Wednesday 17th June
Had the excuse of friends staying to stay up late and watch the spectacle of the manx shearwaters coming in to land. It is a rather surreal experience as there are roughly 250,000 of these birds on Skomer, all of which have a call which sounds a bit like someone being strangled! They are amazing flying out at sea, just skimming (or shearing) the water, but as soon as they arrive on land they appear rather helpless tripping over vegetation or even their own feet. An unexpected delight was the appearance of glow worms lighting the way along the farm track-the first ones I've seen this season. You can't imagine what people thought of glow worms LED bright bottoms before electricity was invented.....I think you can see where tales of fairies came from.
Woke up to the delights of gale force 7 wind and horizontal rain. This meant there was only a change over boat at 10am, no day trips. Oxford University has a masters field trip over this week, so one group was switching over with another group of students on the mainland. This involved a long chain of people passing bags back and forth, full of soggy bread and beer!They're on the island to do a census of the manx shearwater study plots, results so far are positive.
Thursday 18th June.
Skomer's first shearwater chick of this year arrived today, it'll stay underground until late August, being fed by both parents for the next 70 days. When it emerges it looks nearly identical to an adult manx shearwater where as now I think its got down feathers which make it look like a poodle!
Photo David Boyle 2006
I finished investigating which fulmars are incubating eggs, so now I'll have to wait until the middle of July to see which pairs have successfully produced a chick. I continued my productivity monitoring of the razorbills and guillemots, getting drenched by an unexpected shower in the middle of the day. The thistle flowers are out on the isthmus which connects the neck (a research only area) to the main body of the island. The yellow flag irises are also out in north valley which provide a very cheerful display of colour.
I was walking down South Stream valley when I nearly stood on a short eared owl chick. It was quite large but motionless in the vegetation. I think I was as surprised to see it as it was to see me! Normally your walking along the paths when you hear hissing coming from the vegetation but you never normally see them until they're almost fledged. There are actually 4 short eared owl chicks in South Stream valley, they spread themselves out over a large area which their parents patrol and hunt in. They're able to run at quite a speed unless you walk up and surprise them which I must have done with this youngster, then they freeze and stare at you with there intense eyes pretending to be a rock!