Tuesday 29 October 2019

Skomer 2019 in pictures

A slightly different take on the end of season blog...Skomer 2019 in pictures to take you on a whistle stop ride through the season!
Here goes...

The wardens return

The team of four returned to the island in February wondering what would lie in store for us this year...

Moving in...Skomer style
Skomer 2019 team Sylwia, Nathan, Sarah-Kay and Sarah (J).

The Sarah's
Nathan and Sylwia

The island wakes up from it's winter sleep and it's very quiet here in February. The birds are yet to arrive back from their migration... and it is very cold!!!

Peaceful Skomer in February
Hen harrier roost count... we are wearing everything we own!
Working by candlelight... common occurrence in February

Puffins on the isthmus (North Haven) in March

The puffins return to Skomer at the end of March and this year they were a little earlier than expected and in very large numbers...
The highest numbers are always seen before the birds get down to the serious business of breeding. They come to land in the evenings in their thousands, reuniting with their mates and generally just hanging around.
Puffins at the Wick in March 

The hostel had suffered from a very wet winter and some of the ceilings were black with mould. A full deep clean and redecorate made it look as good as new!
Cleaning and decorating the accommodation

The ritual yearly cleaning out of the compost loos was a little less 'fun' than usual this year after the heavy use during last season's drought!

Emptying the compost loos !!

April 1st and we're open!

The volunteers and visitors arrive and suddenly it's a very different place. We didn't realise we were in for the busiest season to date. With over 20,000 visitors to the island during the six month season, the popularity of Skomer just keeps growing.
Quite a few puffins around this year...

Alice giving a welcome talk   "A Manx shearwater is about this big..."
Quite a few puffins meant plenty of these...

...and plenty of visitors meant lots of these!
Five welcome talks a day in the peak season

I think you need a sit down Phil?
Nathan and Karl...erm waving goodbye??
That's a lot of boat trips...
Thankfully the boatmen managed to remain entirely sane for the whole season...

Some lucky visitors had glimpses of pufflings as they venture out of the burrows for the first time
Puffin watching over their puffling

Grafters...volunteers scything willow herb.!
Behind the scenes our weekly volunteers are central to the smooth running of the reserve and this year was no different.

Compost loo cleaners...that's dedication!

Skomer volunteers really are the best!
Cleaning, scything, visitor engaging, path clearing, building... the list goes on

Bracken clearing and big smiles

Who needs TV... evening fun Skomer style!

It's true that volunteering can develop special friendships and many volunteers return year after year to volunteer in the same groups. This photo pretty much sums that up! Taken by vol Caroline Faulder... #SkomerSunset

Vols and staff taking a yoga session with Sylwia

Long term volunteers

Many of you will have met our long term-ers this year as they help with visitor work, guided walks, events and surveys. They were all absolutely fab and we're sure they have bright futures ahead in conservation!
Clare and Alice...forever friends

Seabird Vol Gemma... counting seabirds (obvs)

       Rob... Cave dweller! (only kidding but he does love bats!)

Issy, falling for the Skomer voles 

Bring on the researchers...

Not long into April the fieldworkers and researchers arrive and they are with us right through the seabird season. With hundreds of thousands of seabirds on Skomer they really have their work cut out.

Most of Skomer's birds nest in underground burrows and so the fieldworkers have refined several techniques for accessing the birds...

Belly crawl method

The classic 'head first/feet in the air' method


...what if we just move this big boulder out of the way method?

Bottom's up for Manx shearwater census!

But occasionally we can take a proper photo of them and what a good looking bunch they are...even a thousand puffins tried to photo-bomb this group shot!

Skomer researchers and around a thousand puffins!
OxNav researcher Joe
OxNav researcher Martyna
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the OxNav team who support some of the Skomer events particularly 'Shearwater Week'. Helping with the shearwater chick weigh-in is the highlight for everyone.

We're all here for the wildlife, and this is why....

A nationally important place for breeding seabirds there are plenty of these little guys to monitor...


Lesser black-backed gull chicks... cute

Razorbill chick... just look at those feet!
Manxie... winner of cutest chick award 2019 (not official)

Parents and chicks... 

...short eared owl chick
Short eared owl adult watching over...

Guillemots make the best parents, never leaving the chick unattended. This little chick featured in another Skomer blog this year (see July 2019)                                       
My favourite chick of the year...
Swallows nest around the buildings and some even raised 3 broods this year, they are hard workers!
View from our kitchen window
Chough are one of the rarer UK breeding birds that we have on Skomer. This year was a good year for them and three chough pairs successfully fledged chicks.
Chough parents (red bill) and fledgling (yellow bill)

Shelduck teaching chicks to feed (photobombed by black-tailed godwit)

Filming chicks...

The continued success of Skomer's Manx shearwaters brings along with it a degree of media interest and most years there will be some filming on the island. Our media team helping OxNav researcher Tash with the filming of shearwater chick weighing this year.
Gina and Carys filming shearwaters with ITV

Non-feathered wildlife...
It has also been a great year for other wildlife too. The rabbits around the farm have been popular with farm residents. We had a really unusual sighting of a bottlenose dolphin close to the Garland Stone, a rare bedstraw hawkmoth in the moth trap and of course the seals during the Autumn. Its looking like another great year for seal pup numbers around the island.
So many black rabbits this year
A laid back farm resident rabbit
A bottlenose dolphin eyeing up this boat close to the Garland Stone

 4th ever Pembrokeshire record for a Bedstraw hawkmoth

Seals on Skomer...
Once the seabirds have gone our work turns to the seals. Close to 250 seal pups are born around Skomer in the Autumn. Seal pups are at the mercy of big storms and we always hope the weather will be kind to them. So far so good this year, finger's crossed that things remain calm for the last few weeks.

The first born pup of 2019..  was imaginatively named 'First Pup'

This cute little one was the first pup of the season, born on 10th August.

First pup at 18 days old with mum still looking on..

What a difference eighteen days makes... this is 'First Pup' with a fully moulted coat. Two days later mum had gone and the little pup was ready for a life of independence.

Sleepy pup
Very sleepy pup

Most seal pupping beaches are totally underwater at high tide. The little pups will have to spend several hours, twice a day swimming for their lives. That means a lot of resting between high tides conserving energy.

Luckily they have good mums to look after them and don't leave them at all for up to 3 weeks old.

Fond farewells

This year we said goodbye to two long-term Skomer residents.

Trundle the tractor, the best workhorse on the island. After 17 years of service Trundle will have a special place in many Skomer hearts.
Full of rust from years of island living, he still didn't let us down, those wheels just kept on turning until he was taken off the island in August to his mainland retirement home.

She'll be back....
Not quite as long but still five consecutive years of working on Skomer in one form or another, we said goodbye to Assistant Warden Sarah-Kay. Somehow we know it won't be the last we see of Sarah on Skomer!

#SpecialRelationship...Sarah was aka the tractor queen
I'm getting the hang of the dumper driving now!

Out with the old and in with the new...
Trundle was replaced by 'Dexter' the dumper.
A massive thank you to all those that generously donated and to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer for all the leg work in getting the new vehicle!

And finally...

It really has been another great year on Skomer and it is such a privilege to work on this beautiful island. It has been a super busy year, more than 20,000 day visitors and well over a thousand overnight guests. We have had so many kind words of support for the island and the work we do, people from all walks of life and ages all with one thing in common...

Sarah Parmor (Skomer Visitor Officer)

Photo contributions from
Mick Brown, Renate Thome, Dave Astins, Caroline Faulder, Clare Alley, Julie Riordan, Alice Cousens, Viv Hastie, Alexa Piggot, Rob Lott, Ed Betteridge, Nathan Wilkie, Sarah-Kay Purdon, Sonia Gadd, Sarah Parmor.