Monday, 23 September 2013

September delights

Many people say that Skomer is only famous for its Puffins, Bluebells and Rabbits, but we are about to prove that, although these make Skomer a unique and important place, the island has much much more to offer than just these three things.

It is September and the cold winds of autumn are blowing, colours are changing and wildlife abounds. The shear numbers of fledging shearwaters is attracting huge numbers of Ravens. When they are not feasting on the abundant carcases of dead shearwaters they play on the wind in noisy, playful groups. The acrobatics they perform are an instruction on avian capabilities and they are impressive by their shear number alone. For students of ethology (animal behaviour) this is a must see. There have been up to and perhaps over 100 on the island over the last few weeks and they are still very much in evidence.


Ravens 'playing' at the Wick

Dolphins and Porpoises are another highlight of late summer and autumn on Skomer. Porpoises can be seen most days by looking out to sea with a pair of binoculars and Common Dolphins can make a day unforgettable. On the 11th of September a boat load of visitors to Skomer were treated to the sight of up to 100 Common Dolphins as they made the crossing to the island. Some were bow riding next to the Dale Princess within a few metres of the observers.

Common Dolphins seen by passengers on the Dale Princess on their way out to Skomer on the 11th of September

The peak of the Grey Seal pupping season is in September and visitors to Skomer can see adult seals as well as their pups. Keep an eye out at the beach at Martin's Haven at the departure point on the mainland and again in North Haven as you reach the island. Please do not approach the seals too closely or indeed cause any disturbance to their otherwise peaceful lives.

Puppy friends
A weaned seal pup stretching its achy muscles

Autumn is also the time for southward bird migration. Swallows can be seen passing over the island as they head towards South Africa. Other small migrants can be found in the bushes and open ground on Skomer and islands are a particularly good place to pick up those rarities so sought after in spring and autumn. A stop in the hide at Moorey Mere could put you inches away from a migrant Goldcrest or Willow Warbler and provides great photographic opportunities.

Willow Warbler

The landscape is unsurpassed and almost breath-taking at times providing great views of the surrounding islands, an amazing overview of the mainland and a light that, in my opinion, can only be found on an island.

Todays highlights:
A big movement of Swallows was the obvious highlight with an estimated 4,000 passing throughout the day.
1 Water Rail
3 Purple Sandpipers
6 Curlews
2 Short-eared Owls
1 Skylark
1 Sand Martin
12 House Martins
130 Meadow Pipits
4 Grey Wagtails
37 Robins
1 Stonechat
1 Wheatear
1 Sedge Warbler
1 Blackcap
5 Chiffchaffs
3 Willow Warblers
4 Goldcrests
1 Spotted Flycatcher
Several Choughs
70+ Ravens
1 Chaffinch
1 Goldfinch
80 Linnets
1 Lapland Bunting
2 Reed Bunting

Insects seen today inc.:
Several Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells and whites, many Small Coppers, a couple of Silver Y moths, a Speckled Wood (the second this year, these being the first since 2010), 50 7 Spot Ladybirds and a dragonfly sp..

The gateway to the island Lockley Lodge is now shut until next spring but boats will run, weather dependant, until late October. Accordingly, landing tickets are now available on the island itself rather than from Lockley Lodge. In a normal week (if there is such a thing) boats run from Martin's Haven at 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00 from Tuesday to Sunday. For the latest information see our twitter account. Overnight accommodation is also available in our hostel right up until the end of October. See the website.

Eddie Stubbings, Skomer Warden

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