Friday, 18 April 2014

Puffin count 2014

This afternoon we conducted the first of our all island Puffin counts on Skomer. We missed a good opportunity to count them last week when large numbers were present but, even though they disappeared for a few days, we were confident that they would return and we would get another chance to get a maximum count of individuals. We aim to do as many all island counts as possible but, due to the number of counters required and effort involved, about three counts in the second half of April is realistic.

Large numbers of Puffins were evident on Skomer all day today
The island is split into seven count sectors and a team of two went off to count each area between 17.00 and 19.00. We met again at 20.30, after some dinner, and pulled our figures together. We counted a total of 18,237, almost exactly 1,000 less than the maximum count from last year. Last years maximum count was a whopping 19,280 so hopefully we will get near to this count in one of our next couple of counts. After the huge wreck of Puffins in Spain, France and Britain early this year, we hope that our Puffins won't be too badly effected, although we may not feel the effects for up to four years, when young Puffins first start breeding.

A 'silver back' Puffin

Our little seal pup is still in South Haven and there are plenty of seals hauled out at low tide in North Haven. A trip to Skomer at this time of year with maximum numbers of Puffins visible, seals and migrants passing through is a wildlife must.

Eddie Stubbings, Skomer Warden

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Seal pups and April!

Everyone knows that the Puffins should be returning to the island in spring to lay their eggs and fledge their chicks but what on earth are seal pups doing getting born in April. Those who know a bit more about British wildlife know that Grey Seals breed all around the British coastline. The pupping season proceeds in a clockwise direction around England, Wales, Scotland and then England again, with those in Cornwall pupping first, in August, and those in East Anglia last, over Christmas. Skomer's seals usually pup in October so finding a perfectly healthy seal pup hours after it had been born yesterday was a bit of a surprise. We will keep an eye on this out of season pup and see if it can survive the rigors of life outside of the seals usual pupping season.

Mother pup bonding

Mother and pup doing what they should be doing

The Puffins are more expected but are still keeping us guessing by going missing for days on end and only returning for a few hours late in the afternoon. The picture below was taken last week when there was a count of 4135 just in North Haven, so plenty. They then did a disappearing act and disappointed all of our visitors on the weekend by not being here. They are now returning in big numbers again and we will try and do an all island count in the next few days.

Puffins looking perfectly at home
Eddie Stubbings, Skomer Warden

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Radio Interview

Ed mentioned in his last post the conference (Pembrokeshire's Seabird Islands: Past, Present and Future Prospects) which was held this week. Radio BBC Wales showed interest in the story and did an interview with Prof. Tim Birkhead and myself. This piece is supposed to be broadcast on BBC Wales on Sunday at 7am. I do hope it is good...

Bee, Skomer Warden

Friday, 4 April 2014

Seabird appeal and conference

Yesterday a conference (Pembrokeshire's Seabird Islands: Past, Present and Future Prospects) was held at Cardiff University to highlight the importance of Pembrokeshire's seabird islands in the modern world and the significance of the research that has been going on for decades on Skomer and the other islands for decision making and scientific advancement. Iolo Williams delivered a speech to round up the other talks and reiterate the importance of the long term, continuous monitoring of our internationally important seabird populations. The conference was supported by the following organisations.

If you follow our blog you may already know about the large wreck of auks (especially Puffins) that occurred in the North West Atlantic at the start of the year and the fact that funding was cut on one of Skomers longest standing research projects into Guillemot ecology. As a result of this double whammy of bad news for our seabirds the Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to help continue this work. Details can be found at
I'm sure our Puffins, Guillemots, Storm Petrels and other seabirds would appreciate all the hard work we put in on their behalf.

Talking of hard work, I will be running in the Brighton marathon on Sunday to raise money for the Marine Conservation Society. You can sponsor me online by going to:
Any support is very welcome.

Eddie Stubbings, Skomer Warden

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Arctic trio

Lapland Bunting
The last few days have brought this lovely trio of Arctic breeding birds to Skomer Island. All three will be heading north into the Arctic soon but are enjoying some Welsh sunshine before they do.

Iceland Gull

Great Northern Diver

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Boats running

Boats are now running to Skomer.

The Dale Princess
Today was the first day that boats ran out from Martin's Haven to Skomer Island, and what a day it was. The sun was shining, the birds were here and the feel of spring was in the air. Puffins are now returning in greater numbers and daring to come nearer to land.

If you want to come and witness Skomer as the year awakes and is arguably at it's best, boats leave Martin's Haven from 10.00 in the morning. See you here.

Eddie Stubbings, Skomer warden

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lapping it up

There seems to be so much to blog about at the moment that hopefully we'll get plenty of short snappy blogs out in the coming week/weeks. Today our first volunteers arrived, after earlier disappointments and we grow closer to being ready for opening on Tuesday.

On the wildlife front we had an impressive 'fall' of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs today and the Puffins started flooding in. Here are the highlights from todays sightings:

Great Northern Diver 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Merlin 1
Puffin 50+
Sand Martin 4
Song Thrush 3
Redwing 1
Robin 2
Reed Warbler 1
Blackcap 4
Willow Warbler 51 incl. 2-3 'Northern' type birds
Chiffchaff 27
Goldcrest 3
Chaffinch 1
Goldfinch 2
Linnet 14
Redpoll 1
Lapland Bunting 1

That's the boring list, here's some photo's and a video of the Lapland Bunting:

Male Lapland Bunting in breeding plumage

One of a few 'Northern' Willow Warblers P. t. acredula

A very early Reed Warbler