Rain is battering the windows in the North Haven library, the wind is howling, and at sea great white horses are throwing spray into the air. It is the kind of day when it is rather pleasant to be inside, with spreadsheets and filing systems seeming more inviting than usual. Wet weather is also an opportunity to write a quick update on what we’ve seen and done in the week that was.
For the first week after our arrival on the island, we were almost fooled into thinking spring had come. The days were bright and sunny, queen bumblebees busied themselves in the daffodils at North Haven and the farm, and when walking on the west of the island we invariably saw porpoises in the calm waters close to land.
|Breakfast with a view|
|Queen buff-tailed bumblebee|
Guillemots and razorbills rafted closer and closer to shore, and after a few days were back on the cliffs in good numbers, making a familiar din with their gargling and deep-throated purr. At South Stream and the Wick, they were accompanied by the high call of ‘kittiwake, kitti-waaaake’, as these dainty gulls returned to inspect last year’s nests and plan refurbishments.
The good weather was an opportunity to conduct monitoring on raven and chough territories. We’ve been able to pinpoint most, if not all, of the raven territories, and have mapped nests across the island. We’ll visit these on a weekly basis. Chough nests are harder to spot – these scarlet-billed corvids nest in holes in the cliffs, so we keep our eyes peeled for signs of them entering and exiting nests.
Unfortunately, the internet at both North Haven and the farm had failed at some point over the winter – on Saturday, Guy from Dragon WiFi came out to try to fix the problem. The boat crossing was an opportunity to bring out a few staff and volunteers to help shift some of the landslide blocking the slipway. Numbers were limited by Covid restrictions, but though the team was small it was mighty, shifting a good 40 tonnes of rock and earth. We’re enormously grateful for the help – whilst around 20 tonnes remain, it feels a good deal more achievable for the two of us to clear. It’s vital that the slipway is cleared soon as we are expecting a delivery of solar panels for the farm and the return of our boat, with brand new trailer, from Dale Sailing.
With wind and rain forecast, we spent Tuesday storm-proofing the buildings; mending gutters, boarding up a broken window at the farm and securing anything loose and likely to fly away. Leighton created an impressive pile of firewood whilst I attached a new lid and handle to the compost heap. By then, the wind was beginning to pick up, and in the final stages I found myself dodging fragments of eggshell and loose tea.
|Waves hitting Skokholm|
It’s been a blustery few days, and looks set to continue in much the same vein. Winds last night reached 75mph, and we were relieved upon checking the buildings that no damage had been sustained. Whilst yesterday saw constant rain, today the clouds have been blowing through quickly – one moment rain, the next bright sunshine. Hail is forecast…
And now for the birds! On Sunday Leighton spotted Skomer’s hotly-anticipated first wheatear
of the season, a few days after they’d been seen by our neighbours on Skokholm and Ramsey, and we had our first short-eared owl
of the year on Gorse Hill. We’ve had a total of four blue tits
in the scrub at South Stream and North Valley Crossing – fairly unusual visitors in springtime, though expected in autumn. We’ve also had two sightings of black redstart
and of goldcrest
, and several of chiffchaffs
– the first of the warblers. Wader highlights have been a single bar-tailed godwit
, a group of 25 curlew
, and 7 golden plover
. Yesterday’s wind also brought some ducks our way, with 22 teal
on Moorey Mere, and a solitary tufted duck
hunkering down in North Pond.
|Teal at Moorey Mere|
Some of you might also be pleased to hear of the arrival of some small comical auks, seen bobbing about on the sea – yes, the puffins are back!
|There's a puffin there, honest|
We’ve also seen our first slow worms of the year – two fortunate survivors of the landslide, whose hibernation was rudely interrupted when the cliff fell and took them with it. And, yesterday, our first Skomer vole – nibbling on the short grass outside the farm whilst being buffeted by the wind.
|Slow worm |
Signing off now. Thanks for joining a rather whistlestop tour of the week – look forward to writing again on the next rainy day!
– Ceris, Assistant Warden
|Grey seal at North Haven|
|Wren in daffodils|
|Lesser black-backed gull|