A diary with a difference…..


Trwy lygaid gwirfoddolwr’

Helo bawb, fy enw i yw Niall Galloway ac rwy’n un o’r wardeiniaid dan hyfforddiant ar Ynys Echni. Fe ddois i Ynys Echni i ennill profiad ym myd cadwraeth, gyda’r nod o ddilyn gyrfa yn y maes hwn.

Yn fy amser sbâr, rwy’n hoff o dynnu lluniau o anifeiliaid ar Echni. Mae gen i Nikon D500, gyda lens zoom teleffoto Sigma 150-600mm, lens macro Sigma 105mm a throswr tele 1.4x.

Un o’r ffotograffau cyntaf a gymerais oedd o’r slorwm neu’r neidr ddefaid yma ar Ynys Echni. Tynnwyd y ffoto gyda’r lens macro. Rhan o’r gwaith a wnes yma oedd i gynnal arolygon ar nadroedd defaid. Mae’r nadroedd defaid neu’r slorymod ar Ynys Echni yn unigryw gan fod smotiau glas mwy gan rai ohonynt yma na’r rhai ar dir mawr y DG.

Mae’r ail ffoto o gyw gwylan gefnddu leiaf. Un o’r rhesymau pam fod Ynys Echni yn warchodfa natur yw am ei fod yn un o brif safleoedd magu yr wylan gefnddu leiaf yn y DG. Ar uchafbwynt y tymor magu mae yna ryw 2,500 o barau yn magu ar yr ynys.

Llwyddais i gael llun o un o’r gweilch glas. Mae pâr o weilch glas yn defnyddio’r clogwyni o amgylch yr ynys i nythu a magu eu cywion, gydag un cyw yn cael ei fagu’n llwyddiannus eleni.

Mae’r llun hwn o siff-saff yn dangos un o’r nifer fawr o rywogaethau adar sy’n pasio drwy Ynys Echni. Yn ystod misoedd y gwanwyn a’r haf mae’r gwylanod yn mhobman dros yr ynys ond yn ystod yr hydref bydd nifer o rywogaethau yn galw heibio wrth iddyn nhw fudo tua’r de.

Defnyddiais fy lens macro i gael y llun hwn o fadfall. Mae madfallod neu fadfallod vivipara, yn gallu geni eu rhai ifanc yn fyw, yn wahanol i relyw yr ymlusgiaid sy’n dodwy wyau. Mae hyn yn eu galluogi nhw i oroesi mewn llefydd oerach nag y byddai ymlusgiaid eraill. Mae modd dod o hyd iddynt i’r gogledd o Gylch yr Arctig.

Mae’r ychydig luniau nesaf o’r cudyll coch sydd yn ymweld â’r ynys yn ystod misoedd Medi a Hydref. Ar ôl dod nôl i’r ynys ar ôl cyfnod o wyliau fe’n croesawyd ni gan yr olygfa hon o’r cudyllod coch, tipyn o anrheg croesawu. Fe welon ni chwech ohonyn nhw ar yr ynys yn ystod y cyfnod hwn. Fe ddaethon nhw draw i wledda ar y llu o sioncod y gwair oedd yma.

A Volunteer’s Perspective…

Hello everyone, my name is Niall Galloway and I am one of the trainee wardens on Flat Holm Island. I came to Flat Holm to gain experience in conservation, with the aim of pursuing a career in this area.

In my spare time, I like to take photos of the animals on Flat Holm. I have a Nikon D5000, with a Sigma 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens, a Sigma 105mm macro lens and a 1.4x teleconverter.

One of the first photos I took was of a slow worm here on Flat Holm. the photo was taken with my macro lens. Part of the work I did here was to carry out surveys for slow worms. The slow worms on Flat Holm are unique as some have larger blue spots than the ones on mainland U.K.

The second photo is of a lesser black-backed gull chick. One of the reasons Flat Holm is a nature reserve is that it is a major breeding site for the lesser black-backed gulls in the U.K. During the peak of the breeding season there is around 2,500 breeding pairs on the island.

I managed to get a photo of one of the peregrine flacons. A pair of peregrine flacons use the cliffs around the island to nest and raise their young, with one chick successfully fledging this year.

This photo of a chiffchaff shows just one of the many species of birds that pass through Flat Holm. During the spring and summer months the gulls dominate the island but during autumn a number of species stop off on the island during their migration south.

I used my macro lens to get this photo of a common lizard. Common lizards, also known as viviparous lizards, can give birth to live young unlike the majority of other reptiles, which lay eggs. This allows them to survive in cooler places than most other reptiles. They can even be found North of the Arctic circle.

The next few photos are of the kestrels that visited the island during September and October. After coming back to the island after some time off we were greeted by the sight of the kestrels, which made for a great surprise. We spotted up to six of them on the island during this time. They came over to feast on the vast quantity of grasshoppers.

Easter weekend with the Flat Holm Society

With Storm Hannah buffeting our coastline over the last 24 hours it’s hard to remember those calm and hot days of last weekend. It was Easter and the Flat Holm Society paid a visit to kindly help out with the on going island job list. They stayed for 4 days and together, we got a huge amount done! Thank you so much for all your hard work! Here’s a few photos from then.

Thank you for all your help with painting benches, buildings, each other at times; for mowing, weeding, and pruning; for clearing the greenhouse and getting it ready for the coming year; for creating a beautiful place by the pond to sit and enjoy the wildlife garden; for clearing around the rare wild peony; for passing on your wisdom and sharing your island stories with us, for helping ready the foghorn cottage for holiday accomodation, and lastly for the food, the laughter and the tai chi!

Without the efforts of the Flat Holm Society or the island staff over the years then the chances are that this little gem of an island wouldn’t be open to the public. What has been achieved over here over the years continues to blow me away, there is no end to the surprises and intriguing stories that it continues to throw up. Here’s to the coming summer and sharing more stories and laughter with whoever washes up on this little rock in the Bristol channel that we call home.


A rare frost for Flat Holm

Flat Holm 2017; the Return of the Gulls

Welcome to 2017 on Flat Holm! It’s been over 3 years since the last post on here, the island has seen wardens and volunteers come and go but the seasonal cycle of wildlife continues. The Herring Gulls are already building up in numbers, staking out their territories on the cliffs, waiting patiently for their life mate to return so they can reconnect in preparation for breeding come spring.


Gulls returning to the cliffs (photo: Rachelle Regan)

There are around 300 pairs of Herring Gulls that nest here on Flat Holm, this number however pales in comparison to the 3,500 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls that generally nest inland on the plateau of the island. The majority of the Lesser Blacked-backs are yet to return from their wintering grounds with only a few being sighted daily, but we will be expecting to see the numbers start to swell soon.

From ongoing ringing projects allowing the movements of individual birds to be tracked through re-sightings of uniquely alphanumeric coded PVC colour rings, we know that some Lesser Black-backs will overwinter locally, whilst others will travel south to Spain, Portugal and North West Africa.


Lesser Black-backed Gull (photo: Giulia Neri)

Flat Holms only breeding pair of Great Black-backed Gull, Britain’s largest gull, choose Castle Rock to nest upon, bringing a whole new meaning to ‘King of the castle’! An individual has been seen daily since the 4th January and we are hoping to catch sight of their mate soon.

Although Flat Holm is known for its population of breeding gulls it is also an important spot for passerines feeding up over winter. We have been enjoying watching flocks of finches and thrushes gorging on berries, seeds and snails (of which there is no shortage of on Flat Holm!).


Chaffinches (photo: Lonieke Horninge)

Song Thrushes often have favourite rocks that they utilise as an anvil to crack open snail shells and get to the ‘juicy’ bit; if you look closely you see signs of this behaviour dotted all around the island.


Rock used by a Song Thrush (Rachelle Regan)

The days are definitely getting busier (and noisier!) here on Flat Holm and we’ll be back soon with an update on the spring gull take-over!


Lighthouse sunset (photo: Marianne Bony)

Poetry in motion

“…These birds were daredevilling, taking their flight skills to the edge. I was rooted to the spot. I couldn’t count the birds. There were thirty, forty in front of me, and, when I turned around, just as many behind. They were exalted, falling out of the sky like peregrines, skimming the fields, stooping, spiralling, stalling, their forked tails fine-tuning the wind so effortlessly that it looked as if they were juggling the wind.”

This is a description of Chiltern kites by Richard Mabey in ‘Nature Cure’, but it almost perfectly captures what it’s like to watch Flat Holm’s gulls fill the skies on windy days – their seemingly “wilful, gratuitous relishing of the wind.”

Seeing fluffy gull chicks grow to gawky adolescents, then to successful juveniles is one of the privileges of living here, and it’s hard not to feel some sort of parental pride as, over the summer, the young gulls’ initially clumsy take-offs, landings and mid-air manoeuvrings have become increasingly skilful (though still not without an occasional misjudged, comical near-miss with a less-than impressed adult heading in a different direction).

From click to adult

From colourful eggs, to balls of fluff onward  to awkward teenagers and finally to sleek juveniles

In the passage quoted and elsewhere in his book, Mabey suggests that some birds seem to enjoy flying for its own sake, and having had front-row seats in a gull colony for over two months, it’s hard not to agree. With most of the gulls now departing Flat Holm and heading to sunnier climes, the island will be quieter without them, but they will be missed on windy days in particular, and we look forward to their return next March.

Drifting on the breeze

Drifting on the breeze to destinations new

A Busy Summer

It’s been a busy week on the Island. We had a grand total of 154 visitors this week with an Island record for the single busiest visitor day: 93 visitors from Weston-Super-Mare.

The Island was a buzz with questions and laughter as everyone enjoyed the summer sun (and summer rain!) as well as the free guided tours that were on offer. These took in the sights, sounds, nature and history of our unique little island giving people a glimpse of the past and a view of the future.

Visitors getting ready for the free guided tour

Visitors getting ready for the free guided tour

Our bird sightings board recorded a few special visitors such as wheatears and whitethroats as well as the more suspect pterodactyls and phoenix!

A good day was had by all as the geocaches were located, the beer drunk, and the driftwood crafts admired.

Now that the summer holidays have started with earnest we are sure to see many more visitors to the island over the next few weeks. Let’s hope the sunshine sticks around.

                              Roll on the summer!


Admiring the view

Admiring the view

Spot the Oystercatcher

Oyster Catcher adult

We’ve had a number of regular sighting of Oystercatchers during the last few months and we were hopeful that some of them would be breeding pairs.

We had no luck at spotting the nests as oystercatchers are notorious for keeping them well hidden but we knew their favourite haunts.

This week on our regular bird walk we spotted that there were a few more than normal. If you look closely at the photo below you should be able to see the successful parents with their two oyster youngsters. The young at this age have smaller and darker beaks, darker legs and browner back feathers. Well done the oystercatchers and good luck spotting them below.


Flat Holm Island Gull Ringing Weekend

For the last 30 years the Flat Holm Project has successfully been operating a gull ringing exercise to study the lifespan and the migratory habits of our resident Lesser Black Backed Gull colony, and this year is no different.

Last weekend the island team were delighted to welcome Richard and James (our professional bird ringers) along with their current trainees and several members of the Flat Holm Society. The brief, as normal, was to ring 100 of the young gull chicks before they are ready to depart the island following the breeding season.


Above: Richard and Lynda fitting a ring to one of the chicks

Each chick is fitted with a coloured PVC ring marked with a unique alphanumeric code on their left leg, and a corresponding smaller metal ring on their right leg. Each member of the group was able to sample each stage of the process, from catching the gulls to actually fitting the rings. Other members of the group were also able to spend time searching the colony for gulls that have been ringed in previous years.

Choosing the “correct” chicks to ring was a very important part of the process, as it is in the interests of the exercise as a whole that they are able to survive into adulthood. This ruled out choosing the smaller and weaker chicks despite them being far easier to catch!


Above: Dan with one of the chicks that the team ringed. Its green and white ring reads 4TF.

With everybody having a great time and all 100 rings being applied throughout the colony the weekend can only be regarded as a complete success, and hopefully the gulls that we have ringed will go on to be re-sighted both here and abroad in the years to come.

Two of a kind

We’ve known that the Island has reported sightings of common lizards (Lacerta vivipara) in the past, but in the last few years they’ve been so shy that some believed it had been a joke played on the warden with a plastic lizard on a bit of string. Well, we now have photographic proof! Earlier in the year Matt spotted a lizard basking near the lighthouse, so we all began to keep a little eye out and soon enough we spotted it again and asked it to pose for a mug shot. For a few weeks after we kept an eye out but there was no sign of anyone at home. We had begun to wonder whether the Island only had one lizard ?

Female common lizard

Then we struck lucky, and got another mug shot in the same spot. When we compared them we could clearly see that not only do we have two separate lizards on the Island but that they are male and female. The male and female common lizard can be separately identified by a number of characteristics. The female is often lighter in colouring with stripes and a larger belly whilst the male is much darker with more spots. Our female is also missing a claw on the front left foot. Common lizards can also be sexed by the colour of their undersides but ours are still a bit shy for this yet.

Male common lizard

Male common lizard

We can only hope that these two are a breeding pair and that more are hiding in the rocks. We are going to continue to watch this and other favoured spots around the Island so hopefully we can build up a photo portfolio for the common lizard population on the Island.