Well it’s been all change this week as I left behind me the delightful cottage at South Stack where I’ve spent the past year falling in love with each season. In my wisdom I decided to forego another season at South Stack, not because I didn’t love the place, but because I wanted to branch out a little bit. This weekend heralds the start of the summer contract for my replacement so I started my last South Stack fry-up, stopped cooking half way through to dash outside and down to the cliff tops for some Wheatears that Ken had picked up, and then dismantled my home.
After giving up my job at South Stack I was very, very happy to be offered a job with the North Wales Wildlife Trust as a Tern Warden over the summer months. However, with no overlap in accomodation I am spending a few weeks staying with a friend. I expected moving onto a housing estate to be a shock to my system after so long couped up in a cottage by myself, but I knew it was okay when I pulled up on the new driveway with a newly arrived Chiffchaff in the tree to my right. A lovely welcome, my first of the year too 🙂 I am also enjoying the number of House Sparrows and Starlings which are bursting out of bushes and dripping from telephone wires. Also, there’s a lots of Rooks around and these are not a bird I’ve ever seen at the stack. A Sunday morning highlight for me was a Jackdaw screaming at a rock outside Tesco. Maybe it was impressed by the echo?!
It was glorious weather here on Sunday and Ken and I took a walk around the Breakwater Country Park. We saw and heard lots of Greenfinches as I struggled to get to grips with spring bird calls again and we saw Goldcrests all over the place!
Later that afternoon we made it down to Treborth Botanical Gardens just outside Bangor where we were met by rather a lot of cars! A friend of mine, the zoologist from the island’s ‘Pili Palas’ had told me there was an event on, but I had not expected this – cars were parked all along the roadside backing up to the Menai Bridge and as we walked down the road we passed dozens of families clutching their new toys, instruments made from sticks and bottle top (more impressive in real life). The event was ‘Wild Science Day’ and was the finalle of Bangor University’s ‘Science Week’. There were stalls along the grass, a tree top lift, a specially made planetarium as well as exhibits filling three green houses and a ‘refreshments lab’. The atmosphere was great as kids of all ages (Ken was my honourary kid) learnt more about our wild science. I think Ken and I were most captivated by the BTO stall where they were showing bird-ringing in action. It’s always amazing to see a bird in the hand, it puts a 10g Coal Tit into perspective. Built on the success of last year, this was the second time this event had been held thanks to the organisation of Nigel Brown from Bangor University and a former Countryside Management student Tom (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your surname).
Today I went to Cemlyn (my soon to be place of work) with a volunteer party to set up for the breeding season. We were particularly lucky with the weather as Cemlyn is famed for being windy and we had it calm and mild for most of the day. Between us (around 15 volunteers) we set out nest boxes (in the hope of attracting breeding Roseate Terns), set up the weir (to control the water level of the lagoon during breeding season) and fenced of the shingle ridge (visitors are welcome here, it’s just a fence to allow the Terns a little privacy – the views are still second to none). It was a really fun day and lovely to meet all the volunteers: for some it was their first volunteering experience and for others a regular occurance. If you are thinking about volunteering, then go for it. Your help is vital to charitable organisations and you’ll get lots out of it too. You can ‘like’ the North Wales Wildlife Trust on facebook, where there is a picture of our work party posing on the weir today https://www.facebook.com/northwaleswildlifetrust.
I am hoping to take a very exciting trip this Monday…can’t wait to let you know how it goes…
Kathy x x x
True to form the weather has been a mixed bag recently. From Gale strength winds battering your car as you traverse the Menai straits to stunning sunshine in Spring-like Moelfre. There’s been torrential downpours too as well as snow on the aptly named Snowdon mountain range. A glance out the window now though is met with cornflower blue skies and white fluffy clouds. There is a hint of something a little more ominous though as the clouds are travelling at speed and the television aerials are shaking.
On Sunday morning I was out, not in the aforementioned torrential downpours or dramatic winds, but in a dreary grey drizzle that was to be found at Bangor harbour. I had gone along to watch ‘cannon netting’. The professional bird ringers were there to entrap wading birds in order to ring them, a process integral to species monitoring. After a hefty hoard of 400 Dunlin the previous day I think we were all out of luck. The logistics of setting up such a net means that you have to get the birds in the right place and that day there weren’t any birds playing ball. There was just a few dozen bird enthusiasts getting wet in a carpark! Nevertheless, it was great to meet the crew. There were local ringers and trainees as well as some folk from the BTO (that’s the British Trust for Ornithology if you weren’t sure) and everyone was very informative. I was especially happy to hear about all the measures put into place to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the birds. The prospect of firing a net over the birds can seem rather daunting in that respect, but all my doubts were squashed by the various rules and regulations surrounding the process that enables these bird lovers to find out more about the thing whch they devote so much of their lives too.
I was pleased to hear Alan Titchmarsh extolling the virtues of connectivity with nature recently on BBC Breakfast. He may have been plugging his new book but nevertheless our connection with nature is something very close to my heart which I am keen to promote. Go Alan! Two recent visits I’ve made have had a similar thread running through, that of getting our young people involved with nature in their local area. One was a scheme at Treborth botantical gardens, just outside Bangor where local school children have been involved with creating a wonderous wildlife garden equipt with multi-level dipping pond, bug hotel, sensory butterfly patch and even beehives!
The other community involvement project I visited is at the Pili Palas near Menai Bridge. Here, local College lecturer Geraint leads a team of lads who volunteer their time to create a wildlife-rich outdoor area at the acclaimed tourist attraction. Head-keeper Ed showed me around the site recently and showed me the cracking start the group had made in turning the overgrown, unusable area into a specially planned wildlife area which could also be used as an educational facility. Top marks guys! I hope to catch up with group soon and then I can let you know more.
So for now I’d like to leave you with a clip of my dear friend Rob talking about Robins. It’s from a Nottingham university e-advent calendar…it’s festive! http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/adventcalendar/2011/12/02/2-december-robin-red-breast/ red-breast/
Kathy x x x