Friday, 20 May 2016

Long distance migrant

My name is Jane and I am fortunate enough to be one of the Long Term Volunteers here on Skomer Island. This is not only my first time to Skomer, but also my first time to Great Britain, and Europe! I’ve conducted my own northward migration and have arrived from my home in Victoria, Australia.

My most recent role was as Assistant Warden at the Broome Bird Observatory in North Western Australia. Needless to say I noticed a stark contrast in climates and have only now downgraded from two to one hot water bottles at night.

The fauna differs a little between Broome in NW Australia and Skomer Island, Wales. Photo: Nigel Jackett

The Broome Bird Observatory is famous for its Waders which in their hundreds of thousands utilize Broome’s nutrient rich mudflats. Shorebird identification is often considered meticulous and difficult…but UK birds have certainly lived up to their reputation of being LBJ’s.

A flock of mixed Shorebirds on Roebuck Bay, Broome. Photo: Ric Else

Although Broome Bird Observatory is itself in a remote location there are unique challenges with island living. Have you ever stopped and considered how an entire fleet of full gas bottles makes their way onto an island? I hadn’t either, before I donned waders and reversed the tractor across our rocky beach to load the inflatable boat with gas bottles.

It really is amazing to have the opportunity to explore the island. With each change of the tide and with the change of seasons (I think this is what the Brits consider ‘summer’) a new world is exposed and presents a shift in the flora and fauna on the island. Bluebells have carpeted the island and the Red Campion has also begun to flower. The bare brown grass that dominated most of the landscape for the last six weeks has now been transformed into fresh new shoots of bracken, poking up through winter’s debris.

Conducting a Puffin count

A steady flow of summer migrants have made their way across the island and its amazing to see new species like Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallows, Blackcaps, Wood-chat Shrike, Sedge-Warblers. Meadow Pipits, Blackbirds, Mallard, Wheatear, Linnets and Pied Wagtail can all be seen busily nest building as we conduct our Breeding Bird Surveys. The hundreds of seals that hauled out into North Haven each low tide have been slowly disappearing- only to return in autumn to have their pups.

Spotted Flycatchers have been seen around the Island since early May. Photo: Eddie Stubbings

It’s been a fascinating first few weeks and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time at Skomer Island brings!

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