A guest blog this week from West Coast Birdwatching who ran our Spring Migration Special birdwatching weekend a short while ago. Another fantastic three days on the island!
The first West Coast Birdwatching trip of 2017 saw Dave Astins & Toby Phelps take a group of 10 to Skomer Island, leading a ‘spring migration special’ on behalf of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales. This was the 3rd spring in a row for this particular trip, and half of the participants had previously attended the autumn version – 2 in 2015 & 3 in 2016. Repeat participants are always a good sign!
The 3-day trip started with the usual work of getting all our stuff from the mainland to Skomer, and all the way to our accommodation in the centre of the island at the farm. Thankfully the tractor was working!
The 3 days that followed consisted mainly of sunshine (some rain to bring the migrants in might have helped), northerly winds (south-easterlies on the first day), plenty of tea & biscuits, lots of walking, chatting and learning how to identify all the birds we saw. Everyone saw some new species. We were lucky that the auks (Puffins, Guillemots & Razorbills) were on the island for the first 2 days, as by day 3 they had totally deserted!
Migrant highlights included a male Ring Ouzel, a Black Redstart, up to 3 Merlin, Grasshopper Warber, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap Chiffchaffs & Willow Warblers. Hirundines were on the move, with Sand Martins outnumbering Swallows, and just a handful of House Martins. The numbers fluctuated from day to day, highlighting the difference the wind makes. We also saw very few Manx Shearwaters after dark, due to skies being so clear, presenting danger to them coming ashore in such moonlit conditions – Great Black-backed Gulls hunt well at night in these conditions!
Skomer’s Short-eared Owls put on a show with up to 3 day-flying during our visit, and we finally caught up with a Little Owl on the 2nd day.