Monday, 9 March 2015

Winter leaves its mark

Four days in and all is well on Skomer Island. However, the closer we look, the more signs of wear and tear we find, giving some hint of what the winter just passed was like. Roofs ripped from research hides, mould covering walls, pipe insulation devoured by mice and bird droppings throughout the hostel interior (an upstairs window had somehow blown open), and it's clear to see that all was not quiet while we were gone. However no lasting damage, and nothing that cant be fixed/replaced/scrubbed!

 Just as we thought the island had faired well over the winter we find this at Bull Hole!

Whilst waking around the island these last few days, we have picked up a few owl pellets which had been left over the winter. Dissecting and identifying the contents has revealed some interesting findings:

One pellet contained the remains of two Bank Voles/'Skomer' Voles, one Field Vole and a Common Shrew. While the Bank/'Skomer' Vole and the Common Shrew are known to occur naturally on the island, the Field Vole is not native here, and was presumably caught on the mainland, showing that this Short-eared Owl has been passing between the island and the mainland to hunt and potentially roost.
Short-eared Owl pellet before dissection.

From left to right, Bank Vole, Field Vole, Bank Vole, Common Shrew, only two of which occur on Skomer. Note the red tips to the teeth on the Common Shrew. 

Wildlife highlights

The 6th saw a Jack Snipe flushed near South Pond, this being a classic spot on the island for this species. This area also produced 12 Common Snipe. The day also saw our first Rooks of the season fly over, while our first frog and toad spawn of the year was seen at Moorey Mere.

The 7th saw three further species added to the year list with a male Grey Wagtail on the main farm track, a pair of Shoveler on North Pond and the returning male Pied Wagtail at the Farm.

Birds of prey were the main talking point on the 8th, with two Merlin, a Sparrowhawk and a Short-eared Owl all being seen for the first time this year, while at least 14 Stonechat was a good count for the island. A Water Rail was also seen as were two mating Buzzards at Pigstone Bay.

Finally, today (9th) saw the arrival of our first Chiffchaff of the spring, sporting a crust of pollen at the base of its bill, clearly indicating that it was fresh in from warmer southern climes.

Rooks over North Haven.
One of the 14 Stonechats yesterday.

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