Friday 19 May 2023

Meet The 2023 Skomer Island Team

The arrival of May has seen our seabirds starting to lay and our researchers are hard at work monitoring their productivity. But the changing season has also brought a flurry of new staff to the island.

And so, introducing Skomer Island’s WTSWW 2023 staff…

The Skomer Island team standing in front of a book case. Left to right, we have Hannah, Lotti, Erin, Leighton, Rob and Ceris.
The 2023 Team, L-R: Hannah (Fieldworker), Lotti (LTV), Erin (LTV), Leighton (Warden), Rob (Visitor Officer), Ceris (Assistant Warden) © Skomer VO

Leighton driving the boat off Skomer.
Leighton out on the boat © Skomer Warden

Leighton – Warden (he/him)

Leighton is back for his third year as Warden and sixth year in total. As a previous Visitor Officer on Skomer, he knows the island inside out! He oversees all research, monitoring and visitor operations on the island.

Ceris driving the dumper truck down to the beach.
Ceris driving the dumper truck © Skomer Warden

Ceris – Assistant Warden (she/her)

Ceris has returned to the island for her fourth season on Skomer as our Assistant Warden. She is a strong advocate for increasing diversity and inclusion on the island and is in charge of the weekly volunteer work plans, along with a range of monitoring and surveys, maintenance work and welcome talks to guests. She is learning Welsh and enjoys practising this on morning boats!

Rob out on a breeding bird survey © Skomer AW

Rob – Visitor Officer (he/him)

The team are excited to welcome Rob as Visitor Officer for his first season. Taking over from Beth, he has big shoes to fill – but thankfully has big feet. Rob runs our hostel, is responsible for day visitors, runs the social media and carries out a range of monitoring work. As a previous long-term volunteer, he is excited to be back to show off our birds, bats, plants and everything in between in all their glory! When not working, he is learning Welsh, enjoys playing his instruments and gives Leighton a run for his money in island cricket matches...

A cliff on Skomer with Hannah just visible using a scope on the right hand side to survey.
Can you spot Hannah surveying? © Lotti B-H

Hannah – Fieldworker (she/her)

Hannah has joined us as Fieldworker this year. An experienced seabird researcher, Hannah has worked on the Isle of May, Malta and the Azores. She monitors Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Herring Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls for breeding success. When she’s not looking through her scope, she’s a big fan of sea swimming and can be found birding all over the island.

Lotti (she/her) and Erin (she/her) – Long-Term Volunteers

Last and not least, we have our amazing Long-Term Volunteers, Lotti and Erin! They are with us until mid-July and are getting stuck in with everything going on – to read about them, here’s their introductions: Introducing Lotti and Erin.

Lotti and Erin holding Easter eggs in the garden
Lotti and Erin, our LTVs from March to July © Skomer VO 

So there we have it, our team for 2023! If you’re over this summer, please feel free to stop us and say hello.

Hope to see you soon.

The Skomer Island Team

Monday 1 May 2023

Clickers at the ready...

So, how do we count the Atlantic puffin?

Puffins massing on land. Sparse vegetation is seen underneath them.
Puffins massing on the Isthmus © Skomer Warden
Unlike the majority of our seabirds, which are counted in May or June, our puffin count takes place sometime in late March or early April. Counts are carried out at this early point in the season as later on a large proportion of our puffins will be hidden away in burrows incubating eggs and later feeding chicks. Therefore impossible to count by eye!

Often coinciding with the weather improving, counts occur on evenings where the puffins begin to mass in large numbers off the island. Once a threshold is passed, it's decided that we will be counting. This year, those fateful evenings were the 27th March and 3rd April.

Map and clickers overlooking the coast.
The essentials for counting puffins. View from the top of High Cliff © Skomer VO
Skomer is split into seven sections and, from 5pm onwards, staff and volunteers work to count every bird on land, on sea, and swirling in the air. It’s quite a task, made all the more difficult by fragile burrowed ground and an ever approaching sunset. The kit list however is simple: binoculars, a map, two pencils, a handful of clickers, and a large number of layers.

Land counts are by far the simplest, with rocks, grassy banks and clefts in the cliffs being used as markers to indicate where you’ve counted to. Counts of rafts out at sea can be split using buoys or rocks if they are there, but this is rarely the case. Air counts are tricker still…

Puffins swirling in the sky. Coastline visible in the backdrop.
Puffins swirling in South Haven © Skomer Assistant Warden
There will inevitably be a degree of error in our counts – some birds will be counted more than once, others will be missed altogether. But the important thing is that the methodology remains the same year on year, meaning that our annual counts are comparable. This year a record breaking 42,513 birds were recorded on and around Skomer - our highest count since the early 1900s.

In 2023 our final numbers came in at 42,513 puffins on the 27th March, and 42,406 puffins (a mere 107 birds fewer) on the 3rd April.

Counts end with a large hot chocolate, some much needed snacks, and a general feeling of ‘blimey’ once the maths has all been done. Shortly followed by collapsing into bed, thumb inevitably still twitching...whoever suggested counting sheep had clearly never come across puffins!

Until next time. Wela i di wedyn!

Beth, Skomer VO.