Friday, 10 July 2009

When the wind blows....The ferry might stop.

Although the sun has been shining this week, strong north westerly winds on Tuesday and Wednesday meant that the boat was unable to bring any visitors across to the island.
Sadly the forecast for the weekend is unsettled....... it might rain......... it might be windy. might not!
This is one of the things you have to accept about islands, the weather is particularly unpredictable and effects everything that happens out here, there is just nothing you can to do to change it. On top of that there is the effect of the tide to be considered.
The difference between extreme high and extreme low tide around the island is about 7 metres, that's vertical distance, and constitutes a HUGE volume of water. This water has to pass through Jack Sound, a 550 metre gap between the mainland and Middleholm Island. Jack Sound is relatively shallow and littered with submerged rocks. The tide rushes through the Sound at over 6 knots - that's faster than you can jog - and causes all sorts of eddies, swirls and upwellings. If wind and tide run in opposite directions the winds whips the sea up into even more of a choppy nightmare.
Thankfully the boat that brings people to Skomer does not have to pass through the Sounds, merely skirting around it, and is crewed by a team who must have over 30 years combined experience of crossing to the island (although you wouldn't believe it, they are such young looking chaps!)
Those two days of windy but mostly fine weather meant that the staff and volunteers had ample time to get on with lots of work. We continued bracken bashing, an unpopular but very necessary activity. This basically consists of heading out with various lengths of bendy pipe, broom handles and old tennis rackets and beating the hell out of the Bracken.

Staff and volunteers Bracken bashing

As well as dealing with any pent-up anger issues and creating brilliant callouses on your hands this is an effective way of managing the spread of Bracken on the island. Due to the fragile nature of the island we cannot use more conventional Bracken control methods - cattle, machinery or chemicals. The first two would crush the Manx Shearwater burrows and the last may damage the other plants and lichens that flourish out here.
We also helped to ring nearly 300 Lesser-black Backed Gull chicks. This is part of a long running study into the breeding success of the Gulls run by the Edward Grey Institute.

Dave M with a Lesser-black chick ready for ringing

Jo Milborrow
Skomer Warden

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