Sunday 26 July 2015

Keeping warm

As some of our regular guest might know: Skomer can get rather chilly, especially in spring and autumn.

But don't worry: from now onwards no one will get cold feet anymore thanks to 38 ladies from the
Mathry/Cemaes Crochet Group who donated lots of amazing hand made blankets to Skomer. These blankets now brighten up our hostel bedrooms and work their magic against chilly bones.

One of the hostel rooms with the brand new blankets

A MASSIVE THANK YOU goes to all the lovely ladies who spent their spare time making these amazing pieces of art.

Some of the ladies who made the blankets (and me in the middle -even though I don't know how to crochet)

Speaking of the hostel: Why not come and stay on Skomer, there is lots to see in late summer and early autumn. The Shearwaters are at their best in August and September. The nights are filled with their sounds as parents come in to feed their chicks and the little come out of their burrows to exercise their wings. For a taster have a look at this video clip.

We also get large flocks of Ravens visiting in autumn which are a joy to watch when they do their aerial acrobatics and of course the seal pupping season will begin soon.

Playing Raven (photo E Stubbings)

If you are interested in staying have a look at our homepage, we still have availability and in August we offer special overnight stays for families with activities for children.

We are looking forward to meeting you!

Manx Shearwater chick weighing

Manx Shearwater chicks are the cutest!

(Skomer Warden)

Monday 20 July 2015

Kraken part 2

Many volunteers and visitors ask us how Kranken is doing so I thought I should give you an update. Kraken now lives most of the time in my vegetable garden which is fenced in due to the rabbits. To my slight dismay, Ed dug a pond in one of the corners of my garden (a few potatoes had to be harvested to make room). Kraken now loves swimming in his pond and eating all the snails in my garden which is fine by me!!
Kranken in the garden

Kraken also has taken up yoga, streching his fast growing wings and exercising his legs.
Duck work out

Kranken is just amazing to watch and we were all astonished when he dived to the bottom of our water butt.
Kraken having a rest on my hand

And of course Kraken is still a star at bird log 

He just loves being in the centre of attention and...

 is a real Skomer fan..

Now that he is growing bigger and bigger we had to swap his indoor Tupper ware swimming pool for a large plastic box.

"Hello, I am Kraken, a Shoveler Duck as you can see!"
(Skomer Warden)

Friday 17 July 2015

Fulmar, Blue Whale, Puffin and Iberian Lynx

What do these four animals have in common?, they don't all live on Skomer, they are not all birds

...yes, they are all on the European Red List of Endagered Species

The European Red List (ERL) is a review of the status of European species according to IUCN Regional Red Listing guidelines. It identifies those species that are threatened with extinction at the European level (pan-Europe and the European Union), so that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status.

In June 2015 the European Red List of Birds was published and to our dismay nine bird species which breed on Skomer feature in this report:

Fulmar and... 
P. Reufsteck

Puffin are considered "endangered of extinction"
P. Reufsteck

P. Reufsteck

Black-legged Kittiwake, 

P Reufsteck


P. Reufsteck

 Oystercatcher and
E. Stubbings

Curlew are in the category "vulnerable"
P. Reufsteck

Herring Gull, 
P. Reufsteck

Meadow Pipit and 
P. Reufsteck

Razorbill are considered "near threatened"
P Reufsteck

Shag is in the category of "least concern"
P Reufsteck

So next time you are on Skomer, have a close look at these birds and cherish every single one, who knows how long they will be around to enrich our lives.

And remember to take part in the public consultation before the 26th of July to save Europe's Nature laws. 

(Skomer Warden)

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Protecting the Laws that Protect Nature

You have less than two weeks left to speak up for nature in Britain and Europe and to save Europe's nature laws.

The European Commission are asking the people of Europe what they think about the Nature Directives which are the laws that protect birds, animals and special places. These laws are at stake so make your voice heard and help us to help nature: Add your name to the online consultation here.

The  campaign has over 350,000 signatures already but we want to reach 500,000 by July 26. It takes just two minutes and really will make a difference.

Skomer and Skokholm Islands are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and  Special Protection Area (SPA) and it would be a real set back if these amazing places lost some of their protection.

Worth protecting?!

Saturday 11 July 2015

Skomer's breeding land-birds 2015

While the spectacular Skomer seabirds take much of our efforts (and also much of the limelight!) during the summer, our breeding landbirds are also extremely busy at this time, and as wardens we keenly monitor and observe the activity of the species which make Skomer their home.

Key species to mention on the reserve, and which require extra special attention due to their UK and local conservation status are our Peregrines, Choughs, Curlews and Short-eared Owls. All have again bred on the island, with three pairs of Peregrines, four (and perhaps five) Chough territories (up from three in 2014), three Curlew territories and two pairs of nesting Short-eared Owls (down from three pairs in 2014). We aren't quite far enough into the season to give a final assessment of productivity of these birds, but so far we have confirmed one fledged Chough from a nest in the Lantern followed by two chicks at North Haven, a minimum of three fledged Short-eared Owls (from a brood of six young) and there is currently at least one large Curlew chick running around in the bracken near the farm which has just fledged. Finally the Protheroe's Dock Peregrines have fledged a female chick, while we are still waiting on the other territories on the island.

Jeronimo! A juvenile Chough takes to the wing 
Chick with parents. A family of two chicks seen in North Haven seen shortly after may have been from another nest...

In other owl-related news, the resident Little Owls have had another successful year, fledging all of their brood of four chicks.

Adult Little Owl standing guard

One of the fledged young Little Owls

Further notable species known to have bred this year include at least 2 pairs of Shelduck, a pair of Shoveler (see Kracken blog...), one pair of Stonechats and at least one pair of Linnets (breeding for the first time since 2009). Many of our usual breeding species (Meadow and Rock Pipits, Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats) appear to be having a fairly late season, perhaps due to a particularly wet spell earlier in the spring. Hopefully their second brood will be more successful!  

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Seabirds doing well on Skomer

Number of individual Puffins counted in spring between 1988 and 2015
Skomer's seabird counts have come to an end for 2015 and we're pleased to say it's good news. Most of our seabirds appear to be doing very well with record counts of Puffins and the highest counts of Guillemots and Razorbills since modern records began. The graphs show that there have been ups and downs but things haven't looked this good for a while.

Razorbill numbers since 1963

Guillemot numbers since 1963

There are some pretty big Guillemot colonies to work through
After a good year for gulls last year, it seems that things are back to a slow decline in breeding numbers. Our once 20,000 strong Lesser Black-backed Gull is now down to around 8,000 pairs and Herring Gulls are also clearly having a hard time of it. But it's not all bad news. Great Black-backed Gulls, however, are doing well with 123 pairs breeding around the island this year. Kittiwakes also, which are struggling in other areas of Britain, are doing well (or perhaps 'less badly' is a better term) with an increase of 4% from 1,488 nests in 2014 to 1,546 in 2015.

Fulmars are holding their own and this years count was only 28 different from last years with 584 occupied sites. Counting the Manx Shearwaters is a little more of a challenge but signs from this year's census show that the population remains healthy.

Getting last few feeds on the cliffs before life on the sea begins
Razorbill father with 'jumpling'
In terms of coming to see the wonderful assemblages of seabirds on Skomer, July remains a good month to visit. Guillemot and Razorbills chicks, known as 'jumplings', because of the fact that they jump off the cliffs before they can even fly properly, are most obvious as they grow and prepare to leave. The Puffins are furiously feeding young in burrows and soon the 'pufflings' will be popping out to stretch their wings before leaving under the cover of darkness. Other birds are more leisurely in their breeding cycle. Fulmars and Kittiwakes are either still sitting on eggs or have small chicks and gull chicks will be in evidence right through July and August.

(Skomer Warden)