A diary with a difference…..


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!