Saturday 18 September 2021

September update from Skomer's long-term volunteers

Hi everyone it's Rowie and Ed here. You may have read our introductory blogs a few weeks ago - we are now here to give you all an update.

Birding breakfast bonanza

Rowie: Myself and Ceris went for an early bird walk to increase my bird identification skills. This is an exciting time for birdwatching on the island with many migrating birds passing through and every bush seemingly teeming with life. Around the farm we immediately saw a bright yellow Willow Warbler and then another and then another... We started heading down into North Valley to see what was at North Pond. At first glance all seemed normal - just a few Moorhen and Gulls, but then Ceris perked up when she realised there was a small wader feeding just below the hide. We first thought it was a Dunlin but it didn't seem quite right. After double-checking we then realised it must be a CURLEW SANDPIPER!! This was very exciting as neither of us had seen one before! This then caused a mini twitch as everyone came down to see it. After watching it feed actively around the pond we left it to its devices and headed back to the farm. Here we were then fortunate to stumble upon the long-staying Wryneck! This made for a very exciting morning.

The Curlew Sandpiper that spent a few hours on North Pond

Searching for seals

Rowie and Ed: An important part of our job currently on the island is to aid with the seal census; this involves checking prime areas around the island every 2-4 days for adult seals as well as pups. There is often a buzz on the ‘seal round’ in anticipation of a new pup. We are now deep in seal pupping season for Skomer with at least 92 pups across the island. If you are visiting soon definitely keep an eye out especially in North and South Haven where many pups can easily be seen from public viewing spots. Another part of our job is to try and identify individual adult seals by their distinguishable marks and scars. This can be a long process trying to match up current photos with those from previous years. However, it is extremely rewarding when you get a match and find out the history of that seal.

If you're lucky you may even get to see a pup suckling!

Busy as a bee

Living on an island means that there is always something to fix, mend or replace; this has kept us occupied over the past few weeks. Jobs recently have included building new steps at the landing, painting the cement mixer and creating new signs. As you can see, jobs vary a lot making every day different.

Ed: Alongside this we have continued to work on our individual projects; I have been continuing to run moth traps around the farm. So far I have run 43 traps mainly around the farm. This has resulted in catching an astonishing 13,583 moths of 204 species! With still a few more weeks to go until I leave I now have my targets set for 15,000 moths!
A portable moth trap, put out amongst ragwort to record the importance of this plant as a food source for nocturnal moths

Rowie: Whereas I have created a new butterfly transect in line with the UK butterfly monitoring scheme around the island. This transect takes me up to the Garland Stone and around to finish at Skomer Head. Weather permitting I follow the transect once a week recording all butterflies seen within 2.5 metres either side and 5 metres ahead of me. So far I have recorded 9 species over the course of the last 6 weeks. I plan to continue these transects in order to further our understanding of butterflies here on Skomer.

A wish upon a Manxie 

In the evening we often sit out in the courtyard having themed grouped meals. A large part of these evenings are still being taken up by frisbeeing (we now have upgraded our frisbee!) and trying not to get it on the roof! When it gets darker and the frisbee is put away, the Manx shearwaters start to arrive back from the sea and fly over the farm. When sitting down looking up these can often at first be mistaken for a shooting star! Unfortunately this is soon to become a rare event as each night sees many of our Manxies leave us. 

- Rowie and Ed, Long-Term Volunteers

Hungry Rowie getting overly happy about a shop

Ed checking biosecurity boxes on the Neck for signs of rats