The light streams in through the curtains, and a gentle breeze brushes my face. I'm eased out of sleep five minutes before my 7:15 alarm. I put on some music, jump out of bed, and get ready for the day.
|Rob and me on 'the Neck' after finishing a rare plant survey|
At 9:30 I walk down to the harbour for my 'morning boats' duty. I update the chalkboard (including drawing a puffin), set up the sales point and chat with the weekly volunteers about their experiences, hopes, dreams and fears. As each boat arrives, I give a 5 minute talk introducing guests to the island - pointing out the best places for wildlife sightings, trying to crack jokes, and ensuring everyone has learnt the all-important golden rule: stay on the path! I also try to convey how Skomer fits into the bigger picture of wildlife conservation - if people can leave the island with a greater love of nature, and an understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation and combatting climate, then I feel I have done my job! Giving these talks has been a great experience and my public speaking has already improved.
|Helping with the daily Manx shearwater chick weigh-in|
|Up close with puffins: Alexa showed us her 'hidden observation spot'|
|No machinery allowed: cutting bracken the old traditional way|
Between talks I answer questions and chat to visitors. I love doing this, especially when people (children in particular) are enthusiastic about nature! There’s a great black-backed gull trying to swallow a Manx Shearwater chick, which the guests are mesmerised by. Other days we’ve had dolphins, peregrines, and always seals, to keep us company.
The morning boats session finishes at about 12:30, and I head back to the farm (where about half the staff/volunteers/researchers live) for lunch. Our fridge broke a few days ago, so we are surviving mostly off tinned/canned food for now. This doesn't matter though - there is still plenty of food to go round!
After lunch, I head out to do a butterfly survey with Sarah-Kay, the Assistant Warden. It’s a sunny day, so perfect for butterflies. The majority of the time is spent chasing down Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers - these two species look very similar from a distance, so you have to get up close to tell them apart! We also find a Grayling, with I have never seen before. This species has a fascinating behaviour: it orientates its body directly towards to sun to minimise its shadow, perhaps to keep it cool and/or make it hard to spot by predators.
The butterfly survey is followed by a cool shower (we do have hot water, from solar panels, but it’s a hot day!). I then drive the tractor (the loveable 'trundle') down to the beach to help with the storm petrel survey. Nathan abseils down the grassy cliff and plays storm petrel calls from a handheld speaker in front of potential petrel nesting sites (crevices in the rock). We listen very carefully for a reply from a petrel. Most of them are silent, but in a few of the crevices we hear the gentle 'purring' of a storm petrel!
|Skomer vole surveys with Rob and some enthusiastic overnight guests!|
I cook dinner with Rob and work on my Instagram page, @climate_science, which aims to make learning about the science behind climate change fun and easy (go check it out!). I’m able to fit a fair bit of my own work around Skomer-jobs. I then head out to watch the end of the sunset from a rocky ledge. Staring into the Irish Sea, perched on rocks, with seals in the water, I'm so happy. Once its dark, I collect the data for my research project on light pollution from oil tankers in St Bride's Bay. I count the lights on the ships, photograph them for brightness analysis, and note down their GPS locations.
The bright lights attract young Manx Shearwaters onto the
boats, from which they struggle to take flight again. We don't know much about
how this is affecting the Shearwater population, but it is likely that is
causing multiple deaths each night. I hope that my quantification of the light pollution
from the ships will help encourage legislation to reduce light use on these
ships in the Marine Conservation Zone.
|Rockpooling for Hidden Secrets event and identifying lots of sucker fish!|
On my walk back to the farm, I'm surrounded by Manx Shearwaters. Its magical. Like most nights, there's a toad sitting just outside the door of my hut. Tonight, however, there is another toad with him - the dynamics of their relationship I am yet to find out! I settle into bed, and sleep solidly, ready for another day of adventures tomorrow.
I've had an amazing few weeks on Skomer, soaking up the wildlife, learning loads, and making great friends. I thought I'd try to give you a sense of what a day is like for me from start to finish - I hope this was insightful for some of you! I just finished my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in Ecology, and aim to use my career to tackle climate change. Skomer is a wonderful place for me to gain a thorough understanding of how conservation works on the ground, and I am treasuring my time here.
Issy Key (Skomer long term volunteer)