Sunday the 9th of June was a glorious day. We held a demonstration of sheep shearing for the public. Events like this demonstrate the versitility of the RSPB.
We not only protect Birds, Reptiles, Flora and Fauna, we interact with all wild life. Sheep play a major role in helping to keep the South Stack reserve healthy. They graze the Heather and Gorse to keep the grass at a level where the Chough can reach the invertebrates on which they feed. Our exhibition gave the public a chance to see how the sheep are kept healthy by removing their fleece in the summer. The fleece does not go to waste, it is spun into yarn and then woven to produce garments etc. the following pictures tell a better story than I can in words.
I have just one other thing to say about the RSPB and its commitment to nature. I stood gazing out over the reserve and was in awe of what nature has given us to protect. I believe that if it was not for the RSPB and several other wildlife trusts I would be stood here looking at a Supermarket..
Below are a few views of our manificent vista.
To start I will show you just how well the event was supported!
I think by now that I have convinced you of the number of spectators and so I will get on with the sheep shearing event. It started at 06:30 when Hayley our People engagement Officer started preparing things. One of the first items was the erection of the marquee.
Before I start I would like to say that any child that can be recognised in these pictures is done so with the permission of their guardian.
Once in place the sheep can be brought onto site. Hayley is supervising the unloading of the animals.
We also had some local dignitaries, above is Mr John Knox Crawford a local councillor for the Porth Y Fellin Ward Holyhead together with on your left, Hayley, John,Charlotte, Babs and Emily.
Above Mr Dave Bateson our Site Manager with the Deputy Mayor of Holyhead Mr J.V.Owen and his wife.
The Deputy Mayor with Hayley our People Engagement Officer and organiser of this event.
The Craft people and the Farmer setting things up.
Above Mo one of our volunteers checking on the resident Chough.
The sheep being gathered ready for the shearing.
The farmers son keeping an eye on things.
This young lady was helping the farmer control the sheep, unfortunately I did not ask her name. Well you can't get everything right.
Here the sheep dog not taking his eyes off the job.
We also provided guided walks for the visitors led by Denise our Site Warden below.
Some of our behind the scenes staff. From your left to right are : Mo (volunteer), Denise (our Site Warden), Jane (retail assistant) and Emily (volunteer).
Above is a poster displayed by the farmer. He and his assistant are professional sheep shearers.
Our Site manager discussing arragements with the shearers.
The sheep queing up eager to be sheared.
The farmer at work. I spoke to him later in the cafe where he told me what back breaking work it is. He said that some professionals can shear 300 sheep per day.
Before the sheep can be sheared they have to be gathered together, in Wales this often entails bringing them down from the mountains.
This is Pete the Shepherd. Each year Pete brings a flock of sheep in order to graze on the reserve. This is done in order to rejuvenate certain Flora and Fauna. He gave a demonstration of how the sheep are collected and brought together.
Meet 'Bet' the four legged wonder.
Spectators gather for the demonstration.
The Shepherd explains just what to expect and answers any questions that are asked.
We start with the sheep in the far field. Once the Shepherd gives the commands Bet springs into action.
Within probably less than a minute Bet had brought the sheep to the Shepherd. He gave Bet commands by both verbal and whistle.
Job done, Bet brought the sheep into a tight circle in front of the Shepherd.
Pete the Shepherd gave one of our spectators the opportunity to round up the flock by giving commands to Bet. He and I both had not considered that Bet only understands 'left' and 'Right'. You have now to imagine that when giving your commands what orientation you are in as compared to Bet. If she is facing you the call is opposite to that when she is facing away. The spectator did extremely well with a little help from the Shepherd.
At the end of the demonstration Bet was feeling rather hot as were we all the weather was so good. I only hope that Sunday was not our entire summer!
She jumped into the water trough. I can't think of a suitable title for this shot.
Now back to the Arts and Crafts.
Above is Charlotte our assistant People Engagement Officer watching the ladies spinning the wool.
Visitors enjoying refreshments from our cafe, someone else looks to be sunbathing.
A young lady trying her hand.
Here the wool is being woven.
This lady was telling me that she was using a very old technique.
This young lady was taking quite an interest in the demonstrations.
The RSPB were running a lucky dip for the youngsters.
This lady and her family had come all the way from Yorkshire, she told me how much she liked the reserve and event.
This is Mark our Recruitment Officer explaining about the site.
Our well stocked shop.
An ex- colleague of mine for many years joining the RSPB, well done Stan!
After all the excitement I make my way down to Ellen's Tower. This is an observation tower that the RSPB make available to the general public. From here you have a wonderful view of the sea birds. Currently we have about 9000 Guillemot's, 1600 Razorbill's, Puffins, Fulmars, Kittiwake and of course our famous Chough!
I come across someone taking in the glorious sun.
A gentleman taking a picture of our magnificent scenary.
A shot of some of the nesting sea birds.
Inside of the tower, Mo and Mag's who is a residential volunteer answering questions from the visitors.
Last but certainly not least we were paid a visit by some of the RSPB VIP's. The group was the 'RSPB Comunity for Wales'
We hope that they were suitably impressed with our and their reserve here at South Stack. I am now signing off from what has been a most wonderful day, Thank you Hayley from all who attended this event I am sure that everyone gained something from the day.
Here are 10 fascinating facts about moths you might not know:
1) There are over 2400 species of moth in the UK alone.
Moths outnumber the amount of butterfly species in the UK by over 40 to one.There are over 2400 species of moth in the UK, compared to 59 butterfly species. Moths species range in size between the size of a pencil tip to as big as bat.
2) Some moths only fly during the day.
The UK boasts almost three times as many day flying moths as there are butterfly species, many of which are as brightly coloured and as beautiful as butterflies. There are about 30 larger (macro) moths that normally fly in the day. You might also see some moths that usually come out at night though if they have been disturbed in their resting places. Day flying moths can range in colour size and shape, from the Six-spot Burnet, to the Silver Y, the Hummingbird Hawksmoth and the Purple-bordered Gold.
3) Many moths don't eat
Some types of adult moths eat nectar from flowers, but most don't eat anything at all. In fact there is even a species of moth called the Luna Moths that has no mouth at all. Their only purpose is to find a mate and reproduce.
4) Moths are important pollinators.
Although many moths don't feed at all, those who do feed on nectar are extremely important pollinators. Moths pick up pollen on their bodies as they are feeding on the nectar of a flower, and carry it on to the next. There are a number of wild flowers in the UK that are moth pollinated. They have evolved to specifically provide nectar for moths, which will in turn cross pollinate their flowers.
As many moths only come out at night, plants have adapted special features to make themselves easier to find. Most moth pollinated plants have pale or white flowers, and produce a strong fragrance which usually becomes stronger in the evening. Some have also adapted long tube like flowers to suit the moths’ long tongues, and to exclude other insects. Some moth pollinated plants include Wild Honeysuckle, Campions and Sweet Williams.
5) Moths are an important food source for lots of different animals.
Because moths are so great in abundance and in the number of types there are in the UK, they area really important part of the food chain. Caterpillars and adult moths are food for many different animals, including other insects, spiders, frogs, toads, lizards, bats, shrews, and birds of course! Adult night flying moths make up a large part of many bats diets, and many garden birds rely heavily on caterpillars for food for their chicks.
6) Moths are an important food source for many societies around the world.
A survey by the UN in 2004 found that in some African countries, over 90 per cent of the population eat moth and butterfly caterpillars. In fact, they contain many vital minerals and are full of protein and healthy fats.
7) Moths are amazing mimics
They are, without doubt, extraordinary mimics. To avoid becoming something's else's dinner, some moths are known to impersonate anything that might be unpalatable to predators, from spiders, wasps, bees, rodents, toads, foxes, even other poisonous moth species . The photo below shows the Atlas Moth impersonating a Cobra!
8) Moths can become invisible.
Bats are a major predator of the moth. They use echolocation to see in the dark, so when a moth crosses their path, the sound waves they put out bounce back, telling the bat exactly where the moth is. In response to this, Tiger moths have developed an ultra sonic ’clicking sound’ which jams the bats sonar, making the moth invisible!
9) A male moth can smell a female more than 7 miles away.
Moths have no noses, but they still have an amazing sense of smell. They use their antennae instead of nostrils to smell odour molecules. The females release hormone that the males can detect. The male silkworm moths can detect a single pheromone molecule released by the female up to 7 miles away.
10) Some moths migrate hundreds of miles
The spectacular Humming-bird Hawk-moth is just one of the UKs migrant species of moth, flying across land and sea to get here all the way from the Mediterranean or sometimes even North Africa!
I started my day at the visitor centre before making my way down to Ellins Tower.
The scenery is breathtaking I never tire of it, I was to spend the day in the tower with Charlotte our Assistant People Engagement Officer, our job was to meet and greet people. We get many visitors many of which are on holiday, others are mainly people who have come specially to see the nesting sea birds.
On approaching the tower the lighthouse comes into view.
Finally I am at the tower,
It is early and our visitors have not yet arrived.
We set up the equipment before Charlotte sets to and cleans the windows!
It is not long before the tower is full of people wanting to take advantage of the views. From here we can see the nesting Guillemot's and Razorbill.
As you can see from the pictures above we had several thousand nesting birds. From lunch time there was not a single Guillemot or Razorbill to be seen on the cliff. We could still see a few on the sea but the majority had gone way out to sea to feed.
I had said in my title that it is a small world. I got talking to the couple in the picture below, it turns out that they had come from Arizona! I always marvel at the way in which visitors find South Stack, these are mainly from within the UK, but to find us all the way from America is another thing altogether. They were quite impressed with our reserve.
Out of the window I noticed a Rock Pipit very close to the tower, when we spot anything worthy of the attention of our visitors we inform them. Unfortunately they were more interested in looking at the puffins on the sea outside of the tower.
I realise that it is not a very good picture, it was taken with my compact camera through glass.
Suddenly I noticed some very special pets in the corner. They were calling out to children just wanting to be cherished. Wildlife needs the children to protect it, they are the future. One of these soft toys is given to a youngster when they become a member of the RSPB.
I read an article in the RSPB magazine 'Birds'. It basically said that our land used to be vast countryside dotted with hamlets and villages with the odd city here and there. Now we have huge sprawling cities and large developments with bits of countryside dotted here and there. If we do not protect our wildlife the developers will completely drive it away. There are many children who live in the cities who have never seen the real countryside and its wildlife.
I have now finished my day and make my way back to the Visitor Centre.
This review was posted by Babs (Volunteer at South Stack RSPB reserve)
The book is 'Looking for the GOSHAWK' by Conor Mark Jameson
I found this book an interesting mix of a personal story, with some science and history, one mans jurney looking for the 'Phantom of the Forrest'.
He visits Germany, Scotland and the USA asking why the birds are successful there and yet so rare in his own part of the world. His fascination of wildlife shines through, I love for example his description of forest floors 'Lurid with the tones and textures of fresh moss'. I could almost smell the aromas and feel the atmosphere.
His enthusiasm to learn more about these birds is very evident, but but he is never disappointed when he doesn't see them, but just happy to know he is in their world.
It is one mans journey looking for the ever elusive Goshawk, well worth reading even if you are not a 'birder', but it is not a 'How to find a Goshawk' book it is a good read. At the back of the book there are historic records of goshawk in the British Isles.
In the third and final blog of our mini-series about the wildflowers of South Stack, we take a look at Sea Campion and Kidney Vetch.
Sea Campion ( Silene vulgaris subsp. maritima)
Sea Campion is a perennial plant, growly mostly on cliff ledges, but it also grows on inland mountains. The campions are members of the carnation family. The narrow, grey-green leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem, and the leaves are fleshy which helps to prevent the plant from drying out in the wind. The flowers have deeply notched petals and it mostkly has one flower per stem. Sea Campion flowers between June and August.
Sea Campion used to be known as Dead Man's Bells or Devil's Hatties. Superstition surrounds the Sea Campion - it was said that because the flower grows on high, dangerous cliff ledges, it was never picked or brought into the house for fear of tempting death when trying to reach it.
Kidney Vetch ( Anthyllis vulneraria)
Kidney Vetch is an unusual member of the pea family, with flowers that vary widely through cream, yellow to a firey orange. Each flowerhead is surrounded at the base by thick, downy sepals which give the plant a wooly appearance. It flowers between June and September and grows in patches on dry grassland on cliff tops and rocky ledges, often on slopes. It prefers chalky soil, especially near the sea.
The flowers provide food for butterfly larvae, bees and beetles. It is a sole food source for the caterpillars of the small blue butterfly.
The latin name 'vulneraria' means 'wound healer'. It's common name is derived from a belief that it could cure kidney diseases, due to the kidney shape of the flowers.
Other names for Kidney Vetch include Ladie's Fingers, Lambs Toes, Butter Fingers, Double Pincushion and Woundwort.