Saturday 28 September 2019

Fight for our future

This month saw the start of the global Fridays For Future climate strikes. Young people all over the world are standing up in support of the changes required to mitigate climate change. Even though we are marooned on the island following a spell of stormy weather, the Skomer team are voicing our support for #FridaysForFuture and the global #ClimateStrikes.

Puffin on Skomer Photo: Sarah Parmor
Puffling (puffin chick)Photo:Viv Hastie
Climate change is already having a devastating effect on wildlife. 

Although Skomer’s puffins are doing well, puffin numbers in more northerly colonies have plummeted. Climate change and the warming sea temperatures are affecting where sandeels (puffin food) can thrive. In the breeding colonies of Shetland, Norway and Iceland, parent puffins are having to travel further away from the colony to find food for their chicks. For several years, some of these colonies are fledging no, or few chicks. This is not sustainable. If nothing changes puffins will be on a path to extinction.

Fulmar on nest site Photo: Sarah Parmor
The waters around Skomer have not yet warmed (due to ocean currents) so our puffins are doing ok for now. It is likely that we will eventually see a rise in sea temperatures though, and then the same fate awaits our birds. Not all of Skomer’s seabirds are doing well: kittiwakes in particular are declining here, as they are globally. It is frustrating that no matter how safe we make their breeding habitat on the island we cannot affect the foraging conditions these birds must contend with to successfully rear chicks.
Kittiwakes are struggling to rear chicks. Photo: Alice Cousens

There are other effects of climate change that are of concern. For example, extreme weather events are becoming more common and severe. In the winter of 2013-2014 extreme storms in puffin overwintering areas in Southern Europe killed thousands of birds. Given that our puffin breeding numbers have remained stable these were either birds from other breeding colonies, or young Skomer birds who are not yet breeders. If the latter, then we may see a drop in our breeding population over the next few years. Time will tell.

Skomer's puffins holding on... but for how long? Photo: Renate Thome

Guillemot chick Photo: Sarah Parmor
Razorbil chick Photo: Alexa Piggot
Seabirds are generally long lived birds and these little chicks have a hard fight ahead of them to survive. Climate change will not only affect wildlife but every one of us directly. From the weather we experience, to the water we drink and food we need to survive. What is clear is that climate change is an urgent problem and we must continue to urge governments to act accordingly
Young people need us to act now, to minimise harm and chaos in the future. 

Issy Key & Sarah Parmor
(Skomer LTV and Visitor Officer)

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Great news - New Skomer Vehicles

The team on Skomer has been completely overwhelmed by the generosity that has come our way in over the last few months! And this kindness has come in so many forms too. 

It seemed that our firsts few weeks on Skomer were filled with endless discoveries of things that needed fixing or replacing, the frequency seemed high even for an island, but these things happen. The next discovery was much more uplifting… all the many people who were keen to help, even though one of these tasks involved digging and septic tanks!
But onto Skomer’s fantastic tractor (AKA Trundle) that is much loved but after 17 years on an island had seen better days and had become a money pit. So with the latest maintenance work quoted at £5,000 we decided that a new vehicle was needed.

The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer, knowing how busy the team is on Skomer but also knowing that they had the expertise and contacts, offered to organise the fund raising for a new vehicle, which we gladly accepted – thank you! This included a just giving website, which over 136 people donated to – thank you! And the many hostel guests and day visitor who also donated – thank you! 

Additional funding was also provided by Milford Haven Port Authority via their Port’s Community Fund – Thank you MHPA! Even more funding also generously came from local poet Peter Brown who donated 100% of the price of his latest book The Beetles – Thank you!

The Friends, particularly Steve Sutcliffe and Mark Burton, then meticulously searched for the best replacement vehicle and after many that were just not good enough for Skomer, found a great 3 tonne dumper – thank you! Many members of the Friends have also worked behind the scenes, coordinating, amongst many things, the finances and the vehicle fund raise page – thank you! Steve (maybe we should start calling him the law-abiding, successful Del Boy) to all our surprise also managed to find a generous company that has donated a brand new Kawasaki Mule! Which as it happens we called Valery – thank you Valero! Thank you Steve!

Sylwia warden, Steve Sutcliffe from The Friends and Nathan warden - photo taken by Jo from Valero

Steve, Chris and Phil
Sarah Parmor our Visitor Officer was clearly very excited to drive the dumper loaded with our guests' luggage to the Sales Point for the first time! Pretty cool eh? :)

Photo credit to Andrew Hughes our regular weekly volunteer.

Look at those lovely cheeky faces. 
We miss you guys! 

There is a long list of major jobs, of which some have already been completed with Chris and Chris's very skilled team. Thanks guys for your hard work and great humour!

Fingers crossed we can come up with some great ideas and get funding to carry out the rest of the important works, which will enable us to run the island more smoothly.
Dan, Steve and Mark in action. Anna supervising. John, Tom and Lyn on the barge.

There were many people also involved with ideas for modifications of the dumper and Dan Jones expertly put these ideas in place – thank you.

Upon its arrival (via Dale Sailing’s barge – thank you!) the dumper was immediately put to good use and carried materials for the new roof and septic tank repairs at the farm, which it excelled at! It is also very satisfying how much luggage can fit in the dumper’s bucket, although we hope we don’t lose the Tetris skills gained by loading luggage in Trundle. 

Also, a huge thank you to all the people who have donated and helped that we have not mentioned above, we are so grateful!

We said goodbye to our tractor, which is now in Dan's good hands.
We are delighted to be able to share these great news with you all and couldn't be more excited about all the wonderful things that have been coming our way since our arrival to Skomer last September!
As always we are extremely grateful to everyone involved!

Keep on smiling and let's continue to do great things and to be kind!

Skomer wardens
Sylwia and Nathan

Saturday 14 September 2019

I Promise You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me!

Hi, Tall Sarah* here..... and I have some news
(*aka Assistant Warden aka The Tractor Queen aka The Unit aka Purdo)

I have got a new job: Mid Wales Red Squirrel Officer. I will be working to protect red squirrels in mid Wales (a role still within WTSWW :) ). I’ll miss the island of course, but I’m really excited for this new position. No doubt the majority of my time off from the new job will be taken to come visit the island. I’m still trying to decide if I sign myself up as a weekly volunteer or not!

My time as assistant warden has been incredible. Since 2017 I’ve called Skomer home, and what a privilege that has been. I have met so many lovely people, multiple friends for life and a fair few inspirations. I am grateful to every single one of you who has volunteered with me over the past few years. Thank you for putting up with my weirdness and all the bird impressions that I take juuuuuust a little bit too far…
Describing the difference between Guillemots and Razorbils in a welcome talk this year

I first came to Skomer Island as a fresh faced youngster, just 4 days after my last exam of university. The contrast of changing from months of revision, stuck indoors through a beautiful spring, to being out on the ocean waves, counting seabirds with the island team was incredible. I believe it was during an introductory meeting with other volunteers on that week that I said (in response to others mentioning their career goals) “I think I’d like Jason’s [assistant warden] job really..!”

Jason, Ed and myself, having completed the first round of seabird counts in 2014.

After my initial visit in 2014, (which was originally only supposed to be a week long, but I extended to 10 days - a common theme with my time on the island), I returned in 2015 as a long term volunteer. I loved my time living in “the hut” and it was within the first week that I gained the nickname “the tractor queen”. I once again extended my time on the island, due to be on April till mid-July, I was actually on from the end of March until early August.
In 2016 I visited multiple times, making sure to get a few visits in June to get my fix of seabird counts. Then in 2017 I returned, for my first full season. I always knew I wanted to do three seasons, and beyond that I didn’t know.

I’ll be on the island for the next week or so, but commitments in the new post mean I’ll be moving off the island just before the end of this season. I will still be assigning the spaces for weekly volunteers in 2020 though, so all those who send in an application to by the end of September can still expect an email from me by the end of October.
my favorite place on the island.

This island, the time I’ve spent here, and the people I’ve met here will always be very close to my heart. I will never forget this place, and rest assured- I will be coming back to visit ALL THE TIME!
If you’d like to keep in touch, I’ll still be on the Skomer Assistant email and phone for another week or so, and after that you can find me on, or roaming about in the forests of mid-Wales!

Lots of Love
Tall Sarah
Assistant Warden 2019, 2018, 2017, LTV 2015, friend of the island forever.