Thursday 29 October 2009

Last chance to see.....

The boat stops running to Skomer on Saturday October 31st so the next few days will be your last chance to visit the island until April 2010.

There have been plenty of migrants passing through this week, the highlight being a Richards' Pipit on the 26th.

Others seen this week include Common Scoter, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Fulmar, Guillemots and Razorbills, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, lots of Kestrels and Buzzards, Golden Plover, Snipe, Curlew, Turnstone, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Short-eared Owl, lots of Black Redstarts, Fieldfares, Song Thrush, Redwings, a Mistle Thrush, the last few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest, Brambling, Siskin, Linnet, Redpoll and lots of Reed Buntings. So plenty to see!

The Seals and their pups continue to delight, there are two pups on our boat slipway which makes a great spot to sit and watch them for a while.

We have been seeing groups of Porpoise feeding around the island every day and a handful of Common Dolphins have also been seen this week.

Friday 23 October 2009

Red-throated Pipit!

Seen this afternoon on Skomer a very smart Red-throated Pipit. This is just the 5th record for the island, the last being seen in 2002.

Given away by it's distinctive call, Dave spotted the bird as he was doing his rounds of the seal pupping beaches. It was seen several times as it flew between patches of bracken and even obliged us with a quick perch on a rock for it's photo.

These birds breed in the very north of Europe and overwinter in Africa and the middle East. A few turn up in Britain each year when they get pushed off course during migration, so this was a very exciting find! There have also been birds reported from Devon, Lancashire and Scilly in the last few days.

Unfortunately this bird was seen on the Neck, a very fragile part of the island that is left undisturbed except for essential monitoring work (such as the seal project). The forecast is also atrocious for the next few days with a gale coming in tomorow so sadly we arn't going to be able to show this great little bird to other people. But you never know, keep your eyes peeled because there's got to be some other good birds around.........

A couple of big disoveries......

The first dicovery was the origin of the wing-tagged Hen Harrier that has been with us since October 11th.

She was tagged in West Clare, Ireland on July 6th this year as a youngster. Many thanks to Barry O'Donoghue from the National Parks and Wildlife Service for sending info and this photo of the bird when she was being tagged. Also thanks to Stephen Murphy for helping us track down the birds origins.

She was part of a brood of four and was quite large when tagged (538g and wind length 254mm).
The most exciting part of this discovery is that this is the first proven record of a Hen Harrier leaving Ireland. It has been suspected that some birds were leaving to overwinter elsewhere and young birds have often been found at Hook Head - a headland our bird would have passed over on a direct flight from home to Skomer.

She is now 285 km from home and seems to be doing well, she is seen most days hunting through North or South Valley. We have knick-named her Skomer saith (saith=seven in Welsh).

You can find out more about the Hen Harrier project in Ireland by visiting or take a look at their factsheet,5186,en.pdf . There is also lots of work going on with Hen Harriers in England, visit for more info about their recovery project and the threats facing these birds. If you spot a Hen Harier with a wing tag then please get in touch with either organisation as the information will be very useful.

The second discovery was the existence of a highly secretive tea-command centre hidden somewhere beneath Skomer!

It has often been observed that people drink more tea when they are on-island and now it seems we can explain the phenomena.

Jo Milborrow

She's the Skomer Warden. But she doesn't drink tea. Wierd!

Thursday 15 October 2009

October calm

The glorious calm autumn weather continues and so do the great birds. We have had a very smart Black Redstart, two Hen Harriers hanging around, our first Redwings, Fieldfares and Bramblings (winters on it's way!), a Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Yellow Browed-warbler and Lapland Buntings.

We've also had other birds which most people wouldn't look twice at but we get quite excited about because they don't often make it out here. Birds such as Coal Tit, Rooks, Great Spotted Woodpecker and House Sparrows. There has been big movements of Skylarks with over 150 estimated on one day.
As well as all the birds to see there are lots of Seal pups visible on the main beaches. One was born on our boat slipway about 6 days ago and is growing well, it hardly bats an eye-lid when we drive past it on our (to it's eyes massive) tractor to launch the boat. Each pup is marked with harmless coloured spray (as used to mark sheep) so that we can follow their progress. After about three weeks spent on the beach suckling from Mum the pup moults it's white fur (and hence the spray mark) and is then independant of Mum and faces the big wide world on it's own. We have been hearing a couple of adult Shearwaters the last few nights, these will probably be the last ones of the year. There are still a handfull of fledging Shearwaters around as well, but another week or so and they will all be gone.

There is a detailed report on all the wildlife spotted on the island for September on our website now. You can also look through past reports.

The new Wildlife Watch website was launched this week. Wildlife watch is the junior branch of the Wildlife Trust and is the UK's leading environmental action club for kids. Have a look at the site Loads of fun info and games, great for all kids (big and small!).

Sunrise and sunsets have been truly amazing for the last week.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Perfect Autumn days

Skomer has had a fabulous few weeks of crisp, quiet autumn days. The island is beautiful at this time of year lit by low sunshine through dramatic cloud formations. The views across to the red sandstone of Skokholm and Marloes Sands is stunning in the evening when the light strikes the red cliffs, they glow! Sunrise and sunsets have been dramatic, (and easy to see now the days are shorter!!) this is my favourite time of year on the island.

As well as taking in all this dramatic scenery there has been plenty of birds to look for, a Hen Harrier is seen most days, duck numbers are starting to build up, we have a few Blue Tits resident and one Great Tit - these are quite exciting for us, we don't see them for most of the year! The last trickle of Wheatears are passing through and there have been some dramatic passages of Swallows.

We have been able to complete much of the annual vegetation monitoring with the help of the residential volunteers.

Bookings opened this week for volunteering and overnight stays. It is very popular and spaces fill up very quickly, if you would like to come and stay on the island either as a guest or volunteer then please look at the information on our website and get in touch soon so that you are not disappointed.

To celebrate the amazing Wildlife and landscapes we have here in Wales, we are running a brilliant photo competition. The theme is Welsh Nature and photos can be seascapes, wildlife or landscapes. The competition is sponsored by Celtic Vision of Narberth and the prize is a whopping £500 of camera kit!

Entries need to be in by October 23rd and they will all be displayed at the Welsh Wildlife Centre from October 25th, so even if you don't enter yourself you can come and look at everyone else's stunning photos. Find out more and get an entry form at

Jo Milborrow

Skomer Warden