Wednesday 28 April 2010

Out of the mist...

As the mist comes and goes, something has materialised from nothing.

As Amy mentioned yesterday, Skomer Island has been an artist's haven this week.

This time lapse video shows the sculpture that she told you about being created from driftwood and scrap metal salvaged from South Haven and from around the Old Farm:
And here is David (far right) with his sons who helped create the piece, Adam and Luke. For more of David's work, go to his website
I know everyone on the island is really pleased with the result. Thanks to David, Adam and Luke!
You will find the sculpture outside the Old Farm on Skomer. I hope you can come and see it soon.

Visitor Services Officer

Monday 26 April 2010

Collecting driftwood in the fog at South Haven
Hi everyone,
It's been really foggy out here on the island for the past two days. I'm only just able to see over to Ramsey Island and this morning I could hardly see the other side of North Haven. The oil tankers in the fog looked pretty spooky.
Believe it or not it's been a nice change from sunny but windy days we've been enjoying for the past few weeks. We had a bit of rain on Saturday night and all the plants appreciated it. My lettuces have started sprouting and I saw a bluebell flower this morning.

Work begins on the sculpture at the Old Farm

We've got some artists staying on the island this week; Dave Gosling and his sons Luke and Adam are constructing a sculpture made from driftwood and other materials found on the beach at South Haven. The sculpture will be situated just in front of the courtyard at the Old Farm. At the moment they are still working on it but I'll put a picture of it up when it's finished.

Linda's studio on Skomer

Linda Norris is currently working on the island, doing some research for new artwork. Linda has been visiting the island for the last seventeen years. You can see some of her work at

There's lots going on at the moment and it looks like it will be an interesting week, the puffins and shearwaters should be laying fairly soon too.
Bye for now,
Amy Corton, Assistant Warden.

Monday 19 April 2010

Diverse new arrivals.

There's been a few new arrivals on Skomer in the last few days.

First up was a shiny new generator. With all the sunshine we're having at the moment we've not been short of power but we'd be foolishly optimistic to expect that to last all summer. It only takes a few overcast days and we're down to electricity rationing. So this will solve any power problems.

Getting anything of its size onto the island was always going to be interesting, and so Friday evening found a group of spectators watching the following sequence of events unfold.

The Dale Princess and Lady Helen pull into North Haven amidst a raft of puffins. The generator is winched onto a floating pontoon.

The pontoon is cut adrift and pulled close enough to the shore that generator trailer can be attached to the tractor.

Then is towed very slowly up the track.

That's not only island arrival that's impressed us as there's been a few migrant birds dropping in. Dunlin and Whimbrel, a few Redstarts, two pairs of Ring Ouzel and, probably most admired, a Hoopoe that's been spending today walking up and down the paths searching for invertebrates in the short grass.

We'll keep our eyes open for more.

Assistant Warden.

Friday 16 April 2010

Another lovely day on the island, the wind has dropped a bit so we've had some visitors today. All the seabirds were behaving themselves and posing on the cliffs for photographs, with the guillemots and razorbills squeezing onto the ledges at High Cliff. It was lovely to hear them all trumpeting away on the rocks. There were at least 1600 guillemots on The Amos at the south west (counted by Katherine our guillemot researcher). The kittiwakes were loud today too, not to be outdone by the auks.

Hebrew Character moth
As it was less windy last night, I set the moth trap at the back of the farmhouse and caught some little beauties. I'm just learning my moths so it was great to see some new ones.

Pris and Bridget hard at work

We've all been busy with Jerry building some new boardwalk at the muddy patch near Moory Mere hide and our volunteers re-painting the sightings boards at the landing.

Bye for now,

Amy Corton, Assistant Warden

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Skokholm, Helicopters and Researchers

As it was sunny and calm on Monday we decided it would be a good day to get across to Skokholm. Partly to scrub a load of seaweed and algae off the jetty so we'll be able to land a work party there next month, partly to see what was going on there bird-wise and partly to allow new staff Amy and Jonathan to see the place.

Despite the sun there was much evidence of how wet it has been the last few weeks as full streams and muddy slopes made the cliff edges a little more perilous than usual. There was plenty of bird life from late-nesting Ravens to migrant Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcap as well as the sixteen White Fronted Geese that have been moving around this part of Pembrokeshire for a few months now.

As we topped the rise near the lighthouse we watched a low flying helicopter with growing interest as we realised it was coming in to land right in front of us. Two Trinity House employees unloaded and as they went to open the lighthouse we went to introduce ourselves; I think we were all equally surprised to see other people on a supposedly closed and deserted island.

"Can we go up the lighthouse?" Amy unashamedly asked. They kindly agreed and while they sorted out the power we excitedly climbed the spiral staircase, having been told 'don't touch any moving parts'. The view from the top was great, not just of the island and the surroundings but of the light itself. We're grateful to the good-natured employees of Trinity House for the opportunity.

Charlotte, Amy, Jonathan and Jerry play at being lighthouse keepers.

On our return to Skomer we picked up Julia, our new Field Assistant, and a new Guillemot researcher, Katherine arrived on the boat yesterday. As the tide came in and the wind swung round to the north yesterday the sea got quite choppy on our jetty and through Jack Sound. It looked like our departing day visitors had an exciting journey back. Unfortunately, northerly winds bring the waves crashing right onto our jetty so we've not been able to land any visitors today. A shame when it's otherwise so nice but I don't think it'll last long.

The last few days on Skomer have seen a build up in the number of small warblers, decent passage of Swallows, Sand and House Martins and a few Hen Harriers hanging around North Valley. Peacock butterflies are being seen regularly as are over 100 seals hanging around North Haven. One of our volunteers spotted an Emporer moth while yesterday I was distracted in the middle of one introductory talk by a Sand Lizard appearing behind the island map.

Jerry Gillham.
Assistant Warden for Skomer and Skokholm.

Friday 9 April 2010

It's all GO on Skomer

What a difference a few days makes. We're out and about in shorts and t-shirts welcoming boatloads of day trippers, the overnight accommodation is practically full and the island looks a different place.

I had a day off yesterday, back on the mainland for the first time in over a month. Nothing exciting, just a massive shopping expedition but we did find time for a pint and an ice cream.

We returned to find almost all the seabirds back on the cliffs while the puffins are gathering nesting material; pulling up dead bits of bracken and campion and dragging them into their burrows.

There are chiffchaffs and willow warbers in practically every bush and the blackbirds and wrens are singing loudly. There were several groups of porpoise spotted round the island too.

Long may this continue.

Assistant Warden.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Hello from Amy and Jonathan, on a wet and windy island!

Amy Corton, Assistant Warden and
 Jonathan Parsons, Visitor Services Officer
Hello, I thought I'd introduce myself. My name is Amy Corton, I'm the new Assistant Warden on Skomer Island. I'm really excited about working here for the summer and seeing how the island changes throughout the season.

I've been here for just over a week now and I've been exploring the island and getting used to how everything works. I've not been put off by the bad weather (yet!) but I have been wearing four fleeces at the same time to keep warm.

The island seems much bigger than it actually is; there are so many different paths around and so much to see. Yesterday, I took the history trail from the path which leads to the Garland Stone and enjoyed looking at the ancient wall lines, field boundaries and prehistoric hut foundations. This is the best time of year to look at the history of the island, before the bracken and vegetation grows up and obscures much of it.

At the cliffs I think my favourite bird is the fulmar, gliding stiff-winged across the waves or riding the air currents coming up from the sea I think they really look like they are enjoying themselves.

Hopefully the weather will improve and we'll have some visitors soon!

Assistant Warden

My name is Jonathan and I am the Visitor Services Officer for 2010. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to welcome any overnight guests to the island so far. As Jerry reported the other day, the weather is against us.

As the season continues, I am looking forward to helping visitors to enjoy Skomer around the clock. The Manx Shearwaters have been particularly active over the last few nights, the only way you can see them is to stay the night.

If you are interested in an overnight visit to Skomer, please check the trust website for details of how to book and current availability.

But, please don't think I haven't been kept busy! There has been lots of jobs on the island for all of the staff and volunteers to get stuck into.

Hoping to see you on the island soon.

Visitor Services Officer

Saturday 3 April 2010

From the Muddy Banks of Pembrokeshire

This bank holiday weekend should have seen the opening of Skomer for day trippers and overnight visitors, but apparently that would be asking too much of the good old British weather.

The sea around the Garland Stone last Wednesday.
The swell is still stopping visitor boats getting out.

It feels like it's been raining non-stop for a fortnight while the wind's been doing its best blow us off the island completely. It's been cold enough that I've stood by the back of the fridge to warm up, and we've more mud than we know what to do with (suggestions welcome). Yet the sun's out this morning and suddenly spring seems here - swallows are hawking over the ponds, the gulls are courting and mating, and I wore shorts for a few hours (a little optimistically as it turned out there were rain clouds lurking).

All these delays have given us plenty of time to get ready for visitors; the overnight accommodation is sparkling, the hides are looking healthy and we've spent ages trying to maintain the footpaths. In places this has added to the amount of mud so we've had to go back and put temporary boardwalk over patches. Even so, the best advice I can give to anyone planning on visiting Skomer in the next few weeks is bring your wellies.

Volunteers working hard laying boardwalks, demolishing walls and painting hides.

When the weather's settled there's puffins on the land and guillemots on the cliffs. The last few nights have seen the moon rise later and a massive increase in the number and volume of shearwaters. It's all getting very exciting.

So we'll continue getting everything ready and will hopefully see some visitors soon.

Jerry Gillham.
Assistant Warden for Skomer and Skokholm.