News archive

July 2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Building homes for shearwaters - Become a friend of Ramsey

Building homes for shearwaters - Become a friend of Ramsey

Ramsey Island is home to a wealth of wildlife. Please help us safeguard this spectacular island reserve by donating and becoming a Friend of Ramsey.

Bought by the RSPB in 1992, Ramsey Island is a truly spectacular island reserve, lying just one mile off the north Pembrokeshire coast. The island is home to a healthy breeding chough population, important seabird colonies and one of the largest grey seal breeding populations in southern Britain.

This dramatic offshore island has cliffs up to 120 m high, the perfect place for breeding seabirds in spring and early summer. Walk along the coastal heathland and enjoy the spectacular views.

The island is awash with colour from May to September, with bluebells, then pink thrift and purple heather. You might see choughs and peregrines nesting on the cliffs. And if you visit in the autumn, you can watch a colony of breeding grey seals. There is a small shop on the island and refreshments are available.

Ramsey island warden, Lisa Morgan, explains how nest boxes used in New Zealand are helping us learn more about the migration journeys of Manx shearwaters.

For the last four years, we've been studying the annual migration of Manx shearwaters as they depart from Ramsey Island and travel to South America. As part of this work, we now have the opportunity to spy on the daily lives of the island's birds in fine detail.

To keep track of the birds, small GPS devices can be fitted to shearwaters whilst in their nesting burrows and then removed several days later. However because on Ramsey most shearwater burrows were originally dug by rabbits and then taken over by the birds, the tunnels are just too long!
Then inspiration struck us. We remembered a project we had visited in New Zealand where another shearwater species, Hutton's shearwater, was being studied in artificial burrows.

These custom made shearwater residences comprise of a piece of drainage pipe, acting as the entrance tunnel, leading into a wooden nestbox with an all important lid, allowing us easy access to attach the trackers and monitor the birds.
Once dug into the ground, the boxes are watertight and desirable property for any house-hunting shearwater. We hope to establish a colony of 20 nestbox-living shearwaters on Ramsey, which we can use in our tracking studies in the future.

A special chough.

It's been a good year for choughs with nine breeding pairs recorded. One very special chough is a colour-ringed male, hatched on Ramsey in 2000. He started to breed in 2003 and has bred every year since (coloured rings fitted on his leg help us keep track of what he is up to).

Fourteen years on he is still one of a breeding pair, holding a prime territory on Ramsey's west coast. He has produced a very respectable 35 offspring so far in his lifetime. By mid-May, he and his partner were busy feeding chicks again, so fingers crossed for some more successful offspring to add to his tally!

Why we need your help.

1. to provide optimum nesting and feeding conditions for both breeding and wintering choughs using traditional grazing
2. to increase the number of burrow nesting seabirds like Manx shearwater by maintaining the islands rat free status
3. to study the numbers and life-cycle of seabirds and seals on the island, allowing us to protect these important populations and react quickly to any changes

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Help Butterflies... Help Butterfly conservation

Help Butterflies... Help Butterfly conservation

Butterfly Conservation's President, Sir David Attenborough explains why it is so important...

"UK butterflies rallied last summer following their worst year on record in 2012 but despite this fight back, butterfly numbers were still below average. Three-quarters of the UK's butterflies are in decline and one-third are in danger of extinction. This is bad news for butterflies and it is bad news for the UK's birds, bees, bats and other wildlife. This is because butterflies are a key indicator species of the health of our environment - if they are struggling, then many other species are struggling also. Every single person taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer can produce a statistic that is of real value as their records help build a picture of how butterflies are faring and how we can best conserve them