Saturday, 31 March 2018

Life in the flood

The 10th March was the day that I landed on Skomer (thanks to Dale Sailing) to be the new Skomer island visitor officer. I thought maybe I would have an exciting and relaxing couple of weeks settling in before the season started…exciting it was, relaxing, not so much!

As the extreme cold weather subsided, multiple burst pipes left us with major flooding in the hostel accommodation. Water poured from the ceilings and down the walls and due to an unusual configuration of pipe work in the loft it proved a challenge for us to fully cut off the water supply. Now I understand why ‘problem solving’ is an essential skill required to work on an island where we don’t have the luxuries of things…like plumbers! In the end, we used some old hosepipe, silicone and electrical tape to make a drain out of the loft into one of the bathroom showers until we could get some skilled help. It wasn’t pretty but it worked.

After this brief spell of slightly milder weather, came another big freeze… ‘Beast from the East, part 2’ or ‘The minibeast’ as Ed liked to call it. It didn’t feel very ‘mini’ to me and we were all walking around trying to work wearing anything up to 8 layers of clothing, gloves, wooly hats and scarves… and that was just indoors! It’s at times like these that you realise how tough the birds and wildlife are surviving in these extreme conditions.

Beast from the East, part 2

Couldn't get any more layers on!

As all this was happening my Visitor Officer training continued which included tractor training. Anyone who knows me will know I am of the petite variety and this is not conducive to driving tractors… but I had excellent teaching from Bee (like me, smaller than your average person) and I already feel more than comfortable plodding up and down from the Farm to North Haven on the tractor. The benefits of a slow vehicle are that it is also a good opportunity to do a spot of birdwatching!

Tractor training

Talking of which, of course Skomer is a wonderful place to see a diverse range of birds and wildlife. Even this early in the season we have had some lovely sightings. The short-eared owls are already active, we have a couple of hen harriers hunting and roosting on the island and have already had the first manxies and puffins back from their winter migration. Sarah-Kay and I spotted a manx shearwater trapped in some bracken only yesterday. They are true seabirds and are vulnerable to predation when out on land in the daytime so we tucked it away under a wooden board in our garden until it could safely leave under cover of darkness later that night.

Puffins are back at the Wick already

Sarah-Kay and I have put up some house martin nestboxes up at the farm and hopefully we may get some breeding birds in there this year. On the nestbox theme, we are currently constructing some artificial manx shearwater nestboxes. There is stiff competition for natural burrows with over 316,000 pairs breeding here and given the success of these nestboxes for our neighbours on Ramsey island we hope to get some breeding birds using them over the next few years. We will keep you posted on the shearwater nestbox colony.

Housemartin nextboxes

Sarah-Kay and I putting up nestboxes
So, we’re all set for a new season, I’m looking forward to seeing how things pan out for our wildlife this year and fingers crossed that it will be a good year.

2018 Skomer island team

Sarah Parmor
Skomer Visitor Officer

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