Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bluebells, Campion and Co.

Hello! My name is Alice, and I’m one of Skomer’s April-July 2015 Long Term Volunteers.  I am a third year Environmental Conservation student at Bangor University, and as part of my course I carry out a year in industry; Skomer is my last placement of the academic year, before I head back to University to finish my degree this September.

I arrived on Skomer on the 15th April, but feel like I arrived yesterday; time goes incredibly quickly on the island as there’s always so much going on! In my first day alone, I saw many of the species I have always been eager to see; Guillemots and Razorbills lined the cliffs as I got off the boat, while stiff winged Fulmars soared above me- the shear amount of sea birds that make Skomer their home is still amazing!

My first night on the island was an experience that will always stay with me; I got to participate in an all island Puffin count, in which over 21,000 Puffins were counted. To get to see such a charismatic species is a privilege on its own, but to see them by the thousands was simply spectacular! 

1, 2, 3, many...

Once it got dark it was time for the Manxies to make their appearance; to see a Manx Shearwater is a big deal for any conservationist, and to see them endearingly stumbling along outside their burrows made me love them all the more. I have been lucky enough to help out the Shearwater Researchers with their burrow checks, and it’s an experience I will always treasure, and an experience I’m sure I’ll find hard to beat! 

Bluebells on Skomer
Despite my evident love of birds I am also an aspiring botanist and hope to specialise in plant conservation. So, being hit by smell of the highly abundant Sea Campion, seeing the beautiful pink of the Thrift mats, and the dense carpets of Bluebells on my walks around the island is just so rewarding! This interest has resulted in plant focused personal projects; one project is to map Bluebell and Red Campion distribution on the island, the other is to carry out a Vegetation survey.

The Vegetation survey involves identifying species and their percentage coverage in given quadrats set up around various parts of the island. We can then compare species, and species composition of a given quadrat with what it was in 1979 (when the quadrats were first set up and surveyed) and 1998 (when the quadrats were surveyed for the second time); this then allows us to make comparisons over time. 
This is a vegetation point marker I am looking for
Finding the quadrats is proving very difficult however, as the quadrat markers aren’t clearly visible, especially amongst Brackenous and Bluebell carpeted areas! I’m hopeful that my searches will pay off eventually though, and then the fun part of surveying can start!

It's so difficult to find the vegetation markers that I have started to use a metal detector to detect them.

In addition to my personal projects, my responsibilities on the island are to assist with various surveys, map Razorbill productivity at Bull Hole and in June, we will carry out plot counts to estimate sea bird populations. 

Razorbills breeding at Bull Hole

Razorbills displaying (P. Reufsteck)

My first month on the island has been incredibly exciting and has given me highly valuable experiences that I can apply to my studies and my future in conservation; I’m sure the next two months will be just as rewarding!

Thrift (D Milborrow )

White Bluebells

Sea Campion

Alice Hadley (LTV)