Monday 31 August 2009

Rainbows end

Typical bank holiday weather for the last few days. Wet and very windy so the boat hasn't been running to us since Saturday. Unfortunately it looks as though the strong wind is going to continue through the week :-( Most of us were planning a food shopping trip this week so we may be on dried rations if it doesn't calm down soon..........

On advantage of this grotty weather is we get some fantastic cloud-scapes and rainbows, this complete double rainbow lit up North Haven on Tuesday night.

We are up to thirteen Seal pups now, all of which are in the caves or inaccessible bays around the Neck. Lots of adults and heavily pregnant cows hauling out on North Haven though. They sing and moan all through the night, which would make for quite an eerie experience if you didn't know what they were!

An interesting sighting of a Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) washed up on Matthews Wick on Monday. This fish lodges itself into nooks and crannies using a clever trigger-like adaptation of it's dorsel fin to hold itself in.

Photo by Dave Boyle

Most things (including us!) are keeping their heads down in these strong winds, but a few more waders trickling through and another Balearic Shearwater seen in St Brides Bay.

Jo Milborrow
Skomer Warden

Thursday 27 August 2009

Gales, gales, gales, gales..........

Two Sunfush were seen from the boat today, one of which was nearly 6ft across! There was also lots of Porpoise around today and yesterday.

The island is looking a little ragged around the edges after the last few gales, and another forecast for tonight. The salt laden winds do a grand job of beating down and salt-burning the Bracken, but unfortunately do the same to the veggie plants in the garden.

There have been a few pleasant days with nice sunny spells between the showers and with some waders and warblers to be seen. Turnstone and Common Sandpiper on North Haven and Rye Rocks, Whimbrel, Curlew and Ringed Plover passing through and lots of Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats. First Snipe passing over on the 24th. One Reed Warbler on the 24th. The first Song Thrush yesterday and the numbers of Robins are building up - these birds don't breed on Skomer but do pass through and overwinter here. Fresh Barn Owl pellets found at Moorey Mere hide - one of their favourite roosts. We suspect that a pair has bred this year around the cliffs. One Sandwich Tern heard passing over North Haven on the evening of the 23rd.

Four Seal pups now (all in caves or out of view though) and several more heavily pregnant cows hanging around the pupping beaches. Check out our webcam images which often give you brilliant views of the Seals on the beaches and rocks around North Haven

One incident today of a private boat coming in very close to a pupping beach and scaring several pregnant cows into the water. This highlights the need for good education and awareness of the disturbance that people can cause. Please have a look at and follow the guidelines to ensure you don't disturb Seals or Seabirds.

Pete, our Visitor Services Officer (glamorous title for a chalet host!) left Skomer today. He has been here for the last five months and has done a grand job looking after our overnight guests and generally helping run the island. Have a look at for more info about coming to stay on Skomer.

There are lots of young Shearwaters coming out of their burrows each night now, they are easily distunguished by their slightly overweight appearance and the tell-tale tufts of grey, fluffy down that they still sport here and there. There have been fewer adults coming back in the last few nights, it is likley that some of them have started on their migration to the waters off South America where they will spend the winter.

Battening down the hatches before the next gale...........

Jo Milborrow
Skomer Warden

Friday 21 August 2009

First Seal pup of the year

The first Seal pup has been born, inside one of the several caves around the island. We hope in the next week or so that more will be born on the beaches and visitors to the island will be able get some great views of them. You can follow the progress of this Seal pup on or on the sidebar.....>

Now is a great time to do a bit of Seal watching on Skomer and around the Marloes penninsula, the adults are hauling out each low tide in North Haven and around the Garland Stone. The bulls will start taking up territory around the pupping beaches and there will be plenty of interactions to watch.
Make sure you follow these rules if you go out seal watching, and go to for more info.

> Never approach Seals close up

> Keep still, quiet and inconspicuous. If viewing from a cliff top keep low and don't cast a shadow onto the beach below

> Seal pups sleep a LOT! It is normal for them to lie still for hours, their mothers will come ahsore every few hours to feed them. The mother may not come ashore if there are humans around so don't stay too long.

The Shearwaters are starting to fledge, they come out of their burrows to exercise their wings each night and get an idea of the big-wide world, they have been underground since hatching for about 70 days! These youngsters can be told apart from the adults by a few tufts of fluff here and there. Late August or September is a brilliant time of year to come and stay on Skomer and see the young Shearwaters. Amazingly these youngsters will find their way to the wintering grounds off the coast of South America all by themselves - a wonder of bird migration!

Big groups of diving Gannets and feeding Porpoises have been seen in the last couple of days. Also one Balearic Searwater in St Brides Bay. Oystercatcher roosts are building up and a few other waders are present such as Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. The Kittiwakes have now all fledged and abandoned the ledges, but there are still young Fulmar to be seen.

Numbers of Ravens are building up
can be watched playing in the up-drafts from the cliffs - fantastic flyers! We think that their numbers build up at this time of year as they come to take advantage of the fledging Shearwaters.

Jo Milborrow
Skomer Warden

Wednesday 19 August 2009

The Walk on the Wildside

Two Wildlife Trust staff are polishing their walking boots for some serious hiking to raise money for Skomer and the Welsh Wildlife Centre. Llinos Richards, who used to work on Skokholm Island and now manages the Welsh Wildlife Centre, and Lucy Griffiths who manages Lockley Lodge, our mainland shop and information centre at the boat departure point, are getting ready to start a mammoth charity trek........they are looking for your support to keep them going through those many, many miles..!

The Walk on the Wildside

186 miles, 12 days, 2 feet, 1 great cause......

The Walk on the Wild Side is a charity trek covering the entire 186 miles of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in 12 days this September to raise vital funds for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. We’re hoping to raise over £2000 for the Trust and would really appreciate your support.

Where will the money go?
We’re both passionate about conservation education and are keen to help the Trust improve the facilities it provides for schools and other visitors to its reserves. Thousands of children and adults visit our reserves each year both for pleasure and for educational purposes and in order to safeguard local wildlife for the future it is vital that we get our conservation message across to our visitors in an engaging and impactful way. The funds raised by the Walk on the Wild Side will go directly towards the development of facilities and material for educating future generations of conservationists, specifically those on our reserves at Skomer Island and the Teifi Marshes.

How can you help?
We're really hoping that both our local communities and visitors to the area will support us on our journey by sponsoring us, making a donation, spreading the word, or perhaps even joining us on part of the walk. We'll be posting our itinerary regular progress updates on our web site

Thank you for your support…
Llinos & Lucy

Monday 17 August 2009


The last week has been a flurry of farewells, as Haf and myself left the island. It is always sad when the summer season is over and you have to become adapted to the stresses of mainland life! The last couple of days were very hectic as I was finishing off writing my part of the 2009 Seabird Report. Jo completes the other half of the report before sending it off to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee who compile our data along with data from the Isle of May, Fair Isle and Canna to produce an overview of seabird populations in the UK. A summary of 2008's report can be found at :-

Social activities also increased in the last week, despite being on an island you actually end up having less time to yourself than when your on the mainland because it is so sociable! My colleagues, volunteers and some of the 'repeat offending' overnight guests have made my stay on Skomer so enjoyable-there is always a friendly face around. This week we had more volunteers over than normal, as a group from the Pembrokeshire mainland reserves came over with an awful lot of wood to create a new boardwalk at Moorey Mere and to replace the boardwalk over South Stream.
Five boat loads of timber were bought over to the island

They did an amazing job, and seemed to have finished it before I'd even realised they'd started! Although it did take the whole day before to bring the planks over in the islands boat then carry them bit by bit up the track with the tractor. Dave didn't know whether he was coming or going after going back and forth so many times!
Volunteers installing new boardwalk at Moorey Mere

Tim Healing left this week too, after researching the Skomer vole population for the last three weeks, he's off to neighbouring Ramsay Island to investigate their rodent population. Numbers appeared to be high on Skomer, which is good news for the Short eared owls, as voles are their main prey item on the island. One of Skomers' regular volunteers Julian has been helping Tim out with checking traps, and will continue to do this for the next couple of weeks while he's on the island to get some extra data. Tim will be back next year for his 40th year of research on the island! Skomer Vole. Picture by D. Boyle

Ben and Holly (our resident Manx Shearwater researchers) might hopefully get some sleep soon, as their current tracking mission is nearly complete. I don't envy them staying up till 5am working, but then they do get to work with such beautiful interesting birds. Some of the chicks will be fledging in the next week as they are starting to look like a proper adult apart from a fluffy patch on their bum and their chin! Manx Shearwater nearly ready to fledge

Most of the shearwater chicks are still big fluff balls, including the ones in our web cam burrows. Check them out on:-

-especially interesting to watch in the evening after dark when the adults come in to feed the chicks.

My last day on the island was perfect, a gorgeous sunny day where we spotted 8 common dolphins off the coast. Carl and Kenny were even luckier on the Dale Princess round island cruise to see 3 Risso's dolphins-quite a rare sighting. The day was completed by a night of absorbing the sights and sounds of the Manx Shearwater whilst watching shooting stars in the recent Perseid meteor shower. Skomer is definitely an island paradise.

I'd like to thank everyone who's made my time on Skomer so special, and wish everyone Happy island viewing!

Tessa Cole

Field Assistant.

Saturday 8 August 2009

A potato in the hand; not as good as thousands of shearwaters on the sea.

As promised in my last post, the weather has been both hot and sunny the last few days. Fantastic times for being on Skomer.

Swimming in the sea at lunchtime is becoming a more regular occurrence, though maybe swimming is still to strong a word for what amounts to jumping in, screaming and thrashing about before quickly climbing back out. But we jump in again, and surely that's the point.

One of our success stories this year has been our vegetable garden. Resurrected after several untended years with a new and improved fence after a rabbit attack, it has begun to reap a terrific harvest: potatoes, beans, beetroot, carrots, peas, courgettes (millions of courgettes), radishes and a whole variety of lettuce. As well as being a relaxing way to spend the evening it has a more valuable role; we don't have to do as much shopping. I'm sure you can appreciate that bringing fresh vegetables back to the island is a problem - they are easily crushed and they soon go off, and potatoes are heavy. So a big thank you to everyone who has helped on that throughout the year, in particular volunteers Julian and Myf.

Well the life of a warden isn't all swimming and potatoes; we have deal with our fair share of awkward customers as anyone. Yesterday it was a couple from a motorboat who wanted to land on the island, a National Nature Reserve full of ground-nesting birds remember, with their dog. When it was pointed out that that wasn't allowed they explained that they only wanted to let their dog onto the beach so it could do it's business. As if that was fair enough and not completely disgusting.

The day was rounded off with an excellent evening round-island cruise on the Dale Princess. Myself and Haf joined a group of visitors to offer our 'in-depth' knowledge about the island, talking about the history and pointing out any bird life. We ended up north of Skomer and found a raft of thousands of Manx Shearwaters, a truly spectacular sight as they swarmed past us.

These birds were waiting to return to their burrows by the cloak of night. Trouble is the skies are clear and there's a really bright full moon out at the moment. Looks like those young shearwaters will just have to wait a while.

Jerry Gillham
Assistant Warden for Skokholm and Skomer.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

The weather won't stop the science.

We're into August already! With only a month left on my contract I'm looking at making the most of the island, unfortunately the weather seems to have other ideas. Our day trip out to Skokholm yesterday was cancelled as big southerly winds made landing there utterly impossible. A disappointment for those who'd booked their place on it months ago, and a disappointment for myself as I want to see it before I head off; not only have I got to count the young fulmars, I've left a load of clothes and food over there.

Skokholm jetty with large southerly swell - no chance of landing here.

The good news is, for anyone travelling down to Pembrokeshire this week, the forecast is a good one for the rest of the week and next weekend. Perfect for picnics on the island while looking out to sea spotting dolphins, porpoise and gannets.

Although the breeding season is coming to a close on Skomer that doesn't signal the end of scientific work. Staff and volunteers are getting a chance to help with research on the unique race of Skomer Voles that live on the island. The Manx Shearwaters are still feeding their young and our researchers have been up most of the night, when they return to their burrows with food, fitting them with all sorts of tiny hi-tech gadgets so we can find out all about where they go during the day. The more we understand about the shearwaters' feeding habits the better equiped we are to protect them as a species.

When they have time we will hopefully have a blog entry from the researchers, explaining their work and what they've learnt.

Jerry Gillham.
Skokholm and Skomer Assistant Warden.