Monday, July 12, 2010

Ramsey Island

Wednesday, 06-16-2010, was our last full day in Pembrokeshire.  Today we would try for Ramsey Island.  A return to Skomer Island was possible but too risky secondary to the fact that it was further away and there would be a chance that, again, there would be no island landing.

Our Ramsey Island plans also offered us the opportunity to see St. Davids.  St. Davids is the smallest city in the United Kingdom.  Cliff explained that in the United Kingdom a place cannot be a city unless it has a cathedral.  So, for example, Leamington Spa, despite its significant size and population, remains a town because it does not have a cathedral.  Conversely, St. Davids is really only the size of a village, but it has a cathedral so it's a city.

For good reason, St. Davids is also a large tourist destination.  We stopped first at the visitors center where we received information about obtaining tickets for the boat to Ramsey Island.  The ticket office was only a five minute walk from the visitors center and took us down the main street.  We found the ticket office and purchased our tickets for a noon departure from the coast guard ramp.  

Since we had time, we walked a little around the city and to the cathedral.  We also stopped at a local shop to purchase freshly made sandwiches for lunch.  

On a building that led into the cathedral grounds I got my first good opportunity for Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) photos.  For some reason, I think of the jackdaw as being a medieval bird.  They fit in well with the cathedral mileau and were nesting in the window slates of the ancient stone building.  Note the blue eye.  

We arrived early at the the Ramsey Island departure dock and had a brief chance to walk a bit of  the coastal trail.

Another Common Whitethroat

This whitethroat has good taste for scenic views

While waiting for the boat to unload with a group returning from the island, we learned that there is a friendly rivalry between the Ramsey Island staff and the Skomer Island staff.  The young Ramsey Island ticket collector and all-around assistant and dock organizer commented, "Ramsey is better than Skomer.  Skomer is flat."  We also learned that there had been a successful landing on Skomer Island today. 

The boat ride to Ramsey Island is a straight shot from the mainland dock to the island dock and only about ten minutes long.  We exited the boat and walked up a tall stairway along the side of a cliff and into a small RSPB building where RSPB staff passed out maps and gave us a brief introduction to the island and what we would have an opportunity to see. 

From this point we set off and walked all around the island.  Ramsey is not flat.  We hiked from one beautiful scene to another.  There are small peaks to climb for long views of the ocean and the mainland beyond.  It is a place where every ten steps offers a new photo op.     

Sheep resting on stone wall

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Northern Fulmar - unfortunately the best photo I could get.

Typical Ramsey Island view

Ramsey Island coast

Red-billed Chough with red legs visible.

Ramsey island has seven pairs of breeding choughs.

RSPB headquarters on the island

Other birds seen were more guillemots, kittiwakes, kestrel, lots of wheatear, meadow pipits and rock pipits.  At our introduction to the island, we were tipped off to look for Little Owl hunting from the stone walls, but we had no luck finding one on this day.

Leaving the island was difficult.  I knew I had been given this one chance to visit and, for such a nice place, it was not long enough.  I had a twenty pound note in my pocket and wanted to give a donation.  The RSPB staff suggested that I join the RSPB even though the typical membership costs about 36 pounds per year.  I filled out the form and she gave me a membership kit which included this year's February and May publications.  It will be interesting to see if I get mailings from the RSPB over here.  If possible, my plan is to try to continue the membership.

On Thursday morning, 6-17-2010, we departed Pembrokeshire.  The sun was shining. 

Dawn view from my window with the putting green in the foreground

Anecdote:  I flew home on June 19th and returned to work on the 21st. For most Americans two weeks is a long vacation, and so it was nice to notice that I had been missed.  "Oh, your back!  How was your vacation?" was the comment/question I heard most in the first couple of days after my return.  One of my physician colleagues, however, had been paying attention.  She had a confused look on her face and said, "I thought you were going to England."  I replied, "yes, I did go to England."  To which she responded, "but, you're suntanned."  
Next:  Baby birds

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