Thursday, 18 August 2011

Late August on Skomer

A few thoughts about Late August on Skomer - By Richard Kipling - Field Assistant 2011

Stepping out into the courtyard this morning the softness of the air had a new edge, a coolness that was not yet a chill, but betrayed the changing season. For the first time the shifting colours of the island mark senescence rather than the appearance of new flowers. Crisp brown is gently spreading from leaf tips of bracken and bramble, darkening the yellow blooms of the Ragwort. Along the path through North Valley the volunteers have been scything back the vegetation, and the scatter of cut bracken over the path is like a harvest.

At the stream the water dropwort stems are brittle and dead, the carpet of forget-me-not reduced to a few pale-flowered plants under the willow leaves, themselves tarnished and fading. In the rabbit exclosures the purple haze of heather flowers alone defies the coming autumn, and bees twist and turn between the inflorescences. The air is still and there is a quietness; the island peaceful after the frantic race to breed and fledge young, to protect new life.

Here on the north coast a gentle breeze ruffles the pages of my notepad, the lobster-pot men work below me off the Garland Stone, and the sounds of the boat engine and various clatters and mechanical noises drift up to me. From half a mile away the hum of generators on the stationary tankers percolates the silence. Although it is eleven in the morning the light has the quality of a late afternoon; the warmth of the sun is lessened by high cloud, and in the clear air the fissures and colours of the rocks are picked out precisely. There is an air of waiting. Even the sea is tranquil, though in the tidal race the smoothness is an illusion that hides turmoil beneath.

Waves lap at the foot of the Garland Stone – hard now to imagine those spring storms, when spray crested its rocky peak. Glancing up I can see the Irish Ferry, my old friend, white against the grey of sea and sky, drifting through the stillness.

Richard Kipling.
Skomer Field Assistant 2011

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