Saturdays are busy days on Bardsey, when the weekly changeover of staying guests takes place – so long as the weather permits! For us, this involves shifting both off-going and on-coming visitor’s luggage up and down the island’s single bumpy track aboard a tractor and trailer. The visitors and their gear are ferried to and from the island aboard a yellow catamaran captained by Colin Evans, as has been the case for over a decade now.
Today’s changeover day saw over 50 people heading off the island after an enjoyable half-term week, and a further 40 arriving on for the coming seven days. A freshening south-westerly breeze and streaking cirrus clouds overhead indicated the weather to come: the forecast looks set for a deluge of rain overnight and strong SW winds, so I was keen to get out for a wander after finishing the morning’s luggage shift!
My small heath trap had been out in the garden overnight, as usual, and examining the contents revealed yet another Small Elephant Hawkmoth, a Small Angle Shades, Mullein Wave and Currant Pug amongst some 25 moths . On closer inspection, I noticed some small eggs beside the hawkmoth – a great discovery which will hopefully allow me to raise some caterpillars to pupation and hatching over the coming year!
Before heading to bed last night, I noticed a proliferation of snails and slugs emerging from their daytime haunts and creeping into the open on the walls outside our house. I set up a timelapse taking an image every 2 second to capture their amusing locomotion, and this is the result…
Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum) can be a serious pest of gardener’s precious veggies and crops, although the chemicals used to control slugs and snails can be detrimental to wildlife such as Hedgehogs. You might consider that a ‘kinder’ control technique would be to pick the beasties off and either throw them or take them some way away from the garden….but snails such as these actually have a reasonable homing instinct!
Experiments devised by Ruth Brooks and a lecturer at our University of Exeter Penryn Campus (Dave Hodgson) found that snails were able to (slowly) return to the exact same spot unless they were removed beyond 10 metres. The research is ongoing, and has been opened up to a citizen science project that anyone can contribute to. More info here
Late in the afternoon I decided to head up the mountain for a quick walk. In particular I was on the look-out for Choughs: a non-breeding flock of around 13 individuals have been loitering along the ridge recently, feeding amongst the short grass and bracken slopes on various larvae and invertebrates.
I was mainly trying to get colour-ring combinations from any birds within the flock: this allows us to keep track of individuals’ whereabouts, both at island levels (seeing who is breeding where and paired with whom) and at larger spacial scales (revealing how far birds move from their nest site, for example).
It was awesome watching the aerial antics of these charismatic birds, playing in the eddies and updrafts, diving like stones with folded wings and all the time giving out their piercing calls. I managed to catch up with a couple of breeding colour-ringed birds, including one with a distinctive notch in its secondaries – a handy feature allowing ID even in flight!