Strong winds, rain, sunshine, starlit nights, and an island empty of visitors. These are all familiar signs that autumn is just around the corner here on Skomer. This year, the start of September also marked the beginning of an event the team had been working away at all year – our first ever Young Birders’ Week.
|A typical autumn day. Heading back from seawatching at Garland Stone © Skomer VO|
The morning of the 4th September seemed to arrive very quickly this year. To say I felt nervous would be something of an understatement. With heavy rain forecast for much of the morning, we were crossing our fingers that the weather would hold off – nothing worse than arriving on an island with a wet sleeping bag in tow! Thankfully, the rain missed us, and participants and their belongings remained dry for the first day at least.
|Spotting the sunfish at Pigstone Bay © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Convolvulus hawk moth © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Over the next few days, the group explored the island, assisted with reptile and cetacean surveys, helped identify moths, and humored us by acting out Skomer charades before the final Bird Log of their stay. Wildlife highlights included our first sunfish and first convolvulus hawk moth of the year, as well as a fleeting glimpse of a knot up at Garland Stone.
Before we knew it, it was time to wave goodbye to our first cohort of young birders, with 10 more due to arrive that same morning. With only four day-visitors making the crossing to Skomer during the second part of the week, the Young Birders very much had the island to themselves.
|Checking the battery-powered moth trap! © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Again, walks were interspersed with sea watches, searching for the ever-secretive Skomer vole, and a mixed bag of moth traps. A power cut in the middle of the night threatened to scupper our mothing attempts. Thankfully, we’d set up an additional (recently repaired) battery-powered trap just a short walk away – saving us from breaking the news of no moths pre-7am! Wildlife highlights included black tern, bar-tailed godwit, and a sparrowhawk predating a Manx shearwater chick a mere stone’s throw away from the hostel window.
|Manx shearwater fledgling up on the surface at night © Skomer VO|
Of course, no overnight stay on Skomer is complete without a night walk to see the Manxies. Both groups headed out to spend time with our most numerous resident. With chicks now venturing out to the surface at night, flapping their wings, and attempting to fly, it was very much a case of dodgems for much of the night. One such walk per group marked the start of a Bird Race. Participants were split into teams, and attempting to tally the highest number of species compared to one another. The eventual winning scores reached a whopping 39 and 51 species respectively.
|Our first group of young birders on their final morning (in the drizzle!) © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Group two getting ready to depart from North Haven © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Undoubtedly, wildlife aside, the best part of Young Birders’ Week was the people the event bought together. It was an absolute privilege to meet you all.
We’d like to extend a huge thank you (diolch!) to all of those who attended Young Birders’ Week. We’d also like to thank Dale Sailing for bringing the groups over at a reduced rate in recognition of the importance of this access event.
Planning begins for 2023!
Until next time. Wela i di wedyn!
Beth, Visitor Officer