Friday 22 April 2022

Introducing Kelda, new Skomer LTV 2022

Cyfarchion Gan Sgomer!

My name is Kelda and I am one of the long-term volunteers for the spring season (March – July 2022). I am 25 years old and grew up in London, so coming to Skomer for the first time in March was quite the change!

Myself on my first Breeding Bird Survey.

I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2019 with a degree in Zoology where I had some great opportunities to travel and see some amazing wildlife along the way. I spent 8 months in Iceland on an exchange year and after seeing my first breaching humpback, pair of minke whales, and the puffins on the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), my love for cetaceans and seabirds was born. Eventually, this grew to include all birds which ultimately led me to Skomer.

Since graduating I have largely been involved in public campaigns and community engagement work tackling plastic pollution. I came to Skomer with the aim of improving my bird identification and practical conservation skills. With help of the supportive team here, I can safely say I feel confident in distinguishing between the different calls of the birds found around the island including the blackbird, wren, meadow pipit, dunnock, curlew, oystercatcher, kittiwake and peregrine. 

Sunset on Skomer across South Field.

Upon arriving on the island on a beautiful sunny morning, we were greeted by a couple of curious seals and the first puffins slowly checking out and returning to their burrows. As an ocean lover, I was incredibly excited to see harbour porpoise at the Garland Stone, surrounded by diving gannets.

So far I have spent my evenings watching the short-eared owl swooping along North Valley just behind the farm and trying to catch a glimpse of the common dolphins occasionally seen in the surrounding waters. For the chiller evenings, I have bought along my stash of wool and have set myself the task of knitting a hat, scarf and jumper, hopefully before the start of next winter… 


A personal highlight of mine so far has been actually seeing Manx shearwater appearing from their burrows at night, as I have only ever heard them before, and of course driving the gator! I have also enjoyed meeting and working with other volunteers, and hearing about everyone’s backgrounds and stories about Skomer.

Buff-tailed bumblebee on willow flower by Green Pond.

I am keen to get started on my personal project that will look at the different species of bees found on the island and compare this to previous records going back to the 1930s. By completing bee transects I will also look at flower preferences and see if this changes throughout the season with different flowering plant species dominating the landscape.

Looking forward to writing again soon

- Kelda

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Introducing Eve, new Skomer LTV 2022

When I first decided to take a year out of my Zoology degree at Glasgow University, I had three goals: gain more practical experience in environmentalism, live in interesting diverse models of ‘community’, and learn German. I’ve only spent 2 of my 14 weeks here on Skomer, and I can confidently say two of those goals have already been reached... no prizes for guessing which two! 

My name is Eve, I’m 21, and I’m one of the two LTVs for the first half of 2022, March-July. Unlike many of you I’m sure, this is my first time ever on Skomer, and that’s the way I like it - throwing myself in the deep end and spending 3 months here. It’s such a privilege to see the ins and outs of island life, and the changing of the seasons, as the island is covered in White Campion, to Bluebells, to Red Campion. 

Giving one of my first Welcome Talks to day visitors 

I’ve always had a fascination and love of small islands, which I trace back to my time as a child on the Scottish Isle of Iona, off Mull. Island life creates a strong sense of community, between the people, land and wildlife. I’m also an enthusiastic naturalist, which is what drew me specifically to the isle of Skomer. I’ve been interested in sea birds and moths for a handful of years now, and am interested in continuing my studies and doing a research masters on something similar. 

Me (centre) and my first Puffins on Staffa, Scotland 

These interests have led me to volunteer at some interesting places in the past: from the northern reaches of the UK in Orkney, to the southern sunny coast of Portugal, to the fellow Welsh island of Bardsey. Most of this has been with Bird Observatories, which has been a fantastic privilege to help monitor as well as ring migratory species. However, as a lover for seabirds, I am thoroughly enjoying the slightly different experience of Skomer - getting to know the breeding birds and local residents much better, and having the opportunity to enthuse visitors over Britain’s wildlife. 

Ringing adult Fulmars on North Ronaldsay, Orkney 

It must be true, what people say about island time, as although I’ve only been here for 2 weeks, I already feel pretty settled, and like I’ve been here for months. Things have slowly wound up, starting with getting the Farm ready for guests, to delivering our first Welcome Talks to day visitors. A lot of the first week consisted of practical maintenance work, which although I lack a little in experience, I certainly try to make up for in my eagerness to learn. Kelda, the other LTV, and I have been tasked to build a brand new boardwalk for near Green Pond, which I’m really enjoying as it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn on the job... and dare I say it’s a good laugh too! 

Our first week included a lot of painting in the sun! 

Working on our boardwalk 

Of course, there’s lots of monitoring work too, and I’ve already got stuck in with helping with the Breeding Bird Surveys. However, that work will only increase as the season gets underway, with my first mammoth Puffin count probably happening very soon!

One thing I’m keen to do under my own steam is mothing - although my ID skills are limited (whose isn’t with the thousands of species?!), I’m determined to get the moth trap out regularly. I’ve incorporated this into my Personal Project, which will be focusing on the rare Enteucha acetosae, or Pygmy Sorrel Moth. It has only been recorded in Pembrokesire less than 30 times, and only across 5 locations. As of yet, there remains no record of it on Skomer. It may be Britain’s smallest moth with a forewing length at 1.5mm, but I have a feeling it won’t be such a small task. As a member of the leaf-miner family, E.acetosae leaves tiny little spiral mines on its host plant, Sorrel, and discolours the leaves to an autumnal red. I will be plotting the distribution of sorrel plants across the island and, if found, identifying the prevalence/absence of E.acetosae via leaf mines. 

E.acetosae Sorrel leaf mines 

After all of that, it doesn’t leave a huge amount of time to twiddle one’s thumbs! However, when I do find moments free, I enjoy playing music in my wee hut with my guitar I’ve brought onto the island (only the essentials!), reading, and increasingly bread making! 

I think that’s all from me, but I hope to write again, and maybe meet some of you soon! 

Eve, LTV 2022

You never regret a swim!