Saturday 16 June 2012

Volunteer experience; 2nd-9th June 2012

Oh Dear, the weather in Pembrokeshire knows how to show who’s boss.  On Saturday the Dale Princess managed to do one run to deliver volunteers and overnighters and collect volunteers and visitors. There was torrential rain in the evening which soaked the burrows and left the soil damp and fragile.
Stormy weather at The Wick - Jonathan Parsons

On Sunday the island became instant-soup-free when two volunteers were asked to sort out the Emergency Food store and the volunteers chucked old herbs and spices, myriad opened packets of pasta, soggy stock cubes, rock-hard bags of sugar, lumpy cocoa powder and what seemed like a ton of out-of-date skimmed milk powder.

On Monday six boat-loads of visitors arrived and left.  On Tuesday 87 visitors came and went, and most of them must have regretted their visit as they were soaked.

Welcoming visitors to Skomer - Sally Harris
Apart from a short shower in the morning, Wednesday was a glorious day.  Six boats and happy visitors. In the evening Chris Taylor took a turn around a flat calm North Haven in his yellow kayak accompanied by a young female seal which nudged his paddle and swum sinuously around his craft.  Two overnighters identified a Bar-tailed Godwit by the track and when the message spread everybody trotted down the track to view this comparative rarity.  Supper was a Pot-luck affair in the shelter with contributions from everybody, topped off by a magnificent cake studded with chunks of Dairy Milk from Tom the Guillimot researcher.

Muddy Puffins busy in the wind and rain - Sally Harris
Thursday was a terrible day; very high winds and rain and no boats.  The weather cleared in the afternoon and at the Wick the puffins were doing puffin-y things.  Socialising and gathering new bedding for their burrows and bringing in sand eels.  Two women chatting there had puffins walking confidently within inches of their feet as they went about their business.  There was an inaccurate sponge Birthday cake for tea filled with yummy chocolate crème patisserie.
Lots of minor but important tasks are carried out when the island is closed; mending signs, cutting back vegetation, unblocking u-bends, mending door handles, putting up shelves; the list is endless.

Cutting back vegetation - Sonia Gadd

Friday was dry, but very windy, so no boats again.  The overnighters who came for one or two nights were now on their third day, and have had a rummage in the Emergency Food Store for provisions.  Two of the volunteers went down to the Warden’s House to continue transcribing 50-year old journals into the computer.  In May 1961 it was observed in Welsh Way that the Jackdaws were pulling tufts of hair from Prince (the horse) for nesting material.  One day the Warden, David Saunders, was vexed to arrive in Martins Haven after the bread van had gone, but they caught it a few days later.  And, oh yes, the weather was vile 50 years ago too!

Another Skomer feast! - Sarah Harris
On Friday evening there was a Feast in the shelter for 20 people, with contributions from every kitchen on the island.  The evening ended with a delicious lemon drizzle cake from Holly.

Sadly Saturday was time to go home. There was a swell but boats were running.  Goodbye Skomer, hope to see you soon!

Pris Stewart
Skomer Volunteer

Sunday 10 June 2012

Bird Highlights - May

Male Garganey - Richard Allen
The first day of the month opened with a flurry of year firsts – Pied Flycatcher, Common Sandpiper, Garden Warbler (2) along with a Ring Ouzel, and the first week continued with small arrivals of Redstart (max of 4 on 5th), Whinchat (1-2 on 6 dates to 12th). On 2nd May the first Lesser Whitethroat arrived (there was another on the 8th), with two Grasshopper Warblers. Willow Warbler passage peaked with 20 on the 4th and 7th. On the 5th May a single Siskin passed through but the undoubted highlight of the month was a Nightjar which delighted visitors and staff alike until the 7th. The 6th May accounted for several Skomer oddities with Grey Heron, Black-headed Gull and Blue Tit, whilst the first Yellow Wagtail occurred, a precursor of seven singles up until the 21st. A Cuckoo on the 7th was one of only two records for the month. Teal were regular but more unusual were a pair of Garganey on the 10th. A Pomerine Skua passed Skomer Head on the 11th and four Bar-tailed Godwits passed later that morning, heading north.

Spotted Flycatcher - Richard Allen

The 18th was a day of fresh arrivals with the years first Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher passage peaked at 10, another Siskin flew over and a Turtle Dove was found (which lingered to the 26th). Two Red Kites soared over and the second Cuckoo of the month appeared. On the wader front, Whimbrel were regular in the first half of the month with a maximum of 10 on the 2nd, whilst Dunlin produced 19 sightings in the latter half of the month. Turnstone passage was sparse with four records, a maximum of four on the 6th. Turning to our seabirds, the first returning Storm Petrels were located – 6 at North Haven, whilst Puffins were first seen carrying sandeels back for their chicks on the 19th. The first Razorbill chicks were seen on the 26th May and the first Guillemot chicks a day later.

Razorbill with egg - Sally Harris
The month ended with two more Reed Warblers (on the 21st and 24th) and another Red Kite on the 25th. A last passage Redstart was seen on the 26th, a day when the months only Robin put in an appearance. Whilst on the 29th two male Tufted Ducks rested on North Pond.

Alan Harris
Skomer Volunteer