In the last couple of weeks spring has well and truly ‘sprung’ here at South Stack. The warm weather has brought out the reptiles in abundance, with sightings of adders and common lizards. I saw my first ever female adder which was a dark orange colour and curled up basking in the sun. Almost at the same time a lizard popped its head out from behind a branch which was perfectly camouflaged until it moved!
The seabird colony have returned in vast numbers. Thousands of guillemots and razorbills have been lining the cliff ledges and are contemplating breeding. The noise of the birds all chattering can be heard way off. Choughs are nesting deep in the sea cave and yesterday we saw several young birds fly past in front of the adult pair, which is good news indeed.
Spring flowers are bursting forth at a rate of knots. The Bluebell like,spring squill carpeting the cliff edges along with the Sea Campion. Out to sea we have witnessed porpoises dancing in the waves just off the stack, while seals and dolphins have come in close to say ‘hello’
One day last week we were privileged to see a fantastic display by a female peregrine falcon. She was around all day swooping past the windows of Ellins tower. At one point she dived after one of our choughs near the cliffs but thankfully didn’t manage to catch it! The gulls were not happy about this intrusion into their territory and protested very vocally! Later in the day the peregrine delighted visitors by staying around and perching on the cliffs adjacent to the seabird colony, where she could be seen close up in all her finery. Late into the evening she could still be clearly seen, perched on a ledge near the top of the lighthouse steps! Such a majestic bird, it was a truly thrilling day.
There seems to be a real buzz about the place at the moment as every day has a sense of expectation. Its a wonderful time of year with new life abounding all around us.
South Stack Blog: April 2012
For one reason or another I have not been able to keep my blog up to date. So now you are in for a long catchup.
I LEAD MY FIRST WALK
On the 31st March I was asked to lead a walk on the site. This would be the first time that I had led a walk. I have to say that I was a little nervous, especially when I found out that the group were an RSPB group from Brighton. As an ex professional planner I did what seemed to me the obvious thing to do, I made a plan!
My first step was going to be a walk down to Ellin's Tower. Once there I was going to show my visitors the Guilemott’s,Razorbills etc. From there we would enter the tower where I would tell them all about the tower and it's history.
The plan went wrong from the outset, once down at Ellin's tower there were no Guilemott’s or Razorbills, they were out at sea feeding! Next we did in fact enter Ellin's tower were I forgot to tell my guests the history. Fortunately I had no need to worry. It turns out that the more your group know about the birds the less that you need to tell them. The visitors were very gentle with me and very quickly put me at my ease. From here on the walk went very well, I eventually told my guests all about the tower and in addition quite a lot about the lighthouse as we had now arrived at the Hut Circles and I know a lot more about the lighthouse than the Hut Circles. Some of the group were very interested in the Hut Circles and spent an amount of time investigating.
I must admit that I enjoyed the walk very much,I learnt quite a lot,and had a good
rapport with my guests.
My visitors were pleased to try the stop and rest,
I also showed them what I always see as the back of Queen Victoria, she visited the lighthouse twice, each time when she was returning from Ireland.
Whilst doing my meet and greet with the public I met a very interesting lady.
I got into conversation with her, (I can't remember how) . It turned out that she had lived for 45 years at the farmhouse across from the visitor centre. She told me that she had worked for a number of years at the cafe before it was owned by the RSPB.
She had a well on her property that originally supplied the cafe with water and also Plas Nico.
The conversation got around to Ellin's Tower,this is not surprising as when I am speaking to anyone local I usually turn the conversation around to Ellin's Tower. she had remembered it falling into disrepair and also the restoration. She also told me that she had some old plates that had originally came from what I understood to be the service used in Ellin's tower by the Stanley family at the time that they used it as a retreat. I asked her if I could photograph these plates. She did not seem to want to bring her plates in to be photographed but said that she had a picture of them.
I told her that I was at the visitor centre most Tuesdays and if she felt like bringing in the picture I would be delighted to photograph it. Wether that will happen I do not know? I hope very much that it does.
I spent most of the day in Ellin’s tower, unfortunately the Guilemotts were out at sea and therefore not much to show to our visitors. It is most inconsiderate of the sea birds I feel that they should give us prior notice before deserting us. Ken our local bird expert came into the tower and updated our sightings board, looking on were members of the public eager to see what ken had sighted.
Another lovely moment was when I spotted some children observing nature, they are the future for conservation.
When I turned up on Tuesday for my volunteering fix there were several young ladies from the North Wales Peer mentoring Scheme. Their aim was to show the public how easy it is to look after wildlife in your garden. They gave away home made bird feeders, and also had an area where children could make fat balls, all materials being provided free of charge. Below are some pictures which they have allowed me to incorporate into my blog. My thanks to Kimberly for the material.
Peer Mentor Activity and Event Co-ordinator
CAIS Cyf / CAIS Ltd
12 Trinity Square
My next piece of news is that Kathy our assistant people engagement officer is sadly leaving us. She is to join the North Wales Wildlife Trust. She will be the warden at Cemlyn bay, this is among other things, the main place to observe ‘Terns’. The Terns nest and raise chicks each year at Cemlyn.
Kathy is saying her farewell to the Puffin and also to Hayley. We all wish Kathy all the very best in her new role and for the future. Our loss is their gain.
Today before I started my duties for the day I went around the site in the vicinity of Ellin’s tower and along the coastal path and back up to the visitor centre. My aim is to capture pictures of the wild flowers that grow on the reserve through the seasons. Although it is early in the flower growing year I did manage to get some nice pictures. I am not very knowledgable on wild flowers and I am relying on you to give me help with identification. Below are my first flowers.
That is all for now folks, back soon. Mel.
I have posted this blog for Hayley Riseborough, the blog written by Stuart.
Below the blog please find pictures of the fitting of the remote camera for the filming of the Chough. I have also included a picture that I have taken today of the female Chough sitting her eggs (as yet we do not know how many).
Also I have added a couple or two pictures that I took today, guillemot's and razorbills resting on the rocks below Ellins tower.
The breeding antics (much of which is only suitable for after the nine o'clock watershed) of both the chough and razorbills will shortly be seen by all on the web thanks to the skill and bravery of our friends at Plas Y Brenin. Many people ask us how we get this incredible footage given the steep rocky cliffs which make up much of our reserve. It takes a special type of person to undertake such work and certainly not for the faint hearted.
The climbers start their work in early February during some of the harshest weather. The work must be completed before the birds return to nest from early March. If the birds have started to breed we are not able to go near the nest and we would loose a years viewing. A number of climbers go down the rock face to remove the cameras for the purposes of maintenance and repair. Those of you who have visited the site recently and witnessed the antics of the razorbills will have seen the comical little birds admiring themselves in the reflection of the camera. Once repaired the climbers make the arduous task to replace them in the caves and ensure they are directed to the correct place ready for the coming season. With the chough this means entering a cave which is dark and very cold. The cameras have been in the cave now for many years and bring back hours of footage from the start of the breeding season. These climbers also assisted in placing cables from the cameras back to the visitors centre connecting the cable to the rocks along the way.
The chough have laid their eggs now although we cannot seen how many as the mother chough keeps them nice and cosy wrapped up in lots of horse and goat hair. The female has been sitting on the nest and is constantly digging below her, turning her eggs so they stay warm all over. It is expected we should have young within 17/18 days of her sitting which will be around the 1st May. Keep looking out on your computer from that date to see if you can be first to spot the young!
There are to two pairs of razorbill squeezing into a small crevice between two rocks and hopefully within the next few days they will also lay their egg! The incubation period is around 36 days so plenty of time for you to get down to the reserve and enjoy these birds either from the Visitor Centre or Ellin's Tower. We would expect the young to leave the nest around 20 days later making the spectacular leap into the water from the cliffs.
Whilst I sit typing this blog one of our able volunteers is working through hours and hours of footage to make up the videos you can enjoy when the birds have left their nest. Hope you are able to come to see us and relive our favourite moments from this year's webcam!