Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Tractor Queen

My name is Sarah Purdon, I’m one of the Long-term Volunteers on the island. I arrived on the 7th of April when it was hot and sunny, and then quickly had to revert to thermals as the weather changed.

Last year I already helped with the all island seabirds counts. In the summer of 2014 I graduated (from UEA in Ecology) and within four days of my final exam I was out on Skomer. The contrast from months of revision and coursework to being outdoors, working as a part of a team on long-term projects and helping to collect data was incredible, I had the most fantastic time and I knew I wanted to return to Skomer as a Long-term Volunteer.

June 2014: Bird counts are ace

On the island I have taken over running the puffin productivity study at the Wick, and later in the season I will once again be helping with the whole island bird count from the boat. As my personal project I am going to attempt to look at the age range of puffins seen around the island, using grooves in their bills to age them. In practice this means I am obligated to spend my time on the island taking photos of puffins….. a really really tough job.

3 grooves means this bird is an old adult and more than four years old
If you visit Skomer and pass by the Wick you will see the burrows that are a part of my productivity study, if you wondered how we got the stakes out there have a look at the photo: It involved a lot of crawling to avoid damaging the fragile ground. 

It's all about weight distribution
Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending several evenings at the Wick recording which burrows are occupied, and in a month or two once the eggs have hatched I’ll be doing three 24 hour feeding watches to record which eggs have hatched. 

Since moving out to the island I’ve loved the mix of jobs, one minute I’m spending hours watching the nesting shags to spot chicks, the next I’m giving introduction talks to 250 people, then I’m on a roof siliconing windows, then I’m at the Wick taking photos of puffins, then I’m digging paths.
I helped with the whole island clean up, driving the heavily loaded tractor back and forth more times than I could count, and then ferrying it all down to the boat. I was still aching a few days later but it was great feeling to see all that junk gone and I’ve gained the nick-name ‘the tractor queen’ due to my enthusiasm for driving the tractor (and in turn have nick-named the tractor ‘trundle’).

The Tractor Queen and her entourage
Sarah Purdon (LTV)


  1. Weight distribution! Your Grandad would have approved. The difference was that he used it when building a glass-topped veranda (now aka conservatory).
    Carrying on enjoying - it looks lots of fun.

  2. You are welcome to any of the images I take at the Wick for aging the puffins.