Sunday, 22 April 2018

Looking back; Looking forwards

As my second year as assistant warden seems to be rushing into full swing, I find myself looking back at last year, and anticipating what lies in store for the next few weeks.
It’s notable how different the two springs have been.

In the low vegetation early this year, the black rabbits stand out even more than normal!
In 2017 I arrived for my first cold Skomer march to an island, surprisingly green. Areas of the island which had been bare ground, or with sparse grass to support the network of burrows running underneath, in 2016 had grown lush grass over the winter, and while the island looked a little bleak in certain lights, there was green to be seen. This year however, we arrived to ice (already quite a difference) and salt/wind burned vegetation. All the bracken from last year has been completely flattened and most of the grass was brown and looking rather dead. What followed was something I never thought I’d see- Skomer covered in SNOW.

The courtyard at the farm in early March 2018

The days of "The Beast From The East" really highlighted the coldness of the buildings out here. In the kitchen my olive oil solidified, my plates cooled my food down before I’d eaten it, and the fridge got down to minus 1 without turning on. Each day was just something to be survived and it was nearly impossible to get anything done.

My kitchen windows were turned to frosted glass by freezing rain.
Outside the wind was biting, and six layers of warm and windproof clothing wasn’t enough, inside, the cold seeped into your bones as you sat at the computer, wearing even more layers and continuously drinking tea.

The perks of being on the island early; the wildlife still thinks of the farm as its' territory, with chough feeding in the courtyard and buzzard using the railings at the compost loos as a lookout post.

While we readied the island for visitors and busied ourselves training up our new Long Term Volunteers, Dulcie and Tom (full introductions and blogs from them are coming soon!), the island has started to change. In the last week bushes suddenly have green bursts of growth, green grass is poking through the dead brown vegetation lying across most of the island. Lots of birds have been seen collecting nesting material and the bluebell leaves are subtly taking hold, and there are flowers breaking through all over, a mere hint at what is to come.

2017: Kittiwakes collecting nesting material last year

2017: Before we know it the island will be full of colour

Myself and Ed have braved the shorts a few times, and at least the inside of our buildings are up to a more reasonable 15°C! (the corridor and bedrooms stubbornly remained at around 5°C for the entirety of March.)

2017: The Blackthorn was in flower by mid April last year, this year it's a little behind.

We’ve just had our first Razorbill egg so it’s time to look closely to spot more, and find the first bright blue guillemot egg on the cliffs!

Postcards are available on the island showing the diversity and colour of guillemot eggs

You may have seen Skomer’s Guillemot’s feature on a recent Natural World (David Attenboroughs Wonder of Eggs), if you missed it, you can watch it here (available for the next two weeks)

And if you’d like to find out more or support the long term guillemot study on Skomer, please click here

Hope you're all warm and well, 
Sarah-Kay aka Purdo aka Assistant Warden aka SKP aka Tall Sarah

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