Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Snow White and Snoring Beauty

Today I had a most amazing experience when I went down to the slip at North Haven to check on our seal pups. Once I got all the way to the bottom I noticed that we had gained a pup - a beautiful new born pup was sound asleep next to a shiny pure white weaner and a scruffy looking moulting pup.

Snow White and...

her scruffy companion

I went onto the beach to have a better look at the new born pup - it looked like it was stuck in between some rocks. It turned out that it wasn't stuck but had found itself the most uncomfortable resting place a human can imagine.

Snoring Beauty

I had managed to creep so quietly onto the beach that none of the three pups had woken up. I spent a magical half an hour sitting amongst these wild animals watching them sleep. The new born pup was snoring like a chain saw (possibly induced by the way its head was bent upwards), it had its mouth slightly open and I could see its brand new little teeth which had just emerged from the gums. I wonder how mum appreciates these teeth when they dig into her belly?  
Underneath the pup's pristine coat I was able to make out the beating heart, I even saw the two stages of the heart beat, first the chest contracted further up and then a little bit further down.

Suddenly the fast breathing combined with the snoring stopped - I got really worried that I would be witness to the sudden death of this sea mammal - however the heart beat continued and when I leaned closer I noticed that the animal was still breathing, only much quieter and more shallow. Who knows, maybe the pup had already been hunting fish in its dreams?

(Skomer Warden)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Seals on Wheels

Every day when we go and monitor our seals they make us giggle and smile, like this seal which is only 17 days old but already interested in motor vehicles

This one on the other hand is 19 days old but still enjoys a swim with mum, a hug and a kiss

And this cheeky teenager (weaner) who should be able to look after himself is wondering whether mum will notice if he has a quick suck (have a close look at his eyes)

It seems she did not

And did you know that we get our seals delivered on pallets nowadays?

And finally what do you think of this beauty in her tutu

But not just the kids have fun, the adults like a bit of a play too, like this female swimming upside down for 20 minutes

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Famous Seals

Our Skomer seals are going to be on TV on Sunday 19th October, BBC1, at the slightly earlier-than-usual time of 6:20pm.

Richard Taylor-Jones filming the Skomer seals on South Haven
Also have a look at this video on Youtube. I bet everyone can spot the Skomer footage.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Pup 118 and counting

At the moment it is rather tricky to keep up with all the pups that are being born on Skomer every day. Today we found pup 118 only minutes after its birth. It was still wet and seemed very sleepy: getting born is exhausting! Mum looked rather cool and wasn't concerned the least by our presence. We carefully moved away so we would not disturb the young family.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Crowded Skomer

It seems that a fan club of our recently serviced and repaired boat has formed on Skomer Island. Due to the crowd gathering around our slip way we have to carefully maneuver our boat into the water when we launch it.

Five weaners (one is hiding) and two pups (one is hiding too) have taken up residence on our slip way

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Prehistoric Skomer and M4 petition

As a visitor to Skomer in April you might have spotted a group of people working in North Valley with shovels and spades and you probably asked yourself what they were up to. Here you have the answer: They were archaeologist and they excavated a burnt mount. The work on Skomer was then followed up by some radiocarbon analysis which enabled the scientists to date what they had excavated .

The buried land surface beneath the mound of burnt stones has been dated by blackthorn charcoal (very accurate) to 489 BC plus/minus 31 years, the early-middle Iron Age, while a cattle tooth from within the burnt mound dates to 85 BC, a great date in the later Iron Age. This is exciting stuff, and gives us our first scientific dates for the archaeology on Skomer.

Read more and see some pictures on the Heritage of Wales blog.

Our sister Trust in Gwent has been a longstanding campaigner about the proposed new M4 route which will be environmentally catastrophic if it goes ahead. Here you have to opportunity to sign a petition to stop the proposed M4.

(Skomer Warden)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Loomery Scrolls

The Loomery Scrolls are not an iron age document we've just unearthed on Skomer, but are the fascinating product of a collaboration between art and science as Dr. Tim Birkhead explains....

On three separate occasions during the 2014 guillemot breeding season artist Chris Wallbank accompanied Tim Birkhead to make drawings and paintings based on Tim’s 42 year-long study of Skomer’s guillemots. Chris’s images are inspired by the distribution of birds on the cliffs and informed by the results of the long-term research. The artwork illustrates the dense breeding distribution of guillemots; their intense social relationships – both friendly and aggressive, and the fact that the life histories of many of the birds in Tim’s study colonies are known in detail – including some individuals that are now over twenty years old.

Chris (left) and Tim.
The finished pieces were exhibited between 18-28 September in Sheffield’s Cathedral – an appropriately ‘perpendicular’ and cliff-like setting for these wonderful and enormous drawings. The exhibition, which is part of Sheffield University’s ‘Festival of the Mind’ (see:

is entitled ‘The Loomery Scrolls’. The title refers to the fact that guillemot colonies were once known as ‘loomeries’. The scrolls are like Chinese scrolls that can be read right to left, and provide a sense of the scale of the colonies. 

Working in pencil, black ink, and coloured wash, Chris has created works of art that capture the essence of what guillemot colonies are like, and illustrates the value of art and science coming together in a collaborative project. On 25 September Tim gave a talk in cathedral about his long-tern study and its findings, including the effects of the 2014 ‘seabird wreck’ in which over 40,000 seabirds – many of them originating from Skomer - were found dead. The exhibition has helped to promote Skomer as a seabird island; it has demonstrated the excitement of an artist and a scientist working side by side; and has also publicised the value and necessity of long-term ecological studies. It is hoped that Chris’s work will soon be exhibited in Wales – perhaps even on Skomer.