Friday, 29 September 2017

What goes bump…

Here on Skomer Island there is so much that goes on that we don’t see. During July and August we began to receive sightings of an otter roaming about on the island. Excited by the news, we placed trail cameras at certain places on the island hoping to get a better sight of this rare and elusive mammal. While we did get fleeting views of the otter, what also excited us was the other wildlife as well as the behaviour shown when humans were not around to interfere. In particular, we were especially excited by the appearance of water rail! These particularly shy birds are recorded only rarely on the island during summer but by using these hidden cameras, we have been able to regularly get some great views!

Water Rail zipping past the camera

 It was not just water rails that were seen however. Our cameras also recorded fighting shearwaters, a puffling recently emerged from its burrow, foraging wood mice and even a dead shearwater that attracted gulls, crows and magpies to feed on it. All in all, it’s been really interesting to see what goes on when we’re not looking!
Carrion Crow, doing what it says in the name

In total, we’ve recorded over twenty species of animals (not counting the clouds of moths that were seen at night!), with everything from passerines such as Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers, to much larger Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Pheasants, Moorhen and (of course) an Otter. Perhaps the most interesting observation however, was just how curious our magpies are! While none of the other birds or mammals paid any heed to the hidden trail cameras, the magpies very quickly picked up that something new was in the neighbourhood, and spent quite some time pecking at the screens trying to work out what these strange new objects were.

A curious Magpie

While the trail cameras have been recording shy species and interesting behaviour on land, Jake, one of our Long Term Volunteers, has been putting out an underwater time lapse camera in North Haven to monitor the fish species that pass by. The kelp beds by the edge of the cliffs have proven to be particularly rich in life, with sea bass being regularly seen there, along with ballan wrasse, two spot gobies and shoals of both adult and juvenile pollock.

Bass swimming past the camera in the North Haven kelp

Jake and Joe, Long Term Volunteers 

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