Thursday 22 July 2010

Evenings on Skomer

The puffins are still at the Wick, but only for a couple more weeks. Last night there were hundreds, running around all over, squabbling between themselves and wheeling about in the sky. It was very easy to take photos and a quick film too. You'd think that I would have enough puffin photos by now after four months on the island but it's very easy to take lots more, they are just so photogenic.

Nights have been busy with Manx shearwaters. The cloudy weather has been perfect for them to sneak past the hungry gulls. Last week I went out at about eleven pm to see them come in to land, it was very very dark and raining quite heavily but it didn't put the birds off. I even had to duck a couple of times as they swooped past my head, it was very exciting listening to their eerie calls as they found their way back to the burrow and the hungry chick waiting inside.
If you would like to experience the shearwaters returning at night we still have spaces available in our overnight accommodation. There are rooms available in August, September and October from only £25 per person per night in August and only £20 pppn in September and October. Click here for a link to our bookings page

If you would like to see a shearwater during the day, pop into the visitor's centre at the Old Farm and have a look at the burrow camera. The chick in burrow 1 has hatched now and just be seen next to the adult bird, look for a grey fluffball. We also have footage recorded in previous years so that you can be certain to see a chick.
The egg in burrow 2 fared less well and didn't hatch, but it has still been interesting to watch the activity in the burrow with sexton beetles busy burying the dead egg.

Sexton beetle and egg
The beetle is in the lower right side of the photo and has bright orange patches on its back. Sexton beetles (also known as burying beetles) are really useful as they tidy up dead animals, burying carcasses underground to lay their eggs in.

July and August have been good for butterflies and moths, small copper butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths are my personal favourites, look for them around the sea campion at the cliffs and honeysuckle at the landing point.

Small copper butterfly

That's all for now,

Amy Corton

Saturday 17 July 2010

Birds list June to early July

Hi everyone,
Plenty of wildlife out and about on the reserve this month.

Skomer Wildlife Highlights June to July 2010

Up to 95 Canada geese seen on North Pond and plenty of goslings

A brood of 9 shelduck chicks on North Pond at the start of June, and in North Haven later on

Shoveler chicks seen on North Pond

Teal ducklings seen on the 15th June

Pheasant present on the island and chicks seen from the 22nd June

Fulmar chicks seen on the cliffs from the 1st July

Manx shearwater chicks hatching, large rafts of birds seen in St Brides Bay in the early evening

Storm petrels present on the island

Gannets diving for fish on windy days

Juvenile cormorants seen on The Amos

Shag seen regularly around the coast with juveniles on the Garland Stone

5 little egret at Moory Mere on the 8th June

2 grey heron flying over on the 8th June and 4 seen over North Haven on the 5th July, mobbed by gulls

Buzzard commonly seen around island, mobbed by jackdaw at Bull Hole

Peregrine juveniles at High Cliff throughout June and early July

Moorhen with chicks at Moory Mere

Oystercatcher breeding, lots of large chicks at the end of June and early July

Curlew with chicks at the start of June

Lesser black-back, greater black-back and herring gull chicks seen all over the island

Kittiwake with large chicks seen at the Wick, Bull Hole and High Cliff

Guillemot and razorbill chicks on cliff ledges. Starting to fledge from mid June

Puffins bringing fish in for chicks, large chicks exercising at burrow entrances

Several racing pigeons seen at the Old Farm. Please do not feed the pigeons!

Wood pigeon and collared dove seen all over the island

Little owl with large chicks seen on rocks on the way to the farm from North Haven

Short eared owl juveniles seen amongst bracken near Captain Kites rock, seen less


towards July

One swift at the Wick on 1st June

Skylark singing all over the island

Swallow breeding in the Old Farm, juveniles flying from start of July

House martin at the start of June

Meadow and rock pipits seen regularly

Pied wagtail breeding at the Old Farm, juveniles seen in the courtyard

Wren and dunnock heard singing regularly

A black redstart on the 2nd June

Wheatear breeding around the coast, juveniles seen from early July

Blackbirds seen around island, juveniles at Old Farm

Sedgewarbler and whitethroat singing in elder and bramble

Family groups of chough seen around Wick and Mew Stone

Groups of raven at The Amos and Bull Hole

Juvenile magpie at the start of July

Up to 70 jackdaw at North Pond in elder

Carrion crow seen regularly

Occasional chaffinch around Old Farm

Small flocks of goldfinch juveniles at thistles behind farm in early July

Linnet around Old Farm at the end of June

Pairs of reed bunting around the island


Dark green fritillary, red admiral, small copper, large white, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, ringlet, greyling and meadow brown butterfly on sunny days

Cinnabar, burnet and hummingbird hawk moth seen during the day

Fox moth caterpillars

Glow worms at night amongst the bracken

Marine life

Seals seen at the Garland Stone, Pig Stone Bay and North Haven

Jellyfish seen from the landing at North Haven

Porpoise seen at the entrance to North Haven and one calf on the 14th June

What to look out for in July

Waders sightings increase as birds begin return passage, look out for dunlin, whimbrel, curlew, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, purple sandpiper, greenshank, turnstone and lapwing.

Most razorbill, guillemot and puffin will have left by the end of the month, the odd few hanging around on cliffs or on the water.

Fulmar chicks seen more often as they grow bigger and parents cease brooding them. Kittiwake chicks ready to fledge by the middle/end of the month. Willow warbler and chiffchaff start passing through in small numbers.

As well as the usual butterflies look out for - wall brown, gatekeeper, grayling and humming-bird hawk-moths.

Seal numbers increase at haul out sites by the end of the month. More sightings of common dolphin and chance of seeing sunfish.

Friday 9 July 2010


With all the amazing birdlife on the island I sometimes forget about the other animals, so I though I would share this picture of some shrew babies we found in Jerry's vegetable garden under a plank. They were absolutely tiny, pink squiggling blobs tucked away in this cosy nest. We quickly replaced the board so that the adult shrew could get back to them.

Shrew babies
The puffin chicks (or pufflings) are getting larger every day and over the past couple of weeks we have been ringing them. It's quite hard to get the chicks out of the burrows, and involves lying on the cliff tops with an arm in a burrow up to the shoulder feeling around for a small squishy lump. This could be a puffin chick or a pile of puffling poo! Each burrow contains just one chick, and sometimes an angry parent.

Extracting the pufflings
Puffin burrows can be two or three feet long and sometimes bend around which makes it difficult to reach the chicks. Often there can be more than one passageway in the burrow and so finding the chick takes a bit of practise.
This little chap was too small to ring, the ring would have slipped over the foot and been lost so we put him back down the burrow. If you look at the end of the beak you can see the egg tooth which was used to chip away at the inside of the egg when hatching.
The majority of chicks were large enough to ring, we also measured the length of their wings and weighed them.

Fitting a metal ring to a large puffling
Pufflings leave the island about 34 to 44 days after hatching and make their way out to sea. The birds will not usually return to the island until they are two years old and will not begin to breed until four or five. The typical lifespan of a puffin is between fifteen and twenty years.

That's all for now,

Amy Corton
Assistant Warden

Saturday 3 July 2010

Volunteers "monitor" Shearwaters

This week there have been a lot of people related activities so I felt it timely that we should go out and check on the Manx Shearwaters. These birds are un gamely on land but when close up and out at sea they really are at their best. Using their long wings they can pick up air currents created over the surface of the sea and pockets of updraft created by the rolling sea. The big swell has meant great views can be had from island or just off-shore. The rolling sea also meant the boat driver (me) could not really relax! The reason why the Manxies gather in rafts before coming on the island has several possible explanations. Firstly, rafting is a social activity (like Starlings) and it does look like fun. Secondly, a lot of birds may have been away from the colony foraging for food and have travelled a long way and are just too early to come ashore. The birds are waiting for darkness to fall before attempting to return to the burrow to feed a chick or change over with the partner who may be incubating.

Must dash to the landing now to count all the day trippers back off the island. Not something that should be rushed! So far we have had no strandees.

Other wildlife news - Guillemot chicks are taking their first leaps from the cliffs. Pufflings are starting to poke their heads out of the burrows (mainly in the evening) and Short Eared Owl chicks are looking quite adult like and exploring further affield (making them a bit less reliable to spot!). Plenty of Peregrine chick sightings at High Cliff. Young Chough are also seen daily.

Skomer Warden