With cold weather forecast for the weekend it was perhaps no surprise to see an arrival of winter migrants today. Nevertheless the sight of 70 redwings, 3 fieldfares and a woodcock hammered home that ‘summer’ is well and truly behind us and winter is on the way. A lone northern wheatear still winging it’s way south reminded us of warmer days. Blackbird numbers increased to 30 today, no doubt aided by the arrival of continental neighbours. 15 song thrush were the highest we have seen for a while. The seal pups are making a come back after the battering they received during recent storms. There have been a good number of newborns these last few days during what has been a calm spell for this time of year.
A breezy but very sunny and warm day was spent on Ramsey Island with Atlantic grey seals. The photos show a 3 day old pup, an older pup playing with sea weed, a mother teaching her youngster to swim and the ‘best Bull seal fight’ I have ever seen as well as total peace and tranquillity. Thanks to Thousand islands wildlife expeditions and to RSPB Ramsey island wardens Greg and Lisa Morgan
This little one was born in Ramsey harbour this afternoon. In fact two grey seal pups have been born on the little beach under the boat shed in the last 12 hours. Our visitors today got super close views of all the blood and guts as the pup was born and it’s first attempts to feed.
This cow is perfectly happy in the harbour despite people and boats coming and going three times each day, she has been here for several days waiting to give birth and this afternoon she was busy trying to feed her new pup, oblivious to the Gower Ranger picking up her passengers.
Not all females are so obliging and the vast majority choose to pup on Ramsey’s wild west coast, where it is quieter and there is little risk of such close contact with humans. However, these favourite pupping beaches are still easily viewable from the island’s coast path and the sight of 60 or more pups spread out along the beach below is one we enjoy through September and October.
Come and have a look for yourself!
Read more articles like this by Lisa, Greg and Nia on Ramsey Island by clicking on this link: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/ramseyisland/b/ramseyisland-blog/default.aspx
Highlights were a great-spotted woodpecker (21/7), four little egrets (20/7/ and a single on 26/8, seven redpolls through July, four sooty shearwaters (30/8) and a flock of 55 barnacle geese on 31/8.
Also of note were: July – common redstart, green sandpiper , house sparrow , dunlin, and redshank. In August – Arctic skua, common sandpiper, bonxie, sandwich tern, purple sandpiper and yellow wagtail.
Common migrants were thin on the ground with just 12 willow warbler logged in July and 64 in August. Whimbrel trickled through and the fist goldcrest of the autumn was logged on 31/8. Just 3 spotted flycatchers and 2 pied flycatchers were logged in August plus a single chiffchaff.
A quail on Grassholm on 24/7 was an interesting record and probably a first for the island.
Sunfish have been seen in good numbers this year around the island as have common dolphins.
Seabirds – Manx shearwaters go from strength to strength 12 years on from rat eradication. The first full survey for 5 years saw their numbers increase to around 3,800 pairs (final number to come). Up from 2,387 in 2007 and 849 in 1999. Guillemot numbers broke the 4k barrier for the first time while razorbills were stable at 1400 individuals. Kittiwakes had their worst year on record, down to 175 AON and very few chicks will fledge. Fulmars were down slightly from their record year in 2011 but still above average at 282 AOS. Puffins continue to flirt with Ramsey but none confirmed as touching land this year. Storm petrel survey to follow in July. Big thanks to Sarah Money (Conwy Warden) and Amy Vanstone (Conservation Officer) for their help and good company during the seabird work.
Other species – Chough were hit by the weather. 7 breeding attempts produced 14 young in total (the lowest for a few years) but weather had an impact with 2 sites being lost at incubation stage. Of the 5 that fledged numbers were good (4 sites fledged 3 young and the other 2). Our 3 pairs of lapwing managed to get 1 chick away between them. It didn’t help when one of our peregrines (from a pair that fledged 3 young) was seen to take an adult lapwing in early June! Wheatears continue to do well with 109 pairs recorded this year. Stonechats are bouncing back and are back up to 19 pairs (down to 6 pairs two years ago following hard winters). 2 pairs of short eared owls held territory early on, only one confirmed as breeding. This pair currently has young ‘hissing’ out in the heather
Highlights were a great white egret (15/5), hooded crow (27/5), mute swan in Ramsey Sound (16/5), turtle dove (14/5), 4 whinchats and 2 reed warblers in early May, black tailed godwit (3/6) and a stunning summer plumage black guillemot in Ramsey Sound for a week in mid June. Red kites were plentiful with 31 logged in May (max 16 on 18/5)
Common migrants passed through in good numbers in May with a record 54 blackcaps on 2/5. Records continued to be broken with 32 collared doves on 20/5, followed by 15 a week later. In addition to good numbers of willow warblers other migrants included common redstart (1/5), single cuckoo and grasshopper warbler on 2 dates in May and a good haul of spotted flycatchers this year (29 in total in May, max 10 on 14/5). An arrival of 500+ wheatears on 1/5 was spectacular (most of them were Greenland race birds)
Before you knew it birds were on their way back and after a quiet 2 weeks in June we saw a steady trickle towards the end of the month including curlew, black headed gull, chiffchaff, common scoter, dunlin, goldfinch, grey heron, house martin and swift heading south and the first whimbrel of the ‘autumn’.
Other wildlife of note included an otter on 3/5 and 12 common dolphins in the Sound on 20/6
On Tuesday night we gathered in St Davids to celebrate the anniversary of RSPB Cymru purchasing Ramsey Island. Back in 1992 we recognised that not only was Ramsey a rugged and beautiful island that people should be able to visit and enjoy, but that it was a hugely important site for Chough, seals and seabirds. After successful negotiations we finally bought the island outright. Ramsey was later designated a National Nature Reserve in 1996 and now has a rapidly increasing Manx shearwater population following a major rat eradication project in 2000.
The star of the evening was artist Rhian field. Rhian was asked by the RSPB to produced 12 original oil paintings depicting the island’s iconic wildlife and landscape. This is one of her paintings. Click this link to see full write-up on the Celebrations and Rhians Exhibition: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/ramseyisland/b/ramseyisland-blog/archive/2012/07/16/20th-anniversary-celebrations-and-exhibition.aspx
RSPB Wardens, Greg and Lisa Morgan – BBC Coast were filming on Ramsey Island recetly. The presenter was our friend Sarah Beynon who has been carrying out research on Ramsey’s dung beetle population as part of her PhD at Oxford University. The piece focused on Sarah’s dung beetle research and their importance for our chough population but also looked at cliff ecology in general and included sections on our seabird populations. Here’s a photo of Sara and Lisa.
The weather is still good to sail today, the guided walk with the RSPB warden on Ramsey Island left this morning, followed by a 10am Land for people who just want to explore the island at their leisure. We have a mixture of traditional and jet boat trips going out for the rest of the day.