Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Shearwater Week Wrap Up

At the end of August we ran our first Shearwater Week on Skomer. Every night we bribed our tame Oxford Uni researchers, Liam Langley and Olly Padget, to deliver a talk to overnight guests and show them manxies being weighed. Although this cost us dearly in bribes, cake, tea and beer, it was a resounding success and everyone left with some amazing Manxie memories.

The event was fully booked and we will be running it next year too. We're going to change the format a little bit to allow everyone a slightly more relaxed stay so you'll be booking to stay two nights, with the presentation and evening walk one night, and manxie weighing demonstration the following morning. The price is £70 for adults, £30 for kids under 16. Bookings open on October 6th and we think this will be booked up really quickly!

In case you're not sure about it or want to find out more I decided against writing any more about the event, despite being asked to write this blog, and made a couple of videos instead so you can see and hear what it's all about.

So here's two short videos to give you a taste for more:


Hopefully those clips will have whetted your appetite to find out more about these amazing birds which call Skomer their home. Who needs puffins?!

Andy Bramwell, Skomer Visitor Officer

Sunday, 14 September 2014


...not of the chocolate variety but of the feathered kind: Manx Shearwaters and Migrants.

A new collaboration between The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and West Coast Birdwatching began today. Dave Astins, local guide and birding guru, is showing a group the delights of Skomers amazing wildlife. Even before they had arrived they had found a Dotterel, a Yellow Wagtail and a Whinchat at Martin's Haven. On arrival they were shown their first Manx Shearwater fledging which had been gathered up by the wardens (pic. below). They had great views of one of two Wrynecks on the island and witnessed migration in action with Swallows, pipits and wagtails flying through. A full list of the days birds is given below. They also counted seals and saw seal pups and Porpoises, identified butterflies and spotted lizards. The highlight they tell me though was the flying pig that they saw just after watching a Wryneck. In the picture below it is the tiny dot in the sky just left of the telescope. Their surprise turned to amusement when they realised it was a balloon in the shape of a pig! then back to frustration when they considered how bad it was for the environment.

The group doing some fairly relaxed birdwatching after a trek to Bull Hole

Their first really good bird on the island - a Wryneck

Juv. Garganey on North pond


Juv. Ringed Plover

A Manxie fledgling that shouldn't have been out during daylight as it would have fallen prey to a gull or Raven

Keep an eye on the blog and website for your opportunity to join in with one of our birdwatching weekends in 2015.

Birds from 14/09/2014

Grey Heron 7
Teal 24
Mallard 1
Garganey 1
Shoveler 7
Sparrowhawk 1
Buzzard 8
Kestrel 3
Hobby 1
Peregrine 1
Water Rail 3
Ringed plover 1
Dunlin 1
Snipe 3
Whimbrel 8
Curlew 27
Greenshank 1
Turnstone 2
Black-headed Gull 1
Collared Dove 1
Barn Owl 1
Wryneck 2
Sand Martin 8
Swallow 515
House Martin 59
Tree Pipit 4
Yellow Wagtail 1
Grey Wagtail 2
White Wagtail 3
Robin 30
Whinchat 8
Stonechat 7
Wheatear 26
Sedge Warbler 4
Blackcap 2
Whitethroat 8
Chiffchaff 20
Willow Warbler 35
Goldcrest 2
Spotted Flycatcher 18
Chough 4
Raven, many incl. a single flock of 45
Goldfinch 1
Linnet 3
Reed Bunting 3

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Skomer Island in September

So, why visit Skomer Island in September, we hear you ask. Well, we (the Skomer Team) find it easy to think of a hundred different reasons! However, just to try and tempt anyone who fancies a Skomer adventure, here are a few…

·       Our wonderful island hostel. Come and stay the night in our peaceful and very comfortable accommodation, set in the centre of the island and with wonderful panoramic view of the Pembrokeshire coast. Once a working farm, it’s now the perfect way to experience Skomer Island, where you can see:

·         Grey Seals. September is a great time to see Grey Seals on Skomer, with plenty of animals hauling out on the many beaches and offshore rocks we have around the island, offering good and entertaining viewing! With many of our animals also pupping on our quiet secluded beaches, now is the best time to come and see the seal pups.   

·         Manx Shearwaters. All I can say is… What a bird! It’s just oozing with mystery and amazing facts. Did you know for example that Manxies (as they are affectionately named) are known to live for over 50 years? And that they travel from Skomer to the coasts of Argentina and back EVERY YEAR? Totally amazing! Skomer Island plays host to the largest colony of this bird in the world, with an estimated 316,070 pairs nesting here (wow!), and now is the time that the chicks start to leave their burrows at night, so it’s a busy place after dark. As Manx Shearwaters are only active on land at night, the best (and only!) way to experience these birds on land is to stay with us in the hostel. We look forward to seeing you!

·         Getting up close to nature.

-          Migrating birds. September is a particularly exciting and important time for migrating birds. Using the island as a refuelling station, many birds that leave the UK to winter in warmer climes will temporarily stop with us to take on fuel and to maintain their energy levels. Anything from ducks and geese, to waders, to owls and birds of prey, to thrushes, warblers, finches and buntings can be found on the island; the variety can be impressive! The island has a good track record for turning up fantastic rarities at this time of year also, so any keen birders? Come and try your luck!    
-          Insects. The island is still alive with insects, with butterflies and dragonflies still on the wing. The island moth trap is also frequently being operated at this time of year, offering the chance to see some of our lesser known nocturnal insects
-          Marine mammals. I’ve already spoken about the seals, but September is also one of the best times of the year to see Cetaceans around the isle. Harbour Popoise is seen daily around the coast at the moment, and Common Dolphin is also very frequent.

·         Genuinely stunning surroundings and fantastic walks. It’s no exaggeration when we describe some of the coastal landscapes here as breath-taking. The rugged coastal path that leads you round the island is truly impressive and well worth exploring.

So come and pay us a visit! Day trips are still sailing from Martins Haven from 10am onwards, until the end of the month, and of course there is still room in the hostel if you want to experience Skomer to its full potential.

Jason (Assistant Warden) 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Skomers run of good birds continues with light easterlies again producing the goods. After yesterdays Icterine Warbler (12th record for Skomer) the last thing we expected today was the similar, but geographically separated, Melodious Warbler (also the 12th record for Skomer), but that is indeed what we found near the farm at 09.00. This, however, was probably eclipsed by a Kingfisher (6th record for Skomer) that whizzed through North Haven as afternoon boats were leaving. Other good birds seen today were Tree Pipit, two Pied Flycatchers and a Wryneck. Full List on right.
Melodious Warbler

Tree Pipit sitting just above the Melodious Warbler

If you would like to be shown the spectacle of autumn migration on Skomer Island with local expert Dave Astins there are still a few places on his birdwatching weekend (14th to 16th September). For bookings call 01239 62100.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Today was a good day for migrant birds on Skomer Island, with easterlies several days ago and light variable, but with a touch of east, today providing good winds for such things. An Ortolan Bunting at the Farm was undoubtedly the highlight and an Icterine Warbler in North Valley wasn't bad either. A full list of todays birds is given to the right.

Ortolan Bunting on Farm buildings am

Icterine Warbler in North Valley

White Wagtail


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Unknown Wales

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are again working with the National Museum Cardiff to run the Unknown Wales Conference, which this year will feature talks ranging from sand lizards, Skomer Voles (by Tim Healing) to fossil ferns, concluding with a talk from TV producer Stephen Moss. It will be taking place on Saturday 11th October at the museum in Cardiff.

In association with the conference, a 'Conservation in Action' photography competition is running to enable us to showcase the wide variety of conservation work that takes place in Wales. Everyone (for example Skomer volunteers) who does hand on conservation work in Wales can enter. The entry is free and the deadline is end of August.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Escaped Gyr Falcon

Yesterday we got very excited when we saw all the gulls on the island go up as if something big and threatening was coming over. They do this even when something harmless to them comes over like an Osprey. So we all started looking up for an Osprey or Heron or something and in the end got a glimpse of a large whitish falcon being mobbed by a Peregrine, which it made look small. Today we got better views and confirmed our suspicions that it was an escaped white morph Gyr Falcon. A very impressive beast.

White morph Gyr Falcons naturally occur in Greenland and parts of Siberia and are record breaking in their size and power.
(Skomer Warden)