Funded by our Environment Wales grant, Warden Stewart Gray and several Society members, including two of our youngest and two of our oldest, took to a flat calm Bristol Channel at dawn on St David’s Day with Ryan from Bay Island Voyages for a working weekend on the island. Due to the terrible weather, it had been several weeks since a visit.
On our initial walk around in windless, gorgeous sunshine, we were relieved to find the island in a very good state, with only minor storm damage to some guttering. The island welcomed us and St. David’s Day with beefy clumps of daffodils here and there. Easter also seems well anticipated with lots of huge rabbits and extensive burrowing higher up the cliff above West Beach.
The most urgent job was to overhaul the wind turbine so it could complement the solar panel power generation once more. Engineers Lee, Peter, Stewart and Bob got on with this, ably assisted by rugby player Carwyn contributing his magnificent strength to the arduous job of winching the pylon up and down.
Meanwhile, down the hill on West Beach, Linda, Sarah and Ray conducted a beach survey. Once the Marine Conservation Society form was completed, 42 plastic bottles, 15 balls and 5 shoes were recorded … all just from West Beach. The flotsam included an intact rugby ball which Ray appropriated for an impromptu rugby game with his son Carwyn.
Linda observed West Beach’s most famous resident, a pink granite erratic boulder, had been shifted by the huge storms. We also believe there has been some storm damage to the wave-form limestone karst pavement.
Sarah and Bob carried out a long overdue photographic vegetation survey while Linda swept the scrub with binoculars to count the impossibly elusive Soay sheep: all 26 are present and doing well.
After a toasty night in the farmhouse, where the temperamental kitchen range did a better job of cooking us than the food, we woke to a windy, grey and drizzly Sunday.
Kitted up in all our wet weather gear we did a bird walk, led by Stewart. Most lesser black-backed gulls are back, plump and well groomed, bickering over the prime nesting spots. A couple of ringed birds were noted but we could not get clear sight of the ring numbers. We spotted several pairs of oyster catchers on the beaches and a lone song thrush perching on an isolated cliff spot.
Vegetation and path clearing took us to mid-afternoon when the weather turned pretty dire. Those of us going back were glad to see Ryan’s lights setting off from Penarth Head in the gathering gloom.
After a surprisingly smooth and dry ride back across the rainy, westerly swell, Sam let us through the barrage lock with the usual jokes on the public(!) tannoy. We celebrated safe arrival with a naughty roar around Cardiff Bay in the dark before being dropped, exhausted, damp and happy, at Environment Quay.
Do join us for the next working weekend on 29-30 March!