Ramsey Island and Grassholm

Ramsey Island and Grassholm

Ramsey Island and Grassholm
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Ramsey Island and Grassholm

  • Woodchat Shrike

    While on her way to monitor a chough nest site Lisa stumbled across a stunning male woodchat shrike. It is only the 3rd record since 1992 (when regular annual records began). It put on a great show all day as it fed non stop on bees and beetles! Some photos below

    The bird favoured certain fence posts and bramble bushes in the centre of the island and made regular forays into the grass to pick off various large insects.

    It was a good day for migrants all round with a female black redstart the pick of the rest. There was another fall of willow warbler and chiffchaffs with every bush seemingly alive with them. Blackcaps numbered 11 and we logged the first grasshopper warbler of the year. Visitors were treated to sight of 4 red kites as they drifted across from the mainland

    50+ willow warblers were dotted around the island today

    Quite a scare bird on Ramsey, 3 house sparrows arrived on SE wind a few days ago and one of the males has been singing ever since. A female was also present today - there is plenty of habitat and food for them out here so it would nice if they settle down to breed

    42 pairs of linnet bred on Ramsey last year and this year looks like being another good one. Flocks of around 200-300 are present at the moment and males are singing from every available gorse bush. The low rabbit numbers means plenty of grass seed heads for them to feed on. This species is on the 'red list' in Wales so it is great to see it doing so well out here.

  • Shearwater nest boxes - promising signs

    As many of you will have read here before we successfully eradicated brown rats from Ramsey in 1999/2000. Non-native to Ramsey this invasive species had been accidentally introduced via shipwrecks in the 1800's and caused havoc with our native seabird populations. Puffins and storm petrels became extinct and Manx shearwaters were reduced to very small numbers.

    At the last full census in 2012, the Manx shearwater population had risen dramatically to 3,800 pairs from 850 in 1998 (next survey due in 2016). We are now undertaking tracking work on some of our birds using GPS and geolocator technology. This work is in conjunction with Oxford University who are also studying birds on Skomer, Rum, Copeland and Lundy. We are finding more and more out each year about this enigmatic seabird and the multi-colony work allows comparison between large and small sites and those that are well established compared with those recovering following the removal of predators. Not only is this work answering scientific questions but also provides a direct conservation benefit by contributing data in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas.

    There is plenty of available burrow space on Ramsey so our birds are choosing to occupy existing rabbit warrens. The warrens can be maze like at time as opposed to the relatively short, straight burrows that shearwaters dig for themselves. This makes life difficult when you are trying to remove birds from burrows to fit devices to. In order to establish a sub-colony we could more easily work on we installed nest boxes last year. These are based on a NZ design that we discovered on a visit there a few years ago. The closely related Hutton's and Fluttering shearwaters both readily use such nest boxes (used in NZ for establishing new colonies following eradication and translocation projects)

    In common with most shearwater species Manx don't breed until they are 5 or 6 years old so we are not expecting instant results. However it is hoped that non breeding birds that return to the colony aged 2-4 years old will prospect the nest boxes and take up residence.

    We have therefore been very encouraged to see exactly this happening over the past week. I placed small bracken twigs at the rear end of the pipes that form the tunnel entrance to see if any were knocked over (showing that a bird had gone in). 5 out of the 20 boxes had been visited last week. Birds have only been back in any significant numbers quite recently and non breeders are not at their peak yet so this is very good news. One also showed signs of being visited by the bird leaving a lovely 'calling card' in the form of a big streak of guano!

    I set a trail camera up on one nest and it was visited on two consecutive nights - proof that it was shearwaters doing the visiting and not pesky rabbits! Watch this space for more news!

    Manx shearwaters visiting nest boxes on Ramsey with one leaving a distinctive calling card!

  • Up and running in the fog

    After a false start due to some typically unsettled early April weather we are now up and running for the new season. In fact we are now experiencing some rather a-typical early April weather with shorts and t-shirts replacing base layers and beanies in the space of a few days. However there is always a flip side to warm weather in April and that is fog - sea frets are commonplace as the sea is still very cold and causes rapid local condensation as the air above it warms quickly. It's not all bad news though as the swirling fog banks have resulted in some impressive and eerie scenes on the island

    Morgan has done well to even find Ramsey these last few days!

    It's been a busy start to the season over the Easter weekend but it's been lovely to welcome visitors to the island again after the winter break. Despite the fog banks people have gone away happy having seen chough nest building, peregrines putting on a fine aerial display, guillemots and razorbills crammed onto their breeding ledges and hundreds of grey seals hauled out on the beaches as they finish their annual moult

    Early mornings have looked like this which have been perfect for getting up early to conduct out first Breeding Bird Survey visits of the season. 

    But by mid morning the fog banks have rolled in to create some impressive scenes

    The highlights bird wise have been 2 ring ouzels, a firecrest, 4 red kites, 2 house sparrows and a large influx of willow warblers and chiffchaffs.

    Weather permitting we are open 7 days a week - call Thousand Islands Expeditions on 01437 721721 to book a place on the boat if you would like to visit.