Saturday, 3 March 2012

Back to The Rock

Around mid day yesterday Chris, Sarah and I assembled in Martin's Haven for the start of the 2012 season on Skomer and Skokholm. With a massive amount of help from Nathan, who works on many of the Trust's mainland reserves, and Mark, of the Marine Reserve team, we were able to launch our little boat and get it loaded up with our kit for the next nine months and food for at least the next two.

Loading up - not that much baggage considering.

The sea was calm but the boat engine felt like it needed a bit more running to be totally reliable, so we were glad of the offer from Peter on the Lady Helen to accompany us on the crossing. We became extremely grateful of this offer as we headed out across the sound as we lost sight of the mainland in the fog before we could make out Middleholm. With this limited vision we kept our guide boat in view while passing the odd Fulmar, Gannet, Shag and Razorbill until out of the cloud emerged the entrance to North Haven.

Wondering where we are in the middle of Jack sound.

"I think this is the right place"

Stage one accomplished. With us and our gear on the beach, Sarah and I went to moor the boat while Chris headed up to fetch the tractor and, true to form, didn't reappear. As we'd had reports that the buildings were undamaged our worries were focussed on the tractor. In between fiddling with the connections, charging the battery and drinking tea we had a quick look around. The buildings look in good nick, Chris's kitchen was in need of a good clean but that was true of the entire of last year. Fulmars are paired up on the cliffs while a couple of Goldcrests joined Robins and Blackbirds in the ivy. The dozen seals that had watched us unloading were joined by another 70 on the main beach.

Praying to the tractor in the hope it works.

Knowing if we left things too long we'd be shifting gear against the tide and darkness we reluctantly started carrying bags up to the farm. It's a long way when you're loaded with gear and know you've another few trips. A quick check around showed the buildings and infrastructure again looked in pretty good nick, so we grabbed a couple of wheelbarrows and headed back down to the beach. I suggested Chris may as well go and give the tractor another try and, as always, just when we'd given up hope, it worked!

So we were able to get kit up quickly which gave us enough time to do a basic clean of the kitchen and bedrooms (enough to eat and sleep comfortably) and have a quick look around, watching a Hen Harrier hunting in North Valley.

Today we're getting settled. So that means more cleaning, unpacking and sorting, throwing out bits that haven't survived the winter, a few repairs and mainly having a chance to get out around, enjoying being back on Skomer.

It's cold and windy but the first daffodils are out, there's been a couple of large bees fly by and there's frog spawn in some of the streams. The gulls are back in large numbers and don't seem particularly pleased to see our return. There's a good number of Buzzards about, a Merlin, and a Peregrine hunting really close to the farm this morning.

Evidence that a Barn Owl has been using the picnic shelter over winter.

It's good to be back.

Jerry Gillham


  1. Sounds fantastic, looking forward to reading your updates.

  2. Hi
    We visited Skomer 4 years ago - an incredible island. I am happy to say we are returning to St. Brides late March and would love to know will the Puffins be arriving by then and also is there a boat that goes over this time of year??

  3. Hi all,

    that all sounds soooo familiar....we have just arrived back on Bardsey after 2 1/2 months on the mainland (we had slightly more kit and stuff to take back than in your pic though!). We have been unpacking into our home and when we are sorted we will be starting to set about the cleaning of the obs for the start of the season. A good few migrants have been arriving here and hope you have had some too. Good luck with the season.

    Steve Stansfield - Warden, Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory.