the afternoon at Milford Haven so you can probably add a few on for out here!
Not one to miss a weather phenomenon, Dewi and I crawled out to the island's west coast (literally at times in my case - the dog fared better) and tried to grab some video and photos. We then came back to the house and went down to get some of the harbour and the Axe - if you have ever waited for the boat on Ramsey you might well have looked down on this view but probably not seen it looking quite like this this!
Photos never quite do it justice with a small compact (I wasn't taking our good camera out!) but hopefully it gives you a feel for what it was like. It might look like some of the photos have got 'soft focus' on them but they haven't - that's just the never ending salt spray that was drenching us!
Short video showing firstly the west coast and the harbour wall and the Axe
Colomennod on the west coast
Carreg Gwylan opposite Trwyn-yr-allt
The Bitches just after high tide
The harbour wall and the archway of the 'Axe'
A wet and windswept border collie! He loved it really!