Friday, 30 July 2021

Skomer highlights - Samanta's summary

So, what is it really like living on an island of limited hot water and no roads, surrounded by 34,796 puffins, 349,663 pairs of shearwaters, 7,529 razorbills, and 28,798 guillemots? Much like home really. 

The highlight of the placement has been spending time watching the sea cliffs, not only from our little boat during sea counts but also during razorbill productivity surveys. At the beginning of my placement, I blogged about fixing up Bull Hole hide for our fieldworker - as it turns out I’m the one who has used it all season as I watched the razorbills on ‘my’ section of the cliff. This consisted of visiting them daily and marking them as present or absent, and whether they were sitting on an egg or a chick. It takes roughly 32-39 days for an egg to hatch and both parents take it in turns to incubate. Once hatched, the chicks remain on the ledge for 14-25 days before taking a leap of faith off the cliff and accompanying dad out to sea. The excitement of watching an egg being laid then hatching and growing into a full-sized chick taking its first tentative steps off the cliff face is hard to beat. 

Razorbills and guillemots at Bull Hole

Upon returning from Bull Hole, I would scour the island for Pembrokeshire’s last breeding curlew as part of my personal project, mapping their territory and locating nests. The area of the island with most curlew activity is surrounding North Pond, where I have spent many a sunny day sitting outside the public hide watching foraging behaviour and their beautiful bubbling territorial displays before seeing them disappear off into the undergrowth. I am currently writing up my findings and hope to present them to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer. 

Another highlight has been assisting Oxford University Navigation Group (OxNav) with their research, whether attaching GPS tags or helping to weigh chicks. It makes all the crawling around on the floor surveying burrows feel worthwhile knowing that these little fluffballs are hiding out under the fragile earth. 

Manx shearwater chick being weighed

Some traditional practices are very much alive on Skomer, as you’ll see from the newly scythed areas. Over the last few weeks on the island we have been managing the spread of the invasive rosebay willowherb Chamaenerion angustifolium. The work was fun but I do not envy the pastoral workers of yesteryear!

Scything rosebay willowherb

Checking for gull chicks

Of all the things I will miss, the sounds of the island will probably be the main thing. At the beginning, nights were unnerving as the calls of Manxies, oystercatchers and rampaging bunnies surrounded me, echoing the calls of the diurnal sea cliffs, but now they are a comfort. 

Birding Highlights: 
  • My first hen harrier
  • The island is home to 4 pairs of short-eared owls, it has been a pleasure watching them hunt Skomer voles to feed their young, even if their ‘barking’ alerted me to their displeasure as I carried out duties around the island. 
  • For years I have hoped for a grey shrike, and this season I have been blessed with both a lesser grey shrike and a woodchat shrike! Not to mention all the wheatear fledglings. 
  • Being from Cornwall, the chough holds a special place in my heart and it has been a pleasure watching so many pairs fledge this season. I hope that ‘brân Arthur’ (Arthur’s crow) will once again fill the Cornish skies as it does the Pembrokeshire coast.

Diversity, Equality, Inclusion 

Skomer Island is an important National Nature Reserve, but it is more than that; it is a place that has inspired so many. The experience for me has been more than fulfilling a lifetime ambition to stay on the island whilst making new friends and gaining career enhancing skills, it has helped me reconnect with the land. My family has always been involved in land management in one way or another, our Romani culture fosters a strong connection with the land but with the decline in traditional industries I fear this connection is becoming lost. The experience gained on Skomer is helping me forge a new path for myself, and I hope that other people from Underserved Demographics find their way onto the island and into the conservation sector. 

What next? 

I have a NERC funded Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science placement with the University of Edinburgh working on ‘Machine Learning for Conservation Management’ that I will be working on for the next couple of months, but I hope to continue working on remote islands and earning my BTO ringing licence, all whilst making more BBC Natural History Documentaries. My eventual aim is to work on Bird Island, South Georgia (Antarctica). I really do hope to return to Skomer in the future, and maybe even visit our sister island Skokholm.


Birthday cake in the garden

Team BBQ



Friday, 16 July 2021

Until next time - a farewell from Becca

Hey everyone, it’s Becca again! My three and a half months as LTV on the island are almost up and while I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to Skomer just yet, all good things must come to an end and so this is my farewell blog post (I promise I’m not crying, it’s just hayfever…).

Now that the madness of June is over, the team has been able to turn its attention to other tasks around the island. There’s been a big effort put into the management of invasive plant species over the last couple of weeks, and focus has shifted from counting seabirds to monitoring and ringing chicks. It’s a time of change on Skomer, with many of the seabirds starting to leave the cliffs as their chicks fledge, glow worms and toads appearing on a night, and vegetation rapidly growing taller than me in some places!

One of the Manx shearwater chicks currently being weighed on a daily basis, held by an extremely excited LTV 


I genuinely struggle to find the right words to express how incredible my time here has been - I’ve had so many amazing experiences and learned so much since arriving in April and feel as though the island has really changed me. Doing at least six welcome talks a week means my days of being an anxious wreck at the thought of public speaking are behind me, going a week without a shower no longer makes me feel like a filthy gremlin, and I can walk up a hill a lot faster than I could three months ago!

A lot of people have been asking me what my most memorable moments have been on the island, and there’s been so many of them that it’s hard to pick which are the most notable. A front-runner has to be watching my backpack roll off a cliff edge and drop 40ft down to the rocks below… despite a broken scope, obliterated camera and reinforced reputation of being a massive idiot, it gave us all a pretty good laugh and is an incident I’ll remember for a long time yet (not that anyone will be letting me forget it!). Another memorable moment is an evening spent watching guillemot and razorbill chicks fledging. Seeing the tiny birds hurling themselves off the cliffs into the water below was like a suspenseful TV drama, we all got so invested in their journeys and whether they were going to make it! I also really enjoyed being able to see the island from a different perspective whilst in the RIB doing seabird counts - some parts of the coastline are like something from a pirate movie, and you don’t realise from land quite how many birds are actually on the cliffs around the island.

 

A young razorbill chick with its parents just a few days before fledging


I’m going to miss a lot of things about living and working on Skomer - being able to walk around the island every day, surrounded by fantastic views and amazing wildlife, is something I’ll definitely miss when I’m back home. Seeing puffins on my daily commute has become the norm, so it’ll be quite an adjustment going back to my hometown and seeing a few scruffy pigeons at most! Strangely, I think I’ll also miss the noise of the island. The constant sound of gulls has become almost comforting, and hearing thousands of Manx shearwaters during the night is something I feel very privileged to have been able to experience, even if it has woken me up a few times.

It’s going to be really difficult leaving the island, but I think I’ll find it even more difficult to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here. Some of my best memories from my time on Skomer have been with the people here, whether that be the movie nights we had in the library, the big potluck dinners we held at the farm or just the general fun and laughter whilst working together. I’ve enjoyed every second of working here and have them to thank for it!

It doesn’t have to be warm for al fresco dining at the farm!

Clutching my bag as I returned to the scene of The Incident


Hopefully this isn’t goodbye to the island, but more of a ‘see you later’… I’m sure I’ll be back to visit before long. So, until next time, thank you for having me Skomer, and I’ll see you soon!

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Comings and goings

It's all change on the island this week. Yesterday, we farewelled our LTVs Becca and Samanta, whose three and a half months on Skomer seem to have flown by. When they arrived back in the beginning of April, two duvets, thermals and hot water bottles were the order of the day - by July they'd at least ditched the thermals, and even ventured a dip in the sea in their final days here! 

A final swim!

They've been invaluable members of the team and have got stuck into every aspect of island work - from species monitoring to vegetation management, from hostel cleaning to welcome talks. We are grateful for their enthusiasm and hard graft - be they covered in mud after Manx shearwater census work, slightly green from choppy seas, or beset by bracken allergies. Outside of work, we've also enjoyed film nights, some shockingly bad games of frisbee, and exceptional baked goods. They've each written a bit for the blog about their time on the island (read Becca's farewell post here | read Samanta's farewell post here), so we won't write much more here, other than to thank them for their work and company, and to wish them all the best for the future. Pob lwc!

Becca assisting with razorbill chick ringing

Samanta scything

Week 1: carpentry with Leighton


Muddy work fuelled by biscuits

We've also said a heartfelt goodbye and thank you to guillemot fieldworker Julie, who will soon return to Australia after eight years and seven seasons on Skomer. Over the years, Jules has shown incredible dedication to her work as well as enhancing the island experience for all those who shared it with her. The 'heart of the research kitchen', she'll be very much missed. 

Pudding al fresco

A boat trip spotting Manxies

Showing the ropes


It's not all goodbyes though - time for some hellos! We are excited to welcome Ed Betteridge to the team as a long-term volunteer (LTV) for the second half of the season. Ed might well be familiar to some of you - he's been visiting the island as a weekly volunteer since 2016, and volunteered for four weeks last year when it was closed to the public. In his first 24 hours, he's been covered in poo and vomit whilst ringing gulls, has cleaned toilets, carried bags, and delivered his first welcome talks in the pouring rain - all with a smile on his face. We'll hear more from Ed soon - watch this space. 

One slightly soggy LTV!


In the meantime, the guillemots and razorbills are also leaving Skomer, as the brave jumpling chicks take the leap into the sea. Kittiwakes will be here for a few weeks more though, filling the cliffs with their distinctive call. On the high grassy ledges at the tops of cliffs you might spot fulmars with chicks, who will soon be left alone for parts of the day by the adults - they are well-equipped for self-defense, as they will projectile vomit on anything that comes too near. Manxies and puffins are both on chicks (check out our burrow-cam footage of a Manx shearwater with its chick here). Sharp-eyed visitors in July might spot pufflings emerging from their burrows for a wing-flap and a look around. We're making the most of our seabirds whilst we can - sight, sound and smell... 

- Ceris, Assistant Warden


Can't make it to Skomer just now? - We'll be doing our best to bring the island to you, in a new series of #SkomerLIVE, running from the 19th-23rd July at 6pm each evening. Tune in here

Friday, 25 June 2021

A whirlwind month

Hi! My name's Izzy and I’m the Seabird Monitoring Volunteer for 2021. I finished my Zoology degree in 2019 and after getting overly excited about seabirds while doing cetacean research, I’m mixing it up to get excited about cetaceans while helping with seabird monitoring! I’ve come to Skomer for the mad month of June to help with the whole island seabird counts and Manx shearwater census.

Izzy

Arriving on the island in late May it was my first visit to Skomer, and it leaves a lasting impression. A flyby of a short-eared owl in the first 10 minutes and then an evening swim with auks flying above our heads and puffins sat only metres away. I knew it was going to be a special month from the off.

First up on the to-do list was the small matter of the whole island seabird counts. The island’s circumference is split into 45 sections, all of which needed to be surveyed either from land or sea to count the cliff-nesting birds, specifically guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes. After we’ve done it once, we start over and do the whole island a second time, hoping the weather is kind enough to get it all done by the end of the 3rd week of June.

Leighton rowing the tender

The 1st of June came along with a whiff. The seal which uses the boat as a snooze station had really made its mark. After 10 minutes of scrubbing and a ‘fragrant’ fishy smell we were ready to load the boat up, jump onboard and head to our first section. Working in teams of 2 we count a species and then compare our numbers; hoping that they are within 10%. If not, we’d try again, often talking through sections of birds (not so beneficial with hundreds of guillemots, but very helpful for the others!). Once we’d ticked off all 4 species we’d move onto the next section. Counting conditions were often affected by winds and tides, so on the days we couldn’t count by boat, we’d do the land count sections instead. These included the mass of birds at Bull Hole, the Wick and High Cliff, some of which took 5 hours for only a small area!


Izzy counting Wick

Soggy but happy

Becca, Samanta and Izzy

Becca and Izzy at North Haven 

After some long days of staring through our binoculars, we got the initial count done within the first week, just in time to start the Manx shearwater census. This yearly survey monitors the population of Manx shearwaters by playing calls down burrows and listening for a response. Most years, we monitor 18 random plots across the island to gather the general trend, then every 10 years there is a full island census. Each plot has as its centre a metal pole from which you run 17.84m ropes to create a circular plot of 100m2, checking every burrow in that area. If you visited Skomer in early June and saw us crawling around on the wet, muddy ground, this was our purpose! We can do the census in any weather, so it meant the foggy/rainy days we had in the second 2 weeks of June were put to good use getting the plots surveyed.

The final Manxie plot!

Cold-calling Manxies

Although there were a few moments of worry about getting the counts done in time, very quickly it all came together and we finished off the land counts on the 19th of June. A big push on the 20th also saw the final 2 Manxie plots finished, though I do take full blame for the long day; hoping/expecting we would get them done by lunchtime meant we didn’t get back until past 6.30pm…

Though it is a cliché, this month really has been a whirlwind. Long days of seabirds, wet bums and laughs. The whole team here on Skomer really have been great to work in this intense time. Even when the weather was grim and we were soaked to the skin we were still laughing, singing ABBA, or telling awful jokes. I’m really hoping this is only a temporary goodbye to Skomer and that I can be back soon for more of the amazing wildlife and the lovely community (though I’m not overly upset to be leaving the overprotective gulls behind!)

See a bird, click!

- Izzy, Seabird Monitoring Volunteer

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

June already!

From blustery May into sunny June, time flies here - we're now in the midst of the busiest time of year, where we must count all of the island's cliffnesting seabirds. It's busy, tiring and exhilarating - long days are spent on the boat, with one of us at the helm and three or four others using binoculars to scour the cliffs. Using clickers, we set to - a click per bird seen, or a click per ten on some of the busier stretches of cliffs. Two counts are done of all of the birds in each of the island's 45 sections. Two people count each species in a section, and if these two counts are within 10% of one another they are allowed. If not, we begin again.

And once we've finished all 45 sections? Well, we start again, with the entire island needing to be counted twice. When we close our eyes, we see guillemots... 

Off the water, the island’s hard-working weekly volunteers have a full programme welcoming visitors, patrolling the island and cleaning the accommodation. They keep the whole island ticking over, and we’d be quite lost without them. Over the past two months, they’ve also set to with a whole miscellany of tasks: sign-making, hide repairs, landslide clearance, painting, sanding, bench and gate construction, exclosure deconstruction, and – unenviably – boat-scrubbing. One large bull seal unfortunately seems to view the island boat as his personal lilo and toilet (!) - extra time for boat scrubbing is now being factored into each day of boat counts.

Shovelling...  


Scrubbing...

Fencing...

... And more scrubbing!

We’ve had a marvellous bunch of volunteers since the season began, adapting well to new ways of working under Covid restrictions and contributing humour, hard graft, Welsh lessons and cake – all very welcome! Diolch yn fawr! (Please note - applications to volunteer on Skomer in 2022 will be advertised on https://www.welshwildlife.org/ from 1st September). 

Meanwhile, the island is busy with new life. Late May saw the first herring, great and lesser black-backed gull chicks, tiny bundles of fluff guarded by loud and protective parents. They were soon followed by the first puffin chicks - the island is now teeming with puffins bearing sand eels, a sign that beneath the surface hungry pufflings are being well fed. Peeping sounds from the cliffs lead the keen-eyed observer to small fluffy guillemot and razorbill chicks, whilst today (8th June) our first downy kittiwake chick was spotted. 

Lesser black-backed gull chicks © Josie Hewitt

Fulmar with egg © Skomer Warden

Puffin with fish © Skomer Warden

Our earliest chicks, the ravens, are now fledging or have fledged, and look very smart in their fresh plumage – in stark contrast with the now rather ragged adults, which are going into moult. Two shelduck chicks (dubbed shelducklings) are defying our expectations by surviving (for now) in the midst of a gull colony, whilst North Pond boasts three broods of moorhen chicks – small pom-poms with comically oversized feet. 

Highlights of May included a gorgeous male grey-headed wagtail at Moorey Mere on the 21st – this dazzling subspecies of the yellow wagtail is rare in the UK, and was a first for a few of us. We’ve had several cuckoos passing through, including 5 in one day on the 15th, and whimbrel, dunlin, green sandpiper and common sandpiper within the past fortnight. On the 24th, a spoonbill, and an osprey (spotted by Dave of West Coast Birdwatching on one of his tours; compensation for the cold, the wet, and the wind!). And, on the 30th, a male western subalpine warbler - incredibly elusive, but well worth the brief views. Topping off the whole month, on 31st May Leighton spotted a stunning lesser grey shrike at the farm - my first ever shrike, and the island's first since 1993.

Grey-headed wagtail © Joe Wynn
Spoonbill © Kerry Fisher
Osprey © Dave Astins/ West Coast Birdwatching

We're not long into June yet, but it's been quite the start, with the lesser grey shrike being followed on the 1st June by a very smart woodchat shrike, spotted by Lisa at the farm, who on the same day had 7 great egrets overhead - a Pembrokeshire record. 


Lesser grey shrike © Dave Astins/ West Coast Birdwatching

Woodchat shrike © Josie Hewitt

You probably won't hear much from us for a few weeks, as we spend time out on boats or dotted around the island for the rest of seabird season. Wish us luck - and see you on the other side!

– Ceris, Assistant Warden


Sunday, 16 May 2021

The most enchanting of islands

Bore da a croeso i ynys Skomer.

Fy enw i yw Samanta. Volunteer dwi.

I am Samanta, along with Becca I am one of the long-term volunteers (LTVs) on Skomer Island this season.

Carrying out repairs on our Bull Hole research hide © Ceris Aston

By now, all start of season maintenance has been completed, and we are fully into the visitor season. It is really great to see so many people returning to the island, although those who have had the pleasure of visiting us this year will know there have been a couple of changes. Like in all previous years it is super important not to stray from the path due to the island’s extensive burrow network, but we have had to implement a counter-clockwise one way system to allow everyone to remain covid safe whilst sticking to those all-important paths.

The island at the moment is covered in a frosting of sea campion and a sea of bluebells. Our puffins and Manx shearwaters are currently on eggs, whitethroat and sedge warblers are calling, and our first razorbill and guillemot eggs have been laid. Swifts, swallows and sand martins have been seen passing through, with some swallows even taking up residence at the farm.

A frosting of sea campion © Ceris Aston

A sea of bluebells © Beth Thompson

For me, like for so many others, Skomer is a special place. I have visited twice as a day visitor and I am really excited to be living here for the next couple of months. Before arriving on the island I was working on a TV documentary called Wonders of the Celtic Deep, exploring the Welsh coastline and bringing our native wildlife into living rooms across the country - but actually being here on the island is something else. I am super passionate about the natural world, and how these special places are managed. The warden team has been especially helpful in mentoring me on practical volunteering such as repairing the research hides and boardwalks, but it has been in areas of birding that I have grown tremendously.   

Skomer is a very special place © Skomer Warden

I think I am finally starting to realise what the difference between someone who enjoys nature and a birder is. I have been learning to actively look out for the birds around me, and record what I see so it can be entered into Skomer’s long term bird log, and I am starting to appreciate the excitement of seeing a new species for the first time. I have a bird list, and I want to add to it, and the only way I am going to do so is by concentrating on what I see and hear, truly seeing and hearing instead of taking the ordinary for granted, because you never know when a rarity is going to appear.

A big part of my responsibilities here when I am not welcoming guests off the boats is surveying our breeding bird population, whether that is our seabirds, waders or passerines. Passerine monitoring is through Breeding Bird Surveys – this means sunrise walks every ten days along a set route and recording everything I see and hear. I also make daily trips to the razorbill cliffs at Bull Hole to keep an eye on who is who, and who has an egg.

Razorbills (Alca torda) at North Haven © Ceris Aston

Alongside this bird watching, I am carrying out a mini project mapping the habitats of Pembrokeshire’s last breeding curlews. We have at least 3 territories on the centre of the island, and I am watching for any breeding behaviour that will give a deeper insight into the lives of this ‘conservation priority’ species. All in all it has been a fabulous experience so far, I am learning a lot from the team and there is still almost 2 months for me to learn even more about this most enchanting of islands!

Samanta, Long Term Volunteer

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Gargling guillemots & legless lizards... An LTV's-eye view of Skomer!

Hi everyone! I’m Becca, one of the long-term volunteers (LTVs) on the island this year.

A brief introduction about myself - after realising a few years ago that I wanted to pursue a career in ecology, I studied a Masters in Biodiversity & Conservation. Following a slow first year post-graduation (the joys of living through a global historical event, eh?), I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to gain some practical experience in the field. Having previously done some research on gannets in Scotland, I’m particularly eager to work with the huge range of seabirds that are found here on Skomer!

The team has been very busy since our last blog - this week saw us welcoming visitors onto Skomer for the first time since September 2019, which has been very exciting! We’re so pleased to finally be able to share the island with the public again, and have been buzzing around getting the island’s infrastructure ready for their arrival. Between bird surveys, barge deliveries and clearing out multiple storage sheds, Samanta (my fellow LTV) and I have been getting our DIY on, making pretty the picnic benches and installing signage along the paths so that visitors can enjoy their time on the island as much as we’re enjoying ours!

With our love for the island in mind, I wanted to share with you my personal favourite places on Skomer (and in game show fashion, these are in no particular order)…

Garland Stone

A walk to the Garland Stone is the first thing we did on our introductory tour of Skomer, and is always my first thought when I fancy a pre/post-work stroll. Once you’ve passed through the sea of bluebells currently covering much of the island, you’re greeted by a spectacular view of the Garland Stone and the sea beyond it - with swallows and sand martins swirling around your head, fulmar gliding over the rocks below, and gannets soaring above the water in the distance, you really get a feel for how wild yet peaceful Skomer Island can be. Gannets are also an indication that there might be cetaceans around, so it’s a great place to catch a glimpse of harbour porpoise or common dolphins!

In the foreground, a grassy green bank, cutting away into steep cliffs. Beyond, a large rock in a blue sea.
Nothing beats the Garland Stone on a sunny afternoon! 


Bull Hole

In my opinion, this is one of the best seabird spots on the island. Home to guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and more, Bull Hole is an intense experience… the sight, sound, and (if the wind is in your favour) smell of a large seabird colony can be somewhat overwhelming! Over this past week I’ve started work on monitoring a small plot for razorbill productivity on the cliff here, and am always impressed by how many birds have managed to cram themselves into what looks like such a small space! Guillemots have what is probably the smallest breeding territory of any bird, extending by only a beak’s length around its nest.

A photograph of guillemots closely bunched together against a dark cliff face
Prime real estate - only a peck away

North Haven

As the boat pulled into land on our initial arrival, I was amazed at how much wildlife I could see before I’d even set foot on the island, and that amazement still remains! The tough walk up the landing steps is worth it for the chance to get a close-up view of the seabirds that nest there, and there are puffins everywhere you look - rafting on the water, bumbling about their burrows, and flapping inches from your head as they whoosh down the hillside. But the biggest personal highlight for me at North Haven is the seals. You can find them every morning laid out like sausages on the beach, but when they’re not being lazy, they’re being extremely curious and like to get a good look at what you’re up to (we had a sizeable audience when clearing the landslide in early April)!

A razorbill standing on a rock
A rather smart-looking razorbill posing by the landing steps

The Farm

As well as being my home whilst working on Skomer, the Farm has proven itself to be a fantastic place to spot wildlife. I’ve seen a lot of personal firsts here - slow worms, ring ouzels and whimbrels, to name but a few - and have also witnessed some fantastic bird behaviours, all from the comfort of a picnic bench with a biscuit in one hand and my binoculars in another! The sight of two short-eared owls dramatically whirling around in the air above the hostel is one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

A woman with a large smile on her face holding a very small slow worm
I was very pleased with my first slow worm, even if it was a baby one!


I could continue this list forever (every part of the island is amazing), but will end it there for now!

Look forward to keeping you posted as the season progresses.

Becca, Long-term Volunteer

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

A Canvas of Blue and Green

Over the past few weeks, there have been a few new faces slowly familiarising themselves with the winding footpaths around Skomer Island. On the 1st of April, the island’s resident (human) population boomed from two to five (!), with our new Visitor Officer and Long Term Volunteers Becca and Samanta making the crossing from Martin’s Haven. The team were also joined by our Head of Islands and Marine, Lisa, and her partner Dave, for some much appreciated voluntary support at this early point in the season. Eleven days later, in what very much seemed like the blink of an eye, the resident population saw yet another jump! This time the team were joined by our new fieldworker Freya, and researchers Jules and Josie from Herriot Watt and Gloucester universities respectively.

Learning the winding footpaths of Skomer © Ceris Aston

You will hear more from the rest of the team over the next few weeks. But for now, it is probably best that I introduce myself! So, hello (su'mae!) – my name is Beth, and I’ll be the new Skomer Island Visitor Officer for 2021!

Crossing over to the island was a somewhat surreal experience. Having never visited Skomer before, and indeed having only seen some of the island’s most well-known inhabitants, puffins, once on a somewhat wet and grey day in Scotland; I was not quite sure what to expect! For those of you who have made the journey across yourselves, you will be familiar with rounding the corner out of Martin’s Haven to a canvas of blue and green (or perhaps, knowing the Welsh weather, grey!). We were greeted on our arrival by Leighton and Ceris, our Warden and Assistant Warden, as well as a number of rather curious seals, an array of auks – razors, guillies and, of course, puffins - and more fulmars than I have ever seen in my entire life!

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) at The Wick © Beth Thompson

Northern fulmar at Garland Stone (Fulmarus glacialis) © Beth Thompson

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) over North Pond © Beth Thompson

Red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) at Skomer Head © Beth Thompson 

I had been warned in advance of the infamous ninety steps that must be scaled from the landing stage – now feeling rather familiar with these steps, I find myself wondering if there are actually more than ninety?! Having narrowly avoided throwing any of our luggage or food unceremoniously into a rockpool, we made our way up to our new home.



Sunset over the Farm © Beth Thompson

Sunset at North Pond © Beth Thompson

Time seems to have run away with us since then. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that, upon writing this, we’ve been settling in to our new island home for over two weeks! In that time we’ve carried out our first breeding bird surveys of the year, cleared the remainder of the landslide at North Haven, repaired several boardwalks around the island, scrubbed and painted hostel rooms, and baked (with varying degrees of success!) more loaves of bread than I’m willing to admit! It’s been an absolute whirlwind – filled mostly with sunshine, blue skies, incredible wildlife, and a whole lot of laughter!

Beth delivering 'as much flour as you can carry!' © Ceris Aston

Clearing the landslide at North Haven © Ceris Aston 

Gator chat © Ceris Aston

We really cannot wait to be able to share Skomer with you all once again, hopefully very soon.

Until next time. Wela i di wedyn!

Beth, Visitor Officer