A diary with a difference…..

Author Archive

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.

Wildlife Highlights

Its been a quiet week with only one visitor trip this week, another was cancelled due to high wind making the landing difficult.  Its given the warden team, the time we needed to get our flock of sheep in and shear them all ready for the ‘hot’ days ahead of us.  This was a very tiring job but very satisfying upon completion, it was showers all round afterwards.

It also gave us the time to search for some of the more elusive wildlife that shares Flat Holm with us.  We have seen an explosion of caterpillars across the island, particularly on the hawthorn bushes, with Lackey moths and Brown Tailed moth caterpillars putting in an appearance.  Caution should be advised around the Brown Tailed moth caterpillars as they can cause allergic reactions in certain people.  The Lackey moth caterpillars have a beautiful range of colours across there backs, looking like a 70s rug!!

The beetle highlight is Geotrupes vernalis, a widely distributed species in Britain, commonly seen in sandy, sunny places.  It lives in dung, and also in carrion and rotting fungi.  This was seen in Johns Plot.

My favourite wildlife spot of the week was the Common Lizard.  It is very rarely seen here, with some people not believing me when I said they were living on Flat Holm.  They have become a regular sight lately, around the Barracks in at least 3 separate areas, coming out to bask during these wonderful sunny days we are having.  They like to come out basking on rocks or wood that has heated up with the morning sun, if you are careful when approaching they won’t run off straight away.  They will sometimes sit there long enough to get a wonderful photo as shown.


Flat Holm Gull Count

Ray & Stuart, Gull CountingThe annual Gull Count on Flat Holm took place last weekend, luckily we had some very good weather for it.  Cardiff Sea Safaris managed to bring out 6 willing volunteers from the Flat Holm Society to assist, unfortunately they were unable to do the sail around for the cliff count due to the rough water at the landing stage.  We will attempt to do this at the lowest tide tomorrow by walking around and see if we can get an accurate cliff count this year as well.

We had some new faces and some old hands at bird counting, it was my 4th year of being involved with this particular count.  Essential supplies are boiler suit, gloves, tin of spray paint, hard hat and that all important tea towel for back of neck protection.  Don’t want gull poo sliding down your back now, that can really ruin the experience.  🙂

It involves walking every inch of the gull colony side of the island which is split into 5 different sectors and counting every single nest you can find.  We split into teams of 2 or 3 and select our sector,  then methodically search every inch, putting a mark near every nest we find.  It is important to look under every bush and nose into the buildings where safe to do so.  Obviously the gulls don’t particularly like this intrusion but its necessary to monitor the health of the colony and usually takes about 4 to 5 hours.

Once we have done the first count, one person from a different sector walks through yours and counts the first hundred nests they see marked or unmarked and from this we get our error rate and can correct the first count, making it even more accurate.

We got well and truly covered, I took a direct hit to my clipboard within minutes of entering the colony, which my team mates found hilarious, luckily I had some spare paper in my pocket, always prepared!

We had a final tally of 3606 Lesser Black Backed Gull nests and 5 Herring Gull nest on the island top, down slightly on last year but we hope the cliff count when done will bring this number back up.

Thank you to all the volunteers involved this year, it was a huge success.  Fingers crossed for good weather when we come to do the Gull Ringing in July.

Photo: Ray and Stuart helping me in sector ten.



A Wonky Goodbye

Wonky GoodbyeBorn on Flat Holm & moved to Swansea 1st May 2013.

Wonky is nearly two years old now and on his second set of horns, after pulling his first off.  He was born to a ewe named Roswell, unfortunately she produced no milk and so he ended up in a box in the boot room.  He was a very demanding youngster and soon became a firm favourite opt most island staff and all island visitors.

He was named Wonky because he had an ear nibbled by his mum but it soon righted it self.  He has spent his two years having numerous adventures across the island including helping out on Society working days, being rescued off the cliffs by a RIB and trying in vain to gain access to the agri-shed and farmhouse.  He has left the island no due to the upcoming Winter closure.

Good luck in your new home.

A poem by Philip Gross

This poem is taken from a book called The Water Table by Philip Gross.  The book is a meditation on the landscape around the Bristol Channel.  It won the T.S. Elliot prize in 2009.  I like to think that Philip was looking at Flat Holm when he wrote this poem.  He now lives in Penarth.  I would like to thank Bloodaxe Books for providing permission to reproduce this poem.  The book can be purchased from Amazon by clicking HERE!  

The Moveable Island

Click to enlarge

Urgent Request from Flat Holm

The historic Flat Holm island is being reviewed by Cardiff Council and they want to hear what YOU have to say about it.

The Council want to hear from the public about their views and experiences of Flat Holm Island.

Cardiff’s Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee will be investigating the way Flat Holm Island is run and is inviting the public to have their say.

“If you have a view please email (by Thursday 20th September)
scrutinyviewpoints@cardiff.gov.uk and your comments will be considered as a part of the investigations.”
Councillor Craig Williams, Chair of the Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee

Thank you

Flat Holm Lamb for Sale!

The last of our lamb is available this week.

It will sell fast so if you want to treat yourself to something delicious please let us know!

Call the office on 02920 877912, or email, Sam: sawhitfield@cardiff.gov.uk

A box of lamb will weigh 7-14 kg and cost £7 /kg. It will all be jointed and ready for the freezer. You will need to be able to collect your lamb from Cardiff Barrage on Friday 29th June!

Thank you!

On a separate note, i’m sorry there haven’t been any recent updates on the blog.  It has been very busy on the island this year.  Please join our facebook page for more regular (and shorter) updates!


Here are a few photos!

Flat Holm on Radio 4!

Earlier in the year, Helen Mark from Radio 4’s Open Country visited the island.  You can now listen to the program here,

Flat Holm Open Country (Opens in a new window)


Work on the island continues with lots of progress, photos to follow! It’s also a time of change as we wave goodbye to our winter volunteers, and hello to our summer ones.  Thank you to Gemma for the picture below!  We will miss  you all!

Matt finds love in the Fog Horn station, i think this was in the Western Mail on Sunday!

Well, Matt has finally found love, and what’s more,  you can read all about it!  Please click the image below to read the full story in the Wales Online.

Glossy Ibis fly past.

These are all shot’s from February 6th 2012, no new sightings to record.  A flock of 23 Glossy ibis has been spotted in Pembrokeshire and they are being recorded around South Wales and the South West of England so there are obviously quite a few lost birds around this winter.  The Pembrokeshire Bird Blog is a good source of information if you fancy going in search of them!  Have a great weekend!


First ever Glossy Ibis sighting on Flat Holm!


This Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is a migratory bird that is hardly every sighted in the UK – usually less than 4 are spotted every decade. So imagine the surprise the Flat Holm staff experienced when an ibis, presumably having taken a wrong turning on its way to Africa, was spotted perched on some elder in the middle of the island!

This individual seems to have been sighted in several places around the UK. You can follow rare bird movements, including bird visits to Flat Holm, here: http://www.birdguides.com/species/species.asp?sp=024022 .


Delicious Lamb for Sale!

Flat Holm Island is proud to announce the sale of boxed and jointed Black Welsh Mountain lamb. After the success of the pork sales a few months ago we are expecting a high demand for this limited run of fresh meat. The lambs, which were born on Flat Holm and raised in the Welsh Valleys, will be available for just £7.50 a kilo (£3.40/lb), with the approximate price of half a lamb at just £50. Order early to avoid disappointment!

The Box will include the following!

1 x Shoulder of Lamb

1 x Leg of Lamb

1 x Rack of Lamb

6 Loin Chops

3 Chump Steaks

Breast of Lamb

The lamb will be available for collection from a refrigerated van at Cardiff Barrage Car Park on the 13th February and 20th February from 5pm – 6:30pm

To place your order please call Alan on 02920 877912.  A credit or debit card payment of £40 is required to confirm the order with the balance payable upon collection.  Please state the desired collection date when you call.

Buying this lamb will benefit the Flat Holm Project directly, thank you for your continued support.


Christmas Photos

Hello All

Apologies for the delay but here are the pics of the Christmas Holiday.  It was a fantastic success, everyone had a brilliant time.

Like I said previously our four guests arrived safe and sound after a fun speed trip across the channel, landing on East beach laden down with loads and loads of food and most importantly mine and Sophia’s Christmas post.  Hurray, food and gifts.  We had the wood burner going all day so the farmhouse was all toasty and welcoming.  We greeted the guests with homemade jam tarts, chocolate and banana cake and cups of tea, it was a very tasty greeting.

We had plenty of walks around the island and I gave a few informative tours of the history and wildlife, greatly helped by Gerry with all his knowledge of Flat Holm from a lighthouse keepers point of view.  Wonkey (the island pet sheep) joined us for one of the walks but I think he got jealous of all the attention the Soay’s were getting and soon wandered off on an adventure of his own.  Whilst I cracked on with readying the food each day, Sophia kept everyone busy with a few more rambles round the island, including one down onto West Beach to gather driftwood for the fire.

We had a few working sessions in the wildlife garden, weeding the raised beds and laying more weed suppressant down and even got some wood chopping done.  Nothing like a bit of gardening on a chilly Christmas morning, helps make some space for all that turkey dinner and christmas pud.  Christmas Eve we all went up to the Gull & Leek for a few island drinks and then visited the pub again on Boxing day afternoon.

Once again it was a pleasure sharing this wonderful island over the festive period.  We shall of course be doing it again in 2012, so why not join us for Christmas or New Year 2012.

I look forward to seeing you all again this year when the new season starts.

Best Regards



Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of our followers, thank you to everyone who has supported Flat Holm through 2011, it has been a challenging yet brilliant year!  Best wishes to everyone for 2012, come visit us soon!

Sam W

Cardiff, taken from Flat Holm Island on NYE 2012.