Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Long Term Volunteer - first week

Hello! My name is Hannah, and I’m lucky enough to be one of the long term volunteers out on Skomer this season. I’ve only been here about a week so far, so everything still feels very new and novel, despite my having visited many times before! However, as my first week draws to a close, I’m beginning to feel much more settled in and accustomed to island life.

Over past years I’ve been able to come to Skomer in many different capacities - first as a day visitor with my parents, then as an overnight guest, and more recently as a short term volunteer. Each time it’s been amazing to discover more about the island, and a gap year post A-Levels seemed the perfect time to try and give something back. Luckily, having been a short term volunteer a couple of times in the past, I had a rough idea of what I was letting myself in for, so I was well prepared for the freezing weather and rationing of food supplies! That said, I’ve already polished off an entire month’s worth of biscuits in about three days, so maybe the self control still needs a little work.

Getting to know all corners of the island, this is Middle Holme seen from the Neck

Aside from eating (which me and the other long term volunteer seem to do a lot of - we’re always hungry!), we’ve begun to get stuck in with some of the jobs that need doing around the island. Luckily it hasn't been too rainy, so we’ve been able to help complete some outdoor maintenance work, such as replacing the old signs with new ones and painting the hand rails down at the landing. Other activities we have been getting involved in include giving introductory talks to the day visitors, as well as the daily puffin and seal counts (I have yet to count more than seven seals on my patch though…). These seal surveys have to be completed in the four hour window around low tide, so can often involve a mad dash up to the Garland Stone in the two hours either side - especially tough when you’re busy at the other end of the island! However, I’m beginning to get used to it now, despite the seals being rather uncooperative at times.

As the breeding season gets into full swing, we will also be helping to monitor some of the nest sites around the island. At the moment, the Choughs are pairing off and settling down, so over the last couple of days the wardens have taken us to see a few of the known breeding sites. This was amazing, if a little scary at times, as we had to clamber down a few cliffs in high winds just to get a peek at them! Luckily we were rewarded with an appearance by two of the three pairs we went to see, which was amazing given the weather conditions. I know if I were a bird I would have wanted to stay hunkered down!

Chough showing breeding behaviour

Raven's nest with two eggs
However, to our relief, today’s weather was much better, and it was even nice enough that we were able to zip over to the mainland to collect some gas bottles. This involved both driving the tractor (something I’m slowly getting used to), and driving the boat (something I'm decidedly NOT used to). Given the fact I’d never driven either before last Monday, though, I decided to count both stints as an unqualified success - especially as I managed to keep both vehicles upright! 

So far, the most important thing I've learned is that every day on Skomer Island is different. There are never two the same, and a lot of the time you can find yourself doing something you weren't expecting when you got up that morning. But that’s part of its charm - it’s never boring - and I don't think I’d want it any other way!

Fulmars are our noisy neighbours
(Long-term Volunteer)


  1. Great insight into your life on Skomer! Thank you!

  2. From a short term volunteer to a long term one:

    Nice blog Hannah, gives a good feel of the variety of jobs to be done and the beauty of being on the Island. Missing it already and can't wait to get back.

  3. Lovely photos and blog Hannah.It seems like you are having a great time on the Island. I shall be joining you for a week on May the 7th I hope I can bring some of the sunshine we have in North Staffordshire today.
    PS I will pack an extra pack of biscuits!

  4. Nice blog. I will bring you some biscuits one day!