August, 2011

South Stack Cliffs

South Stack Cliffs
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South Stack Cliffs

  • Invaluable Volunteers

    Hi guys and gals,

    It's fast approaching the end of the summer season here at South Stack, so with only two weeks of residential volunteers left we thought we'd take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about what our volunteers have been up to all summer!

    With the opening of our new visitor centre we've needed more help than ever and volunteers Mo and Eveline are now on the shop's rota as it's been all hands to the deck with popularity of our shop and cafe. We've had various events throughout the summer, such as our Centenary birthday party, Puffin Fun Weekend, Springwatch Weekend, Moth Morning, various Guided Walks and a stand at the Anglesey show which have all gone ahead because of the suberb commitment of our local and residential volunteers.

    We currently have twelve local volunteers who between them have already given us a staggering 1340 hours this year! That has involved work on opening the new visitor centre, staffing the shop and cafe, people engagement down at Ellin's Tower and also inside the visitor centre and around the reserve.

    This morning we waved goodbye to Janet and Sarah which brought us to a grand total of 38 residential volunteers for the summer and still have 4 to come! Wow! Everyone of them has contributed so much to the running of this reserve and therefore the conservation of the wildlife we have here. As well as assisting in the visitor centre and Ellin's Tower our residential volunteers have been involved in event organisation, guided walks, litter picking and general up-keep of the reserve.

    Most of our residential volunteers will be applying to return, but there will be some spaces for next summer so if you are interested please see Also, we're hoping to have some long-term and short-term residential volunteers over the winter this year so please get in touch if that's something that interests you; it's likely that there'll be more outdoors work involved, but it's worth contacting us directly to finalise that.

    Massive thanks to all the volunteers who have kept us running this year - we couldn't do it without you!

    Kathy and everybody here at South Stack x

  • So long Swallows!

    It's that time of year again i'm afraid... the nights are drawing in (dark at 9 o'clock last night!) and the Swallows are saying their farewells. This isn't a message of doom and gloom though, it's a celebration of what's been a wonderful summer shared with with my Hirundine friends.

    Two years ago, we (by this I mean Dave the site manager and Bill one of our local volunteers) made way for our feathered friends by creating a Swallow Hatch in our old office building. The hatch is perfectly situated as it is in the eaves of our storage area where there is very little disturbance. So, as well as creating a small hatch which we can open up in summer we also have sack-netting to partition off half of the roof (we still use the other half from time to time) and have added ledges for the Swallows to perch on. The hatch was an instant success and there are clearly signs of Swallows inhabiting the loft last year and they were definitly here this year. All that's left now is to clean the protective flooring we've put down so that it's spick-and-span for next years arrivals.

    Our first arrivals came on April 4th and throughout the summer we, at the volunteers accomodation, have been serenaded by the returning Swallows and two broods of young. Jenny, one of our residential volunteers, affectionately named some of them after their mid-moult appearance... We had "one tail", "two tail" and "no tail" all pop out and say hello to us from atop the telephone wires in the summer evening sunshine. Their call is like nothing else, they seem to chatter away endlessly with tones that to me sound like dial-up internet. I know that's not very poetic, but I can't describe it any other way!

    I was saddened when,  on Saturday night,  Ken pointed out that they'd gone - it sounds silly that I hadn't noticed, but it wasn't until Ken said that I had even thought about it. It was deadly quiet outside the house and my summer visitors had deserted me.

    I was happy to see a few little fellows chasing sandflies on the beach at Porth Dafarch two days later and even more excited when yesterday I heard them chattering overhead near to the house. I ran to keep them in view and I was happy to see them buzzing around the old office with the hatch. One little guy did stop on the hatch entrance, so I paused and thought about how much joy these fellows have bought to me over this summer - thank you Swallows and good luck!



  • Sealife Spotting

    We're half way through August already - madness! Alongside a re-emergence of Wheatear we've had plentiful displays from Harbour Porpoise and even a Common Dolphin was spotted from Ellin's Tower today.

    It can be quite difficult to distinguish between porpoise and dolphins; what we often say to our visitors is that porpoise are smaller, darker and solitary or in small groups and that dolphins tend to be spotted in pods. I also try to look at the shape of the dorsal fin: the porpoise having a small fin resembling an equilateral triangle and dolphins having a taller fin that curves inwards on the posterior side.

    One of our residential volunteers, Hannah, has been a volunteer for Newquay Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre so is much more practised that I at Cetacean identification. It was Hannah that spotted the Common Dolphin this morning, Hannah told us "it has a distinctive colour pattern, it has three different shades in a bowed shape. This one was particulary obvious as it surfaced amongst the smaller Harbour Porpoise".

    If you happen to see anything wonderful in our seas, including Leatherback Turtles and Jellyfish, then please help us to conserve them by reporting your sighting to Also, if you haven't already then please make sure to add your name to our Stepping Up for Nature campaign which aims to safeguard our seas.

    Ta ta for now x