This was the week when my stay on the island really began to draw to a close with only a partial week remaining. It was also when it dawned on me that I’m actually going to have to leave very soon. It was one of the most eventful weeks too with whole range of experiences to look back on.
The week started with the St David’s Music and Arts festival. The sloping ground outside the farmhouse with its benches makes a perfect amphitheatre with a great backdrop of the harbour, Ramsey Sound and the Bitches. We had a good turnout of visitors and lovely warm, sunny weather, with five solo artists singing with acoustic guitars. The afternoon seemed to last forever and has to have been one of the most memorable of my stay. We had a barbecue after all the visitors and musicians had gone – slightly interrupted for a couple of us watching the Cricket World Cup Final – and the evening concluded with the first of several night walks back up the island to the Bungalow. The moon was so bright that we didn’t need head torches to find our way home.
One day this past week, when it had been an exceptionally still and warm day, I headed out to the west coast of the island to see the shearwaters flying past and watch the sunset. I was treated to a true wildlife spectacle. With the sea almost glassy smooth, I could not only see the usual mass passing of the birds on their way south to Skomer, I could also see them rafting off the coast of Ramsey. There were tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of birds passing or sitting on the water. When the rafts took to the air, the shearwaters looked almost like swarms of insects and I don’t think I have ever seen so many birds in one place. There have been many spectacular wildlife moments in my life over the past few years and this one must rank with some of the best.
While I was out for that walk I had a look across the seabird cliffs on the west coast of the island; they were almost empty. Save for the kittiwakes, virtually all of the other birds, the guillemots and razorbills had left. The chicks of these birds have been leaping off the cliffs into the water for the past few weeks and I have been looking at the cliffs full of birds ever since I arrived at the end of April, but now they are almost completely deserted. This is another sign that my time on the island is coming to a close as I knew with would happen shortly before I was due to leave.
The other wildlife spectacle of this week was one lunchtime when we overheard radio chatter from the visitor boats that there were common dolphins in St Bride’s Bay, just south of the island. We rushed to the vantage point by the farmhouse and watched somewhere between 50 and 100 dolphins, in a number of different pods, moving around the bay. We usually see porpoise each day but I think this was only the second time I’ve seen dolphin from the island.
Another sign of the changing seasons and part of the yearly cycle of Ramsey was the birth of the first grey seal of the year. This was a little early as the usual peak pupping period is September and October. My previous stay on Ramsey was in September last year and coincided with that peak, enabling me to see many pups across the island during the two weeks.
A professional photographer, Alex Ingram, came across for a couple of days to continue his ‘Gatekeepers’ project to photograph wardens on remote islands. We showed him around the island and he took shots of us doing ‘wardeny-type’ things and I might even get into his collection, when he publishes it – it’s a long-term project so it might be a while!
The work to control the spread of bracken on the island took a bigger step this week with the ‘Bruiser’ being brought out from the tractor shed. The Bruiser looks like a larger version of the cutting blades from a cylinder lawnmower with a towbar attached to be pulled behind the quad bike. This heavy contraption breaks and crushes the stems of the bracken and over several years of doing this over the same locations will hopefully reduce the coverage of the plant. To be honest, I love driving the quad bike and this was immense fun – although you do have to be careful not to damage either the bike or the Bruiser by running over rocks or mounds. The task seemed a bit like driving a mini-combine harvester – maybe I should retrain as a combine driver!
With this post written, there’s only one more weekly update left, and that will be a short one!