Wednesday 20 August 2014

Unknown Wales

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales are again working with the National Museum Cardiff to run the Unknown Wales Conference, which this year will feature talks ranging from sand lizards, Skomer Voles (by Tim Healing) to fossil ferns, concluding with a talk from TV producer Stephen Moss. It will be taking place on Saturday 11th October at the museum in Cardiff.

In association with the conference, a 'Conservation in Action' photography competition is running to enable us to showcase the wide variety of conservation work that takes place in Wales. Everyone (for example Skomer volunteers) who does hand on conservation work in Wales can enter. The entry is free and the deadline is end of August.

Monday 18 August 2014

Escaped Gyr Falcon

Yesterday we got very excited when we saw all the gulls on the island go up as if something big and threatening was coming over. They do this even when something harmless to them comes over like an Osprey. So we all started looking up for an Osprey or Heron or something and in the end got a glimpse of a large whitish falcon being mobbed by a Peregrine, which it made look small. Today we got better views and confirmed our suspicions that it was an escaped white morph Gyr Falcon. A very impressive beast.

White morph Gyr Falcons naturally occur in Greenland and parts of Siberia and are record breaking in their size and power.
(Skomer Warden)

Saturday 16 August 2014

Volunteering Posts and TV oppertunity

The Natural History Unit of the BBC are going to film a children’s wildlife/adventure show called ‘Wild’ on Skomer on the 29th of August. They are looking for a 11-13 year old, passionate birding enthusiast from around the West or South West of Wales who is confident to be on camera?

The idea is that the young bird watcher will take 3 of his/her friends to Skomer to experience the Manx Shearwaters, to show that being outdoors is the best way to spend weekends! It should be a wonderful experience for them.

'Wild' travels the UK celebrating its wildlife, landscapes and adventure activities/sport in order to inspire kids to get out in the British outdoors. If you or your child is interested in starring in this please email us:
We are also looking for volunteers who would like to spend a minimum of one week on Skomer Island in the period between 28/03/15 and 03/10/15 to help with the day-to day management of the reserve.

To welcome overnight and day visitors to Skomer Island
Assist with loading and unloading of overnight visitors’ luggage from the boat
To help visitors off boats
To sell merchandise and hire out binoculars
To answer wildlife queries and generally assist visitors during their stay
To help maintain, clean and manage the visitor accommodation and facilities
To conduct reptile, cetacean and bird surveys
Island patrol and general wardening duties
General island maintenance tasks (path clearance, building maintenance etc.)
Assist the warden/assistant warden/visitor officer in other tasks if necessary 

The main benefit for the applicant will be the experience of island living and working on a high profile conservation site. The applicant will gain knowledge and experience in people engagement, ecological monitoring techniques, practical wardening skills and reserve management.

Shared accommodation will be provided on the island, as will boat travel to the island. Successful applicants will be required to bring their own bed sheets. Duvet and pillows will be provided. Protective clothing will be supplied where required. 

Successful applicants will be expected to provide their own food.

The successful applicant should have the following experience/skills/attitude

Love and enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation
Hardy nature, happy to work in all weathers and in remote locations
Physically fit
High level of motivation, happy to work independently and within a team
Flexible attitude 

Experience in people management, public speaking
Experience in reserve management / DIY
Experience in wildlife monitoring and surveying 

There will be a nominal fee of £35 per person per week which will be payable on being offered a place. This is to help with the administration of the scheme and the upkeep of accommodation and infrastructure. A number of free places will be funded through the Skalmey Bursary for students, unemployed and people on low incomes.

How to apply
Please fill in the application form. No cover letters or CVs should be included as part of your application.

Application forms and more info can be found here

Completed application forms should be sent via email to: by 5 October 2014.

The successful applicant will hear from us within the following two weeks.

For further information call Bee and Ed (Skomer Wardens) on 07971 114302 or

Saturday 9 August 2014

Seal Season

The first seal pups have been born on Skomer Island. Pup 1 was born around 1st of August and lives on Castle Bay and pup 2 was born on 5th August and calls Mathew's Wick its home (both on The Neck). Last year the first seal pup was born in the Lantern on the 18th of August  - so it seems that the seals are early this year.

Pup 1 on Castle Bay - ca 6 days old

Pup 2 on Mathew's Wick - ca 2 days old

Alistair -our Field Worker- found the pups on Castle Bay and Mathew's Wick when he was looking for Fulmar chicks on the 6th of August. We then decided to check all the caves. So we went and explored Seal Hole, Castle Beach Cave and the Lantern. Unfortunately the tide was not quite big enough to give us dry access to the Lantern but as we had made all that effort to climb down we decided to go for it anyway. What dedication! We found a pregnant female inside but no pups.

Ed swimming into the Lantern
(Skomer Warden)

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Island Friends

On Friday the 8th August a quiet anticipation will descend at the old farm on Skomer Island. It's story telling time.

Lucy Griffiths, author of the Island Friends children's books, will be reading out some of her stories inspired by her visits to Skomer and Skokholm Island. Everyone is welcome to come and listen before using one of our new trails packs to have your own Island Adventures. The story telling will go on all day until half past three giving you plenty of time to explore the island on your own too.

 We hope that the event will encourage holiday makers and local people to bring their children to experience Skomer Island, hopefully see our remaining late puffins, and take home some amazing memories.

Our new family trail packs are already proving popular, and are the product of a labour of love for the islands. Lucy has been visiting for years and tries to stay out on Skomer or Skokholm when creating new Island Friends characters and writing new stories.

We hope to see you and your little ones on Friday and throughout August for an Island Adventure.

We stock the Island Friends books in Lockley Lodge and they're available online here

Friday 1 August 2014

Finch Trapping

As some of you probably know Ed and I are very passionate about nature conservation in Malta - not only  because this is were we met in 2007 when we were volunteering at the Raptor Camp but also because Malta has still got lots of problems with illegal hunting and trapping.

The Raptor Camp team 2007

Bee left and Ed right in "action"

Freezers full of shot birds at the Natural History Muesum

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Birdwatching in Malta

As well as the illegal shooting of protected species like birds of prey and the legal killing of declining species like Quail and Turtle Dove, finch trapping has just been opened up again in Malta. 

Finch trapping is illegal in the European Union but Malta has managed to obtain a derogation of the European Union Bird's Directive and the Maltese government has issued legal notices that allow for a two-month trapping season for seven finch species this autumn. According to the legal notices issued, each licensed trapper will be allowed to operate a maximum of four trapping sites measuring 38 square metres each, every day for a whole two months between the 20th October and 31st December to catch a total of ten finches. 

This is why BirdLife Malta is asking the public to write to their MEPs regarding this issue. For more information and to download the template letter, please see the Trapping page on BirdLife Malta's homepage.

Trapping Practices 
Trapping in Malta is mainly carried out using clap nets.  This method uses – two large nets which are placed parallel to each other on the ground and swing shut towards each other when activated. In preparation for the use of clap nets, trappers remove all vegetation in the trapping area and often dump soil or gravel to create a level surface where the nets can be spread. A number of live decoy birds are also placed around the trapping site - either kept in tiny cages or tied directly to the ground by a harness. Species trapped using this method include Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Linnet, Siskin, Turtle Dove, Golden Plover and Song Thrush. This type of trapping site is the one most frequently encountered in the Maltese countryside. 

 Aerial photo showing the density of trapping sites in a Natura 2000 site. Source: BirdLife Malta.
Aerial photo showing the density of trapping sites in a Natura 2000 site. Source: BirdLife Malta.
Another type of net used is a vertical net spread over a tall crop, such as corn, with three sides dangling to the ground and the fourth tied up like a curtain. 

Quail trapping sites use large numbers of caged decoys. Source: BirdLife Malta.
 Quail trapping sites use large numbers of caged decoys. Source: BirdLife Malta.

This net is used to catch Common Quail, which seek cover in the crops after arriving in Malta at night – they are again attracted to the area by a large number of live decoys or electronic lures. In the morning the net is closed completely and a dog is pushed under the net to flush the trapped quails into a corner where they can be removed by the trapper.
Cage traps are often used to trap Turtle and Collared Doves (a protected species), although they are also effective in targeting a wide range of other species.
 Cage traps are very effective at catching wild birds. Source: BirdLife Malta.
Cage traps are very effective at catching wild birds. Source: BirdLife Malta.
Cage traps consist of a large central cage in which live decoy birds, food and water are kept, and separate cages into which wild birds can enter. Wild birds are attracted by the live decoys and enter the cage through small holes to join the decoys. These cages work like fish pots – once the bird goes in it can’t get out.
Decoy birds are normally used by trappers to lure wild birds into a trap; however tape lures are also being illegally used. A tape lure repeating the calls of wild birds is a very effective method of attracting birds to a trapping site as it can be left to run repeatedly for all night.

All the above described methods are illegal under the Birds Directive.  

For more info go to BirdLife Malta's homepage 

(Skomer Warden)