Friday 17 August 2012

We are suckers for the marine life you know

Now that many of the sea birds have left the island attention has shifted to the marine world. The beaches and bays are becoming busier with seals and males start to suss out their territories.
Atlantic grey seal yearling. Photo by Amandine Delory

Cetacean watches have been successful with daily sightings of harbour porpoise feeding on mackerel beneath circling gannets, as well as common dolphin and even one Risso’s dolphin. Sunfish Mola mola have also been sighted from the Dale Princess and from the cliff tops. Lewis, the hostel warden was lucky enough to see one breach. These awesome fish start their lives measuring only 0.25cm in length and are fully grown adults at an impressive 3 metres.

Jellyfish are a regular sighting from boats or from the cliffs on Skomer. Moon jellies or common jelly fish Aurelia aurita are saucer shaped and colourless other than the four central violet gonads. Compass jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella so named because of the 16 v shaped markings that radiate from a central spot. These jellyfish only live for up to a year and this large mature one was washed up on North Haven beach.

Compass Jellyfish photo by Ali Quinney

Other goodies include goose barnacles Lepas anatifera like these ones washed up on driftwood after recent stormy weather. Once believed that these were the embryonic stages of a barnacle gooses life, goose barnacles attached themselves to an object as larvae and stay permanently attached by the peduncle for the rest of their lives.
Goose Barnacles photo by Ali Quinney

The varied habitats of Skomer’s intertidal zones also boast an array of life. Boulder beaches such as North Haven are home to topshell’s; periwinkles; acorn and volcano barnacles; beadlet, snakelocks and daisy anemones’ and an island favourite; Cornish sucker fish Lepadogaster lepadogaster, a member of the clingfish family. These fish stick to any object using an adhesive disc on their thorax, also known as a sucker.

Sucker fish photo by Ali Quinney

Monday 13 August 2012

Autumn keeps going

Well the weather is still amazing compared to earlier in the season, a bit of rain in the last few days but still gentle, warm southerlies after the harsh, chilled northerlies of the start of the year.  And before the forecasted winds possibly hit later in the week I thought I'd make a plea to the weather gods with some more pictures of Skomer in the sun!

At the moment the Kittiwakes are still hanging on to a few of the cliffs, with some juveniles yet to leave the nest, so they are still giving good viewings all around the coast.  Passage birds are also making a showing with Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher all hanging round.

The Gulls are still around in good numbers, even harassing the Marsh Harrier which made it out from the mainland today!  And out at sea we are seeing a few movements, like the Scoter below.  A sure sign that its time to spend an evening or too on the cliffs to see passage birds making their way past.  And even if there aren't then the Manxies are putting on a good show.  There are still a few spaces in the hostel if you're yet to experience the huge rafts in the evening and the raucous calls in the dead of night.  Or else the evening boat trips are a brilliant way to get closer to the birds floating en mass out in the bay.

'til next time,
Lewis (Hostel Warden)

Saturday 4 August 2012

Autumn gets going

Well it's been a little quiet out here today with winds stopping day boats, but it's been getting busier out in the bay as the tankers take shelter from the Southerly winds.

And the Puffins may be thin on the ground now but there are still plenty of birds giving good shows to visitors.  The Peregrines are missing their former prey so are turning their eye to things like the Kittiwake, with stooping dives through the flocks at The Wick and even plucking them straight from the cliffs.  In between attacks they can sometimes be seen perching out in the open planning their next move.

And the precocious young gulls continue to loiter around the paths, with the odd one or two becoming quite friendly.  It won't be too long before they start to disperse but until then they are enjoying their time ruling over the ponds of Skomer- Moorey Mere being particularly full of them bathing throughout the day.

Lewis (Hostel Warden)