Photos by Janet Baxter

Lisa explains how they help the gannets at the end of the season:

Every October we set off to Grassholm Island to cut free juvenile gannets that have become tangled in plastic debris over the course of the season. Grassholm is the 3rd largest gannetry in the world for this species with just under 40,000 pairs nesting there. Adult gannets use seaweed in the construction of their nests but will also pick up plastic floating on the surface, mainly accidentally discarded fishing line and old rope. In some cases, as the chick grows the plastic wraps itself around the chicks' leg and tethers it to the nest. The adult keeps feeding the chick and most are in very good condition when we find them but are unable to fledge as they are tied to their own nest. Eventually the adult would give up, stop feeding the chick and head off to its winter quarters, leaving the chick to starve to death.

We wait until October to carry out this work as, by this time, most other chicks will have fledged and most of the adults will have gone, thus keeping disturbance down to a minimum as we have to walk through the colony to ensure we cover the whole area. In 2010 we cut free 53 juveniles and 3 adults birds.

People often ask why we don't clear away the plastic. The answer is that there is just too much of it, it would destroy the nests completely and it would probably be back in the same quantities within a few years.

based in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Grassholm is a remote offshore island supporting 39,000 pairs of breeding gannets. This is the third largest Atlantic gannet colony in the world, (behind St Kilda and Bass Rock), supporting in the region of 10% of the entire world population.  St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

As one of only 23 gannet colonies in the UK and Ireland, Grassholm is of both national and international importance. It is an outstanding seabird spectacle, unrivalled anywhere in Wales for this species.

Landing on Grassholm Island is not allowed but trips run offshore to Grassholm regularly.

On just a few days a year, wardens Greg and Lisa have the honour of landing on the island, one of the reasons was in July 2010.  The following article is from the Ramsey blog journal written by Lisa on the 15th July: 

Over the last two weeks we have been busy working out on Grassholm which lies 7 miles southwest of Ramsey.  You might just have heard of this amazing, 9-hectare, piece of low-lying rock in the middle of the Irish sea. It is the oldest RSPB nature reserve in Wales and is home to nearly 10% of the world population of northern gannets.  In fact at the last count, (don’t ask how we did it), we had 39, 292 pairs breeding on the island.

Greg and I have been working with the amazing seabird biologists from University of Plymouth to find out what our Grassholm gannets get up to when they are away from the island.

One exciting piece of work that is currently underway looks at non-breeding gannets. They do not have a nest site but do visit the colony in large numbers to visit ‘club sites’, a little like a youth club for teenage gannets. These sub-adults can be anything from 2 years to 4 years old. As they are not yet constrained to any one colony, they are able to range over wide areas of ocean, visiting other gannetries and potentially putting themselves in contact with a wide range of threats.  RSPB nature reserve based in St. Davids Pembrokeshire Wales
By attaching a small satellite transmitter to12 birds, we are able to follow their every move, in real time, live on-line. To find out where our birds are heading, just go to:


In the nine days since we deployed these devices, one of our birds has covered over 1,300km, it left Grassholm on 5 July, headed south around the tip of Cornwall and then travelled east along the English Channel. It is currently heading up into the North Sea. Will it really go anticlockwise right round the coast of the UK to get back to Grassholm?

It is vitally important that we find out more about the lives of these birds when they are away from the security of sites like Grassholm. RSPB Nature Reserves based in St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales