Has anybody been watching Springwatch? Hope you're enjoying it. It's become a yearly marker for me...television just wouldn't be the same without it! This weekend at the reserve we're celebrating our Springwatch event with a 'Homes for Wildlife' themed family fun weekend - so far it's going well. We've had sunshine, we've had wildlife and we've had visitors! Hayley finally won the fluffy penguin on the tombola and the sheep arrived ready for shearing tomorrow. Come along and join in the fun with us - activities will be running 10-5 and sheep shearing will be spread out through the day.
One of our Choughy has left the nest! Now we're just hoping that it has fledged rather than taken a tumble.... If any of you catch any live action on the Chough webcam then please let us know what you've seen.
Enjoy the fabulous weather,
For those of you that don't know, the Mousetrap buttress is the huge rock sticking out at a 90 degree angle from our cliffs, inbetween Ellins Tower and the lighthouse island. A lot happens on this precambrian relic; it's where our puffins burrow, our webcam Chough nest and where our thousands of Razorbills and Guillemots pair up and lay their eggs.
The auks (Puffins/Razorbills/Guillemots) have been back since mid-march. At this early stage they would frequently go back out to sea feeding and some days the mousetrap would be deadly silent. Now, however, we have a constant (and very loud!) population as they are now sitting on eggs. Our assistant warden, Denise, did an auk count last week. From this preliminary count she found that we have about 5,500 Guillemots and just shy of 950 Razorbills! Denise will have to repeat these counts six times to obtain an average for the season.
The Puffins have been showing everyday in the past few weeks - dependant on whether you could withstand the winds in May! They have, as ever, been very popular with all our visitors and hopefully we're well on the way to having some little ones hatch.
The Mousetrap Chough, shown on the Chough webcam, have progressed a long way. If you haven't had chance to watch for yourself then we are currently down to two chicks in the nest. Last Friday we had four healthy-looking birds competing for space, but when we arrived on Saturday morning we were down to three. We weren't sure whether this bird had fledged the nest or had fallen out (it's a pretty long way down with rocks jutting out and sea below). The same happened over Saturday night and on Sunday morning we were greeted by just two chicks in the nest. The parents were still coming in fairly regularly and I was hopefull that the other two chicks had just fledged and were somewhere in the vicinity of the cave. Later on Sunday afternoon a familiar face appeared at the bottom of the screen - it was the third chick! He/she later rejoined the group in the nest and I went home happy. For the past couple of days we've seen nothing of the two fledgling chicks and have watched as the two remaining chicks continue to be fed by their parents. There are two possibilities now: the first two chicks have fledged and are being fed from inside the cave, but away from the nest; or the chicks have perished and we just have the two in the nest remaining. Although I am the eternal optimist and hope that we have four surviving little ones, to have just two survivors would be an awesome step in the conservation of this majestic species.
I will keep you updated as we find out more....
Ever since I moved to the area I have been on the lookout for a badger. I have gone on evening walks, been taken to known badger setts and have peered out into the night on car journeys. Last week i was delighted and surprised when one of our visitors came in weilding her camera and showed us amazing photographs of young badgers taken on the range part of the reserve in broad daylight! Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to finish work for the day to go and see them for myself. Eager to catch a glimpse of a such a wonderful and elusive animal I went for an early evening stroll with Ken (loal bird expert and now RSPB volunteer) and Mark (another People Enagagement Assistant on the reserve). We tentatively tip-toed beside the hedgerows until, as we turned a corner, we saw a glorious, fluffy, badger bottom! I needn't tell you how ecstatic I was. As we turned yet another corner we were greeted by two more fluffy behinds, a total of three gorgeous baby badgers! By this point I was completely in a 'badgery' world of my own. I sat amongst the colourful grasses and flowers of the meadow in awe of my waddling, munching companions (the badgers, not Ken and Mark!). Within about five minutes one of the youngsters had wandered just two metres away from where I was sat, looked me square in the eye and then carried on munching! I could barely breathe.
I don't think I'll ever beat that badger experience - I'm in love!
So we've said goodbye to yet another two of our residential volunteers, Roy and Chris, and welcomed our next pair, Jean and Richard. Our residential volunteers stay with us for week-long, or two week, stints and help us on the reserve by helping us to inform visitors of the work of the RSPB and of the wildlife on the reserve. This year ,with the opening of our new visitors centre, the volunteers have also been giving us a hand in the cafe and the shop. There are a couple of weeks this summer where there are still spaces for volunteers, so if it interests you then email us on firstname.lastname@example.org .
As I type, we have just one Chough left in the Mousetrap nest. I can hear calls from the parents trying to entice him out and a few reassuring squawks from his brother or sister down below. This last Chough has now been in the nest for approaching six weeks and I'm sure Mum and Dad would appreciate some rest! It's not fabulous weather for fledging today, but we expect this little guy to hang around on ledges in the cave for a little while before embarking on his journey into the big wide world. When this last chick is fully fledged we expect to see the surviving juveniles feeding with the parents and so we'll have a better idea of how they've got on.
This Sunday, weather permitting, I will be taking visitors on a tour of the reserve looking for our 'bouncing baby birds!'. Ask in the visitor centre or Ellins Tower on Sunday if you want to join me. Another baby to look out for on your way up the road to the reserve is our resident baby Hare, a leveret. I regularly see him following close behind his Mum, and with Dad not far away, in the fields alongside the road.
If you've not visited our new cafe yet, then why not come along this week? Breakfast is served 10-11, lunch 11-3 and hot drinks and cakes are available all day 10am-5pm. If you visit our shop before June 21st you can get a 6 pack of suet cakes for a bargain 85p and 100g packs of mealworm are down to £1.99 or three bags for a fiver!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend,
Our assistant warden, Denise, has been busy over the past few weeks counting our auk colony. I thought you would be pleased to know the outcome! Including the lighthouse island (which is not technically part of the reserve) we have had a 23% increase in Guillemot numbers, a whopping 8014! The Razorbills have also increased 27% to an incredible 1147 individuals. These records are fabulous and there are plenty of chicks around at the moment to continue this trend into the future.
Our current residential volunteer, Sally, counted a fantastic 21 Puffins out and about on Sunday night. Please let us know how many you've seen...
Our Chough families are doing well, we have plenty of fledglings out and about. The Mousetrap pair (that were on the webcam) only have one fledgling with them, although this may be a bit misleading and we have reason to believe that at least one of their offspring was adopted by one of our other Chough families! I'm still hopeful that all three of the missing chicks are being cared for in this way.
Please chip in with anything exciting you see around the reserve...