Monday 20 April 2020

news from Skomer - April 2020

The island is swarming with creatures - 
animal forms wilder and more charismatic than ever ramped in day dream! - trying to sound poetic here...

Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes are taking over the cliffs. Manx Shearwaters and Puffins are taking over the burrows both inland and on the slopes, gulls have taken over the land!
It is wonderful to watch the island slowly turn into this ever stirring, ever noisy and ever bustling with its own unique splendor asylum.
The island is starting to enfold us with its seasonal magic. Spring has undoubtedly conquered Skomer and triumphantly clapped its hands smirking at winter, which skedaddled for a little while allowing this beautiful lady to take her reign and give us the buzz and chipper spirit back.

Bombus terrestris queen was feeding with nectar before she started searching for suitable nesting sites. Buff-tailed bumblebee queens are one of the earliest queens to emerge.
A pair of Razorbills
Skomer Vole
Stunning light captured from Captain Kites looking onto the Neck
Team Skomer 2020 at sunset
We got to experience this absolutely glorious sunset one evening
Morning dew on spider web 
Mega moon, called supermoon, the biggest one this year
George the Blackbird :)
Great Black-backed Gull swallowing Easter bunny :) the video was posted on different social media platforms and I must admit I never thought it would go this viral! Over 2 millions views if not more now! Here is the link for anyone who hasn't seen it yet: ©Sylwia Zbijewska
Sunrise seen from the Farm
Daffodils ©Catrin Norris
Hummingbird Hawk-moth
Water Rail (mega luck to get to see it this well!) ©Nathan Wilkie
We are very fortunate to be able to carry on working in this dreamy place and we would like to express, straight from the heart, our gratitude to all the lovely people who have donated to support the WTSWW (manage over 100 reserves across the region), which is going through a financial hardship at the moment.
It also enables us to manage Skomer Island and virtually deliver our fantastic wildlife and landscape footage to you.

In the last blog we introduced Ceris, Catrin and Rhian but here there is a little bit more about them:
Assistant Warden Ceris comes from Scotland and has most recently worked at St. Abb’s Head and Lindisfarne National Nature Reserves. She loves seabirds and her favourite place (so far) is Skomer Head where she can frequently be seen with her binoculars and a flask of coffee. Ceris is a real craftswoman!

Ceris ©Catrin Norris
Visitor Officer Catrin has worked many years on yachts and has a MSc in Marine Environmental Management. She recently studied plastic digestion in Manx Shearwaters in the Faroe Islands. Catrin is a wonderful nature enthusiast and her energy is absolutely contagious. She loves to yoga outdoors when the sun shines!

Catrin Norris, photo taken by her mum I believe :)
Long-term volunteer Rhian recently completed her masters in Marine Biology in Cork, Ireland, and recently worked in an aquarium with the focus on seals and geckos. She’s a keen cetacean spotter and so far has been the only one of us who has seen both Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise from Skomer this year. 
Rhian LTV 2020  ©Ceris Aston

We of course haven't been working in the same way we always do.
Instant adaptation are the key words to best express the current situation.
We regret that many aren't able to join us to conduct their research, to enjoy their short holidays or to simply take a stroll around the island with a head full of wonder. We're hopeful that we will welcome you in a blink of an eye and enjoy the island together.
A contemptible love of seabird work fun and island frolic is the ruling passion of our lives. 
And we would like to share that passion with you whether it is in person or not :). We have been sending photos and footage out into the world with the goal of bringing the island a little closer to you to enjoy it before you can physically join us here. We hope that you are finding it uplifting and joyous?

Lesser Black-backed Gull hide overwinters in our workshop and needs assembling before the breeding season starts. It is used to read colour ringed adults in Shearing Hayes as part of the adult survival study. ©Catrin Norris
The last few weeks were spent decorating and refreshing the interior of the buildings, carried on with more maintenance. We have been doing quite a lot of fieldwork, which includes breeding bird surveys, colour ring resighting in adult birds etc 
Breeding bird survey is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK's common and widespread breeding birds.
It's a great way of having every member of the team involved and spending early mornings out and about looking for birds (and other encountered wildlife).

We were able to establish that there are 4 breeding pairs of Peregrines here this year, which is fabulous.
Choughs are keeping it quiet at the moment, which is a great indication that they have eggs. The female incubates alone for 17-21 days. She then broods the young almost continuously for the first two weeks with the male supplying all the food.

Brilliant and absolutely compulsory element worth mentioning is that it appears that three different Curlew pairs have selected their respective patches and have been seen advertising ownership of their breeding territory or chasing away intruders. We of course are hoping that they will all attempt to breed, successfully produce clutches and rear some young.
Skomer is the last place in the whole of Pembrokeshire where they still breed and last year was a great success with 2 young that fledged compared to 2018 when none did.

Similarly to Chough our Short-eared Owls have been keeping it even more quiet with only individual birds seen here and there, making only the necessary trips to feed themselves and their pair (mostly females incubate) whilst they are incubating.
The Short-eared Owls hunt mostly at night, but they are known to be diurnal and crepuscular (dusk and dawn) as well. However, they are still one of the most active British owls during daylight. One of the good explanation for their daylight hunting is the coinciding high-activity periods of Skomer Voles its preferred prey.

Short-eared Owl on the wall ©Ceris Aston

We have also seen the first Great Black-backed Gull eggs on the 13th of April.

Great Black-backed Gull eggs. I personally have seen much better formed nests but oh well they might have been in a rush of getting into breeding spirit sooner rather than later ;) ©Sylwia Zbijewska

We have managed to go across to collect very needed food supplies. We yet again would like to thank our exceptional local friends who have been supporting us from the mainland! Sending enormous virtual hugs to you!

Nathan driving our boat ©Ceris Aston

One of the free time jobs we have undertaken was the maintenance of the old farm garden. There are different reasons why we have decided to put a little bit of time into this task. One is that there is limited fresh food available to us but mostly because self-grown vegetables and herbs are always lovely and being self-sufficient brings a lot of satisfaction.

Catrin (Visitor Officer) weeding @Ceris Aston
We are currently at the stage when the proper seabird monitoring is kicking off and we are very excited about it as usual.

A pair of mating colour ringed Razorbills
We are going to continue to deliver stories and footage of Skomer to you using various social media platforms. In case you didn't know we can be found on: - here you can watch Skomer live in North Haven, which is the special project we were working on to bring the island closer to you. You can now watch Grey Seals, Puffins, Manx Shearwaters at night, Fulmars, Razorbills, Guillemots and other wildlife in the comfort of your home.
There are three cameras to choose from when you click on Dragon Wifi icon.

There is another project which we are currently working on with the help of a few special individuals! Stay tuned and you should hear more about it either tonight or tomorrow!

Cheers and sending lots of love from us!