Wednesday 24 April 2019

Introducing our Long Term Volunteers- Part 1!

Hi everyone, my name is Clare and I am one of the Long-Term Volunteers (LTV) for the spring season. I come from a small town in Wiltshire, where I have lived all of my life. I am a student at Nottingham Trent University, currently on a placement year, gaining lots of important experience that will improve my chances of getting a job after university. I study Wildlife Conservation and in September will go back to do my final year.

A photo of me getting ready to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch earlier this year.

 Skomer is my third and final placement of the year, before this I volunteered in Italy for three months (Sept-Nov 2018) working to help the Marsican brown bears, this included things like setting up camera traps, looking for bear signs of presence and involved lots and lots of mountain hiking. After Italy I did a second placement, working for a local ecological consultancy, in Somerset, where I helped with surveys and report writing, which I really enjoyed. 

Hiking in the beautiful Apennine mountains in the Abruzzo region of Italy, looking over the town of Anversa Delgi Abruzzi, which was where I lived for the three months I was there.
At the top of Monte Genzana (2170m), an incredible experience which has made me want to climb many more mountains in my lifetime.

   After university I would love to do my own research. My main aim in life is to make a real difference in the world of conservation and hope that I can inspire others to love nature as much as I do. I have always had a love of wildlife and it was probably my grandma who inspired me the most, through her love of gardening and nature. My particular favourites are birds, butterflies, bees and wildflowers. As well as my love of wildlife I also have a love for photography and my camera has already been used a lot since arriving on Skomer. Hiking is also a favourite activity of mine which I have been very lucky to have done a lot of in the past year, next year I hope to do Snowdon.

One of many puffin photos I have already taken since being on Skomer.

I have been on Skomer for just over three weeks now and I am absolutely loving it. I am already driving the tractor and giving talks to guests. I am a keen birder and my favourite sightings so far have been short eared owls, hen harrier, manx shearwater and of course the puffins!

Looking over North Pond during my first week on Skomer (I’m in the middle).
During my time here I will also be doing my own research project, which I have already made a start on, so keep a look out for another post from me soon to find out what I’m doing 😊
Thanks for reading,
Clare (LTV)

Saturday 6 April 2019

The Skomer Team return for 2019

The end of February is the usual time for the Skomer wardens to return to the island and start preparations for the season ahead. There’s a slightly uneasy feel about what we are returning to… a few years ago there was storm damage to buildings and last year it was burst pipes in the hostel!
This year new wardens Sylwia and Nathan along with assistant warden Sarah-Kay and visitor officer Sarah J arrived back on the island at the end of February on a lovely calm sunny day… just as well as the next day the weather turned and we had stormy conditions for the following two weeks! 

We appreciated help in moving back form past wardens Steve and Anna Sutcliffe and regular Skomer volunteer Mick Brown. Thanks Mick for capturing us heading back in our little boat!

Skomer team return to the island

2019 wardens Sylwia and Nathan

Thankfully the buildings are mostly undamaged so we could get on with cleaning, decorating and path clearing!

Sarah J.  hostel cleaning

The Sarah's on the Hen harrier roost count survey

There are good and not so good jobs to do when we arrive back. Its lovely having our island back and checking out how the wildlife is doing. We join in with a Pembrokeshire coordinated hen harrier roost count in early March, have a friendly Pembrokeshire island contest with our neighbours Skokholm and Ramsey for the first wheatear back and again get used to falling asleep to the nightly calling of Manx shearwaters as they return to the island. The guillemots, razorbills fulmars and kittiwakes are already back on the cliffs, and we are seeing short eared owls every day too. Of course the return of the puffins always causes some excitement and this year they have returned earlier than ever and in huge numbers… could it be another record year for puffins on Skomer?

The four of us doing the yearly cleaning out of compost loos!
There isn’t too much time for birdwatching though as we have our work cut out getting ready for opening at the beginning of April. The island’s buildings suffer over winter from a lack of habitation and there will always be plenty of cleaning to do. One of our least favourite jobs in the spring is the digging out the compost loos…  ‘island living’ is not always idyllic!  A work party have been on for a week to help dig a new septic tank at North Haven and the first volunteers arrived on 24th March.

Finally we have to mention that our island tractor (affectionately known as ‘Trundle’… not the speediest mover!) He is a real work horse and we use him virtually every day for transporting visitor’s luggage as well as launching the boat and being general island dog’s body. 17 years on the island has taken its toll and he is now failing and we desperately need a new tractor to help us with the general running of the reserve. The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer have set up a crowdfunding appeal to help raise money to buy a new tractor and if you would like to help us please check out we are very grateful for any support. :)

We are really looking forward to a great season on Skomer and hope to see you all soon!

Sylwia, Nathan, Sarah-Kay and Sarah J.

Wednesday 3 April 2019

Skomer preparations for 2019 season

The last few weeks have been FULL ON!! This is why we have kind of disappeared for a little longer than planned.
Septic tank works in North Haven (including emptying it), discovery of the faulty septic tank up in the Farm (therefore more poo jobs), fixing the landing steps, drainage digging in NHV, hostel painting, boat trailer painting, electrics fixing, unloading of the materials that arrived on the Princess, compost loos emptying, new window installation in one of the volunteers' room and many more! (We even squeezed a bit of birding in there somewhere). Many of those have been achieved by the work party volunteers and weekly volunteers who by the way are ALL fantastic! We are so lucky to have met you! Thank you Ceri, Alison, Carole, Anne and Rob for finding time to come to Skomer even though you knew that weather in March changes all the time! Thank you for working really hard and putting up with us haha! And thank you to the weekly volunteers Tanya, Pat and Sue for being great as usual (Skomer very regular volunteers) and Jacob for your brill debut as a first time Skomer volunteer. You all did amazing!
Also a BIG thank you to Chris Ward and his always smiling knights-builders (Ed, Phil, ''Mr T'') in their shiny armours! Skomer gains so much from your expertise and professionalism! It's great to have you!
Dale Sailing worked day and almost night;-) to get our beautifully new tires up at the landing and to fix the jetty back on at Martins Haven, we got some sneaky pictures of you as well haha
and they even left a cool gift behind - finders keepers! :)
Our very much needed materials wouldn't have made it to Skomer without Steve's Sutcliffe help! Thank you for all the effort put into finding the items, ordering, labelling and packing them for us Steve! Some pieces have accidentally appeared on Skokholm but we were promised to get them back haaha. Their delivery was even bigger than ours so it's vry impressive to only have found a few items going to our sister island. Many thanks for all the help with that and with out first food order collected and delivered to us by Chris Taylor himself! Chris you're a saint!

We have managed to get an endless number of tasks done and we are very pleased with the results!
Ceri, Alison, Anne, Carole and Rob had this amazing trench dug in 2 days!

We found a massive boulder while digging the trench, which didn't stop us from achieving the ultimate goal
Ceri - the conqueror
Nicely fitted pipes by the multi skilled builders
Septic tank in North Haven was used for about 15 years and its time came to an end last year when it got completely full and some parts broke. We decided that the best way to fix the problem was to revert to the old septic tank, which was built during Mike Alexander's time as warden. Nathan and I took on the least favourite job and emptied the old septic tank and drove/wheel barrowed all the contents all the way to the Farm. It only took us 4 days! What a great workout! :)
Brilliant work party volunteers dug a massive trench in absolutely no time, which resulted in them carrying out thousands of other tasks on the island, for doing which we are very grateful!

Our main public footpaths are exceptionally well maintained, boat trailer looking smart new, researcher's rooms freshly painted thanks to the weekly volunteers team and Sarah-K who supervised the works. Our hostel looks and smells wonderful thanks to Sarah-J.

What often happens is that either everything is mega and works undeniably well or everything goes terribly wrong. And just as we thought that things couldn't get any worse about 2 weeks ago when we lost power at the Farm, we discovered that the septic tank there was not doing what it's supposed to be doing! Chris Ward and his team were there to help and we kind of managed to get it to function. It still requires some major works, which we are hoping to start sometime in August together with the roof replacement. Henry helped with the electrics and we have the power back up at the Farm.

Where once was window, now isn't there. We wanted some fun, we placed it elsewhere!
Alison baking;-)
Sarah-J and I spent some time inside the compost loos
Also myself and Nathan spent some time in the septic tank to keep the theme going
It's quite difficult to call some jobs from the past 5 weeks more important than others but we do have to prioritise and I am now finding difficult to choose the best pictures out of tens of them as well. Balance is important but I really want to show you All how MUCH has been done here in the past weeks. It really isn't easy! We welcome feedback if you think there are too many pictures but it can be fun to sometimes have more pictures than words. Here come more pictures;-)

Work party, weekly volunteers and all the 4 staff carrying materials up the stairs
We had a big delivery to the island, which was brough to us by Dale Sailing, many thanks for that. That was one of the best teamwork I have experienced and it makes our hearts sing when we can share the island with such fantastic people. We had lots of fun and we hope that it was joy for you to be here to work with us too!

Modern art - freshly fixed steps

It's incredible how much newly met people bring into your life, how laughter and shared experiences shape you in so many ways. It's absolutely breathtaking how you can see yourself through others and how even a short chat with someone can affect you in so many ways.
It is so very important to be open to others as this is exactly how we develop our own self; by talking, co-creating, brainstorming, creativity, sharing personal stories, through sad, stressful and happy moments. All those are extremely important in order to become a better version of yourself.
There is power and strength in teams.

KEEP ON SMILING EVERYONE :) and thanks for reading