Monday 24 May 2010

Fantastic weather and special birds.

Announcement first: Skokholm now has its own blog at
The often-overlooked, smaller island, also managed by The Wildlife Trust, is currently closed to overnight guests and only has a handful of day trips out there each year. But lots of people have been asking about the place, in particular many Skomer regulars who have yet to get out there. So the new blog is for everyone to keep track of what's going on across the water.

Skokholm: like Skomer but smaller and quieter.

Although Skomer often seems to have an independent weather system from the rest of the country it appears we have been equally fortunate regarding the sun over the weekend. This was preceeded by a few days of mist and heavy sea fog rolling in and out, during which time our researchers had trouble seeing birds on the cliffs, let alone reading their ring numbers.

The office in North Haven appearing and disappearing as the fog rolls in and out.

But then on Friday it all cleared away and we were left with flat calm seas and brilliant sunshine. Just in time my wetsuit arrived so I've been off swimming with puffins. The sea's cold but not too bad and so clear it's just too tempting.

The island's been really busy, with full boatloads and tickets selling out so the message is; if you want to visit Skomer be at Martin's Haven early.

There's still birds moving through and the last few days have seen a Hobby fly straight over North Haven, up to five Red Kites getting a tough time off the gulls and, the real highlight, a Bluethroat.

Bluethroat photo: Ben Dean

This spectacular little bird, blown off course en route to Scandinavia, showed brilliantly for about an hour before disappearing almost right under our noses.

Here's to more sun and birds.

Jerry Gillham.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

One nest, two nests, three nests, four...

Gull counting galore on the islands at the moment; researcher Mike spent last week walking the forbidden paths of Skomer counting lesser black-backed gulls and in the last few days we have been walking back and forth through a selected few colonies to get a (hopefully) precise number of nests.
Gull counters ready for action (l-r): Chris, Jerry, Jonathan, Mike, Andy, Jonathan, Lyn, Nancy (standing) Amy, Simon, Geoff (kneeling).

These can be quite long days requiring a surprising amount of concentration just to remember a few numbers, but it’s great to be out on the reserve, appreciating the spread of the bluebells as you regretfully trample through them, finding the occasional oystercatcher or short-eared owl nest.
Working hard on those counts.

Last week I was over on Skokholm along with Andy, our Long-Term Volunteer, and six others, doing a similar job. Only with angrier gulls, where it is essential to wear old clothes and a wide brimmed hat.
Skokholm Gull counters (l-r): John, Phil (standing) Wendy, Steve, Andy, Sam, Irene, Jerry.

Whilst over on Skokholm we had plenty of other work to be getting on with; there was a day trip on the Monday as thirty visitors, some of whom had been waiting three or four years to get there, managed a day in the sun. Before that we had been preparing for them by re-marking overgrown paths and scrubbing algae off the jetty.

A lot of clearing, cleaning and tidying went on the whole week. Repairing winter-damage, painting window frames and doors and emptying a storage hut of what felt like a decade’s worth of containers. I’d like to thank all that weeks volunteers for their tireless enthusiasm, good humour and feeding myself and Andy so well that every meal since then feels like a disappointment.
Contemplating the removal of all those empty containers.

Jerry Gillham.
Assistant Warden for Skomer and Skokholm.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

The Northerly winds have broken...for now.

Great news, after 10 days of no boat trips it looks like the island is open again. The past week has been a chilly one full of northerly winds.

The absence of day visitors has given the island volunteers and staff a chance to catch up on lots of small jobs from painting, deep cleaning the compost loos (nice!), repainting signs and monitoring. In particular we have been joining the field assistant, Julia, in her work. This involves checking pairs of guillemots and razorbills for eggs. This all helps to build a picture of guillemot and razorbill productivity and contributing to a data set going back to the 1970s. Thanks for all your help.

This work has been greatly improved by a donation made to the island from a visitor to Lockley Lodge last week. We are very grateful to them for donating an Opticron Mighty Midget telescope and two nice pairs of binoculars. The scope has already been used for monitoring and the binoculars will be kept aside particularly for use by the volunteers. Please get in touch if this was you - it would be nice to say thanks personally.

Other highlights this week - bluebells are emerging and will be best over the next week and a half. Grasshopper warbler, whitethroats, sedge warblers are all singing. Guillemots and Razorbills on eggs and now always seen on the cliffs. Puffins will also be laying shortly.

Chris Taylor
Skomer Warden
07971 114302

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Space for a volunteer (8th - 15th May) and volunteers T-shirts.

Anybody free this week?

We have space for a FEMALE volunteer from 8th - 15th May. Please get in touch on the number below if your are interested.

By popular demand (and with help from the volunteer contribution) we now have T-shirts for volunteers to wear around the Island. The T-shirts have the Wildlife Trust Logo and a strap line saying "Skomer Volunteer"......These T-shirts are also available to buy! The T-shirts are various sizes (representing the various shapes of all volunteers!!) and are washed every week.

Interesting birds lately include Marsh Harrier and Wood Warbler.

Chris Taylor
07971 114302