Skomer and Skokholm Islands are both National Nature Reserves, managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales - with much assistance from the "Friends of Skokholm and Skomer". The islands are home to probably 3/4 of the world's population of Manx Shearwater.
Weather like this normally doesn't inspire to write/reflect and/or to think much but today's strong northerly, rain, recent events and the not in the slightest bothered by it puffins flying conspicuously outside the window have evidently motivated to 'ink' something down. With the time moving forward so fast and the people who come and go you almost think that there isn't enough of it to fully appreciate everyone and everything that surrounds you. But there certainly is a different way of looking at it and there most certainly is a more positive and encouraging way to live by than just worrying about how little time there is to enjoy ourselves, to save wildlife and how much we still have to do, especially on a remote island like Skomer. Many people who whether incidentally or not but have somehow been introduced to Skomer as the place of their endevours have been returning to the island for years even if only for a short day trip. Skomer is the place where you can truly capture the essence of the lack of time due to the seasonal workload and a concious choice to enjoy it! Living and working on an island like this is a truly unique experience. It's almost tempting to say that only certain types of people would fully enjoy working and living here. It's more of a lifestyle than a set of rules (although there are some that we are very strict about here!) or a specific set-up that you follow. Can you give up on ice-creams for most of the year? Can you wake up at 4am to conduct a survey or stay up all night to carry out a study on manxies? Would you enjoy engaging with hundreds of visitors followed by long hours spent in the field counting seabirds from the boat and then rolling around on the ground checking hundreds of burrows? Would you enjoy a life where the energy and water supplies are limited but plenty for a comfortable remote living? Would you choose to work and live on an island to which access is very much weather dependent? We would and we love it! Islanders have a mind of their own, special appreciation for this specific habitat and their life choices they make tend to be driven by the knowledge about the environment, global changes and effect humans have on wildlife.
You wake up every day; rain, wind or sun and you smile because you know that you are one of the people who get to live a life that very much isn't by the book and you feel inspired because you know that what you do is what you love, what changes and shapes you in many ways. You look outside the window to see Grey seals, thousands of seabirds, rough sea crashing against the cliffs, wind swooshing through the fields forcing much of the bracken and carpets of flowers to give in and every day you feel more alive because of the effect the island has on you! There is so much to explore and to discover on this island that a lifetime would probably not be enough to do so!
strong and cold northerly 11/06/2019
Saying all this, we have been extremely busy for the past few weeks and we heavily rely on everyone who assists us with the seabird monitoring, day visitors engagement, research and maintenance at this time of year. Much of the island personality is enhanced by the wonderful people who come to get involved with the work that is being done here in one way or another and much of it would feel different if they ever stopped. The focus has been on the whole island seabird counts conducted from our boat, puffin watches and monitoring, shearwater study plots, gulls monitoring and the visitors. We have completed our first whole island count of guillemots and kittiwakes from the boat and have started the second one yesterday. The whole island counts enable us to estimate our breeding seabird populations on the island. Manx shearwater study plots are 1000m2 plots, within which we check every single burrow for the presence of shearwaters. We play a tape playback with a dual male and female manxie call and listen if they respond. By doing this we are able to calculate how many shearwaters are there based on how many responses we record. This method was thoroughly described by Magda last year, you can look it up in the past blog posts.
We have also been watching new life emerging on the island such as young chicks hatching pretty much on a daily basis, playing hide and seek with their natural predators in order to survive and their parents passionatelly putting all their energy into feeding them. We have been looking at short-eared owls carrying voles to feed their young, actively driving gulls away in order to protect them, some kittiwakes still determined to build their nests despite the time already not being in their favour. Razorbill, guillemot, many of the puffin chicks are growing fast. Shearwaters are still to be born so stay tuned for the first chick notifications in the next few weeks! We will then spend 3 months watching them grow and exercise their wings, familiarising themselves with the surroundings before they leave to migrate to Argentina.
All this of course has been happening in conjuction with the day boats bringing 250-300 day visitors to Skomer to whom we always strive to talk to and to share our passion for islands with. It makes our hearts sing when we hear and read about everyone's experience on the island, how a single trip to Skomer often changes their lifes and how inspired they feel to make this world a better place to support the environment and wildlife. We are with you on that and this is exactly what our aim is!
What is also amazing is that despite the fact that we have all been very busy and a little bit tired, everyone remains cheerful, passionate, loving, full of enthusiasm and joy. Spending time with the team and seeing everyone's smiley face is very contagious and really does make a difference. Seeing everyone smile makes you want to get up every day to spend some time with them! We have such a fantastic team here this year that words cannot describe how fabulous every single person is and how much each one of them brings into the dynamics of the island! Everyone is very considerate, hard working, flexible, supportive and thoughtful, which is what is very important on this busy island, where plans often fall through. Being able to adjust is another aspect of the Skomer busy life and everyone deserves an A* for often needing and easily coping with the sudden modifications, which often have to be made due to the weather changes for example.
us in between the Lesser Black-backed Gull cane counts
Manx Shearwater study plot counts
Counting cliff birds from our boat
To summarise, every one of us is special and brings something into this world, more specifically into this island. Having limited time with some, which saddens us, we strive to make the best of the time we have together by appreciaiting each other, and we try to make it fun as much as possible! The key to the life on an island is to be in the present moment, to enjoy yourself, to enjoy other peoples company and really laugh! Laugh at everything and shake it all off ;) Do you know what makes this world a better place? - becoming the positive and uplifting change that you wish to see in it! Set the example so that the others may follow you and find ways to feel inspired like we do every single day! And be yourself! Step from the norm that's rigorously dictated by the society...step into the unexplored, the unmapped and uncharted version of you and do not let other people tell you what is possible and what isn't as you are the only one who makes that call! Thank you ALL for being a part of this Skomer brilliant family! SZ
We are very privilaged to once again be asked to guest blog of our venture to Skomer to count the Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
We arrived on May 16th, having just missed the Woodchat Shrike which was a shame, but after all we were here to count gulls, not find rare birds …………
So we met the wonderful new wardens Sylwia and Nathan and were reunited with friends from previous years and indeed met some new ones, all wonderful people.
After throwing our stuff out of the rucksacks and stocking up the ‘day bag’ with loads of calories that we knew we were going to need we were off counting. The wind was still in the south-east where it had been for a few days, so we were hopeful of a rarity from Europe.
The first few hours were uneventful, but there was a steady trickle of hirundines going west and of course it was fantastic to see the islands residents like Chough, Razorbill, Oystercatchers etc, and see the kittiwakes coming to Moorey Mere to collect material to build their nests.
Razorbill - taken by Mike
Kittiwakes at Moorey Mere - taken by Mike Wallen
After lunch we were back out and joined by Sylwia and Nathan to look at several colonies with a view to carrying out the cane counts (see below), we looked at one colony and moved onto ‘Z’ which is on the south coast. Having counted part of it from one fixed point we moved to the other, we were within metres of sitting on a rock looking at gulls, but we didn’t quite get to it as Ted having raised his bins stated, that looked like an odd Bunting !!! Ted and Sylwia were in front with myself and Nathan just behind. Then Ted and Sylwia raised their bins again and Ted said ‘there it is’, as the bird popped up on a rock about 10 metres away. I rapidly raised my bins and blurted out “ORTOLAN”, the bird flew within seconds, but fortunately only 25 metres. We then had a frantic 15-20 minutes of letting everyone on the island know and trying to re-find the bird, but safely and without flushing it- it was incredibly hard, even though we were looking into a small area but we were very patient. Ted went around in a loop and then found it in exactly the area we were looking, by this point Sarah-Kay was with us and we had a brief view before it moved back to where we’d found it. Other ‘islanders’ then arrived and we watched and photo’d the bird over the next 45 minutes. Sylwia asked to borrow my camera to take pictures of her own which was absolutely fine- but getting it back was another issue !! The way Sylwia was swinging the camera around and the shutter was blasting away I reckon there’s a chance that Sylwia has been part of the paparazzi before !!!! We were all laughing about it, that’s the great thing about everyone who works on the island- such nice people and a great sense of humour. We then left the bird in peace, still on the same rock outcrop.
Ortolan Bunting - taken by Ted
So just a brief idea of what we and the island staff do to count the gulls.
The whole island is one colony of LBB’s , it is then divided into sub-colonies which stay the same each year with minor fluctuations in size/ shape, then there are fixed points to view each sub-colony from. Ted and I go to those fixed points and count how many birds are actually on nests/ nesting, these are called the eye counts. Within the next week the island staff visit selected colonies and by conducting a quick walk through establish exactly how may nests are there, invariably a few more than we saw. This gives a correction factor which is then used on the whole count from all the eye counts to establish the size of the whole colony.
Lesser Black-backed Gull - taken by Mike
The next day saw us continuing with the counts but obviously ‘migrant bashing’ early morning and evening.
Early morning saw a female Bar-tailed Godwit fly into North pond which is a good bird here, then Ted and I were at North Valley bushes when the orange flash that was in fact a Turtle Dove whizzed past us – another great bird, and one that Ted had been hoping for. Unfortunately this was not to be seen again.
The Saturday saw the return of another island ‘mega’, the House Sparrow had returned to the farm, as mad as it might sound until this bird I’d seen 3-4 House Sparrows here and I’ve been coming for 34 years !
House Sparrow - taken by Mike
In the evening Ted’s sharp eyes produced a couple of interesting gulls at North Pond, one a LBB X Herring hybrid, which is possibly the bird being reported as a Yellow-legged Gull and a really interesting LBB with a streaked head. It just goes to show that looking at all these gulls fine tunes your skills in seeing something different.
(Probable) Hybrid LBB x Herring Gull flanked by LBB's - taken by Mike
Streaked Headed LBB Gull - take by Ted
Sunday 19th was our last morning, we had half a day and had pretty much the same area’s to still count as our last morning last year. Last year was interrupted by the appearance of a Subalpine Warbler.
We went to the first count point where Ted had been itching to get to since we arrived as next to it is the biggest bush on the island. I was merrily counting away when Ted said – ‘There’s a Turtle Dove sitting on the wall in front of us’ – Boom !!!! We could see Nathan, Sylwia and Clare at the CES ringing site, but before I could ring them the bird flew and landed on another wall, I made the call and they all locked their bins on the spot where it was and then it flew again- they all got it. Incredibly it then flew straight into the bushes at the bottom of North Valley where the mist nets were………….surely we couldn’t be that lucky ? We saw where it went in, then I looked at Nathan/ Sylwia and Clare- they were already on the move, a few second later the phone was ringing……………………….. surely not ?
YES !!!! Back of the net !!
The dove had flown straight into the mist net- unbelievable. The incredibly beautiful, and now sadly very rare bird was ringed and released where it flew off strongly back to the area where Ted first found it.
Turtle Dove - taken by Mike
Turtle Dove just after it was ringed and shortly after released - taken by Mike
So just like last year, our last 2 counts were missed, but hey, Nathan and Sylwia didn’t mind for a Turtle Dove.
Once again an amazing few days, with amazing people, brilliant birds, a few thousand gulls on what is to me, the most beautiful place on planet earth.
My name is Alice and I’m one of the long term volunteers on Skomer. I will be around until July so I get the exciting opportunity to be here during the breeding season! I visited the island for the first time last year. I was lucky enough to be brought on as one of the Manx Shearwater researchers. It was a team of 5 and we had the mammoth task of carrying out the whole island census! We also had one exciting day where we went over onto Middleholm where we did a census on there. It hadn't been done on Middleholm for 20 years so this was very interesting to be able to see how the population may have changed in that time period. It was hard work but so rewarding and to get the results that the manxies are doing well here with a whopping 350, 000 pairs of them on Skomer alone. To have been involved in the census was amazing and an experience I will never forget. The island is so important for this sea bird and to have over half the worlds population here is incredible.
Me after completing a Shearwater Census Plot near the Garland Stone in June 2018
Since last year I have been wanting to return to Skomer so to have been accepted for a long term position was amazing.
I will try to not give you my whole life story but a little bit of background about me. I was working before I came out to Skomer for the Cats protection league as cat care assistant. I loved the job and it was very rewarding seeing the cats go to loving new homes. I have always loved animals and been interested in their behaviour. I am passionate about animal welfare and feel we have a duty to look after our natural environment and respect the other living things we share this planet with.
Me and my Dog
I have done other volunteering, I had a long term placement with the RSPB last year. I was at a beautiful reserve called Burton mere wetlands which is known as the Dee estuary reserve. I was able to live onsite which was a great experience being fully immersed in my surroundings and the wildlife. I was working on both the visitor and warden side so some days were spent talking to visitors in the reception area and pointing out various birds and wildlife they could see. Then other days I spent outside carrying out maintenance work on site, monitoring wildlife and helping with the running of the reserve. I learnt a great deal during my time from improving my wildlife I.D skills, practical skills and being able to grow in confidence with delivering talks and guided walks.
Conducting a Wetlands Bird Survey on the Dee Estuary in 2018.
I am passionate about conservation and doing my part to protect wildlife and their habitats. I am wanting to gain further experience in the conservation field and explore different carer options.
In my spare time I enjoy going for long walks with my dog and hiking up mountains. I really enjoy challenging myself and love the feeling of being out all day. I go rock climbing which is a challenge as heights are a little scary for me but the feeling of getting to the top of a climb is amazing.I like bird watching and being out with my binoculars. I also enjoy photography, taking landscape and nature
photographs mainly but love the message that a photo can portray and how it can freeze a moment in time.
Climbing Tryfan on my birthday 2017
I am excited for the season ahead and to get stuck into the survey work. I am now a fledged tractor driver and delivering welcome talks to visitors confidently which is great experience for me to take forward into my next role. I will update on my time here and have more information on the personal project I will be undertaking during my placement.
If your still reading then well done! I'll sign off for now but thanks for reading.
The end of February is the usual time for the Skomer wardens to return to the island and start preparations for the season ahead. There’s a slightly uneasy feel about what we are returning to… a few years ago there was storm damage to buildings and last year it was burst pipes in the hostel!
This year new wardens Sylwia and Nathan along with assistant warden Sarah-Kay and visitor officer Sarah J arrived back on the island at the end of February on a lovely calm sunny day… just as well as the next day the weather turned and we had stormy conditions for the following two weeks!
We appreciated help in moving back form past wardens Steve and Anna Sutcliffe and regular Skomer volunteer Mick Brown. Thanks Mick for capturing us heading back in our little boat!
Skomer team return to the island
2019 wardens Sylwia and Nathan
Thankfully the buildings are mostly undamaged so we could get on with cleaning, decorating and path clearing!
Sarah J. hostel cleaning
The Sarah's on the Hen harrier roost count survey
There are good and not so good jobs to do when we arrive back. Its lovely having our island back and checking out how the wildlife is doing. We join in with a Pembrokeshire coordinated hen harrier roost count in early March, have a friendly Pembrokeshire island contest with our neighbours Skokholm and Ramsey for the first wheatear back and again get used to falling asleep to the nightly calling of Manx shearwaters as they return to the island. The guillemots, razorbills fulmars and kittiwakes are already back on the cliffs, and we are seeing short eared owls every day too. Of course the return of the puffins always causes some excitement and this year they have returned earlier than ever and in huge numbers… could it be another record year for puffins on Skomer?
The four of us doing the yearly cleaning out of compost loos!
There isn’t too much time for birdwatching though as we have our work cut out getting ready for opening at the beginning of April. The island’s buildings suffer over winter from a lack of habitation and there will always be plenty of cleaning to do. One of our least favourite jobs in the spring is the digging out the compost loos… ‘island living’ is not always idyllic! A work party have been on for a week to help dig a new septic tank at North Haven and the first volunteers arrived on 24th March.
Finally we have to mention that our island tractor (affectionately known as ‘Trundle’… not the speediest mover!) He is a real work horse and we use him virtually every day for transporting visitor’s luggage as well as launching the boat and being general island dog’s body. 17 years on the island has taken its toll and he is now failing and we desperately need a new tractor to help us with the general running of the reserve. The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer have set up a crowdfunding appeal to help raise money to buy a new tractor and if you would like to help us please check out https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/friends-of-skokholm-and-skomer we are very grateful for any support. :)
We are really looking forward to a great season on Skomer and hope to see you all soon!
The last few weeks have been FULL ON!! This is why we have kind of disappeared for a little longer than planned. Septic tank works in North Haven (including emptying it), discovery of the faulty septic tank up in the Farm (therefore more poo jobs), fixing the landing steps, drainage digging in NHV, hostel painting, boat trailer painting, electrics fixing, unloading of the materials that arrived on the Princess, compost loos emptying, new window installation in one of the volunteers' room and many more! (We even squeezed a bit of birding in there somewhere). Many of those have been achieved by the work party volunteers and weekly volunteers who by the way are ALL fantastic! We are so lucky to have met you! Thank you Ceri, Alison, Carole, Anne and Rob for finding time to come to Skomer even though you knew that weather in March changes all the time! Thank you for working really hard and putting up with us haha! And thank you to the weekly volunteers Tanya, Pat and Sue for being great as usual (Skomer very regular volunteers) and Jacob for your brill debut as a first time Skomer volunteer. You all did amazing! Also a BIG thank you to Chris Ward and his always smiling knights-builders (Ed, Phil, ''Mr T'') in their shiny armours! Skomer gains so much from your expertise and professionalism! It's great to have you! Dale Sailing worked day and almost night;-) to get our beautifully new tires up at the landing and to fix the jetty back on at Martins Haven, we got some sneaky pictures of you as well haha and they even left a cool gift behind - finders keepers! :) Our very much needed materials wouldn't have made it to Skomer without Steve's Sutcliffe help! Thank you for labelling and packing them for us Steve! Some pieces have accidentally appeared on Skokholm but we were promised to get them back haaha. Their delivery was even bigger than ours so it's pretty great to only have found a few items going to our sister island. Many thanks for all the help with that and with out first food order collected and delivered to us by Chris Taylor himself! Chris you're a saint!
We have managed to get an endless number of tasks done and we are very pleased with the results!
Ceri, Alison, Anne, Carole and Rob had this amazing trench dug in 2 days!
We found a massive boulder while digging the trench, which didn't stop us from achieving the ultimate goal
Ceri - the conqueror
Nicely fitted pipes by the multi skilled builders
Septic tank in North Haven was used for about 15 years and its time came to an end last year when it got completely full and some parts broke. We decided that the best way to fix the problem was to revert to the old septic tank, which was built during Mike Alexander's time as warden. Nathan and I took on the least favourite job and emptied the old septic tank and drove/wheel barrowed all the contents all the way to the Farm. It only took us 4 days! What a great workout! :) Brilliant work party volunteers dug a massive trench in absolutely no time, which resulted in them carrying out thousands of other tasks on the island, for doing which we are very grateful!
Our main public footpaths are exceptionally well maintained, boat trailer looking smart new, researcher's rooms freshly painted thanks to the weekly volunteers team and Sarah-K who supervised the works. Our hostel looks and smells wonderful thanks to Sarah-J.
What often happens is that either everything is mega and works undeniably well or everything goes terribly wrong. And just as we thought that things couldn't get any worse about 2 weeks ago when we lost power at the Farm, we discovered that the septic tank there was not doing what it's supposed to be doing! Chris Ward and his team were there to help and we kind of managed to get it to function. It still requires some major works, which we are hoping to start sometime in August together with the roof replacement. Henry helped with the electrics and we have the power back up at the Farm.
Where once was window, now isn't there. We wanted some fun, we placed it elsewhere!
Sarah-J and I spent some time inside the compost loos
And in the septic tank to keep the theme going
It's quite difficult to call some jobs from the past 5 weeks more important than others but we do have to prioritise and I am now finding difficult to choose the best pictures out of tens of them as well. Balance is important but I really want to show you All how MUCH has been done here in the past weeks. It really isn't easy! We welcome feedback if you think there are too many pictures but it can be fun to sometimes have more pictures than words. Here come more pictures;-)
Work party, weekly volunteers and all the 4 staff carrying materials up the stairs
We had a big delivery to the island, which was brough to us by Dale Sailing, many thanks for that. That was one of the best teamwork I have experienced and it makes our hearts sing when we can share the island with such fantastic people. We had lots of fun and we hope that it was joy for you to be here to work with us too!
Modern art - freshly fixed steps
It's incredible how much newly met people bring into your life, how laughter and shared experiences shape you in so many ways. It's absolutely breathtaking how you can see yourself through others and how even a short chat with someone can affect you in so many ways. It is so very important to be open to others as this is exactly how we develop our own self; by talking, co-creating, brainstorming, creativity, sharing personal stories, through sad, stressful and happy moments. All those are extremely important in order to become a better version of yourself. There is power and strength in the teams. KEEP ON SMILING EVERYONE :) and thanks for reading
It's been over a week now that we have been back to the island. Strong wind doesn't seem to want to drop but that doesn't stop us from carrying out tasks outside. The theme for the past week has mostly been electricity and problems associated with it. First it was the internet that didn't work, still is in places, then no power at all, which in the end was quite an easy fix and today we couldn't work out why the well pump wasn't pumping any water to our garden tanks. There was no power going into the pumpshed whatsoever and there was no obvious explanation why. We spent a good hour going up and down, clicking, checking the fuses, switching things on and off and basically mostly just fiddling around. We remembered having the same problem in November last year and that it wasn't working and then suddenly it was. There was still no apparent explanation as to why it didn't work in the first place but we were happy to find the pump working again and left the island thinking that all was well. Our theory was that the water in the well tank was below a certain level for the pump to be able to pump into the hill tank and continued to blindly and naively live in that theory of ours until today. Sarah-K remembered seeing lights flashing and switches moving inside the big grey box of commands whenever the pump master switches are moved into manual, off or auto mode. She discovered that our ''there is no way I am going to pump water without electricity'' pump main switch sometimes doesn't click the way it's supposed to. It is supposed to make a sound when moved to one of the three sides and you know when it does! So to conclude, we now know that there was never a problem with the water level in what we way too easily believed. It has hopefully been a case of that specific pump switch being either incorrectly used or potentially the big grey box of command may need looking into. Fingers crossed it's the first one! The end :)
Sylwia (Skomer Warden)
THANK YOU ALL for your amazing contributions for the new Skomer vehicle! We have had many amazing donations so far and thank you to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer for taking the lead and organising the fund raising!
Keep the donations and comments going, we love to read them! We agree, no one should need to carry their own luggage all the way up to the Farm! ;-)
We are back on Skomer again! Let the 2019 season beginnnnn yessss!
Our arrival to the island went very smoothly and we were even very fortunate with the lovely weather - the hottest day in winter in Britain ever recorded apparently! So very lucky! Oh but that night, equally glorious, sky sooo full of stars, it was absolutely stunning! Just wanted to dive in and be one of those stars it was that beautiful!
Things have been pretty great since the arrival day (27th of Feb), we found things quite the way we left them in November last year, except from maybe mould, some rocks fallen on the track up from the boat shed and lots of soil flung onto the paths by rabbits digging new burrows. There are plenty of fulmars on the cliffs, a few Manx shearwaters are back already, way over a hundred oystercatchers, some migrants flying through such as blue tits, chiffchaffs, woodcock, snipes, sand martins, song thrushes, blackbirds, goldcrest, lots of starlings. We have even heard from Richard (Skokholm) that they have seen the very first puffin of the year in Broad Sound, which is fantastic!! It counts as their's this time haha but we were the ones who got to the island first ha;-);-) (hugs and kisses Rich and Gi)
We are very excited to be back and are absolutely convinced that it is going to be a brilliant year, because why not?!
We are planning to work very hard to ensure that everything is just the way it should, including providing visitors with great experience, carrying out good quality species monitoring, working well with volunteers and researchers, organising awesome events and the all rest! But we are also planning to have a lot of fun, which is extremely important! What would life be without fun?! We are hoping to make friends here, get to know people visiting, spread the love for wildlife, to encourage others to make some lifestyle changes, which will benefit the environment and most of all to really continue the great work that is being done here. There are some exciting projects that will be carried out here this year, of which many are a continuation of what has been done here over the years, which is great! Continuous, standardised data collection is crucial when it comes to long-term monitoring/research. There are soooo many things happening this year that I don't even know where to start! However, this is something that you will have to find out by reading our blog, twitter, facebook and by visiting obviously and most importantly! We would miss out all the fun by telling you all about it now;-)
To the fantastic 2019 season on Skomer then! Cheers!
Here are some pictures from the last 3 days
haha no comments needed here :)
Martins Haven beach
Leaving the mainland
Wilkie posed well when driving:)
I'm not so bad myself, what a thinker! Steve was enjoying himself too, clearly;-)
Sarah and Sarah did a fantastic job carrying our stuff up!
Very happy helpers, thank you Anna, Steve and Mick!! You're awesome!
Steve was happy to find that the water tanks hold water, this much is currently in:)
It is quite astonishing how time slows down when you are only really focused on what's happening right here, right now and when the days are longer and how it changes when you need to think/plan/organise your next steps in order to leave the island as secured, as clean and as prepared for the 2019 as possible. It is also extremely important to remember about all the things that need to be done over winter and have a decent plan made for the next year. All those include: research projects, our new projects, management plan (monitoring of seabirds, breeding birds, other wildlife, vegetation etc), infrastructure plans, budgeting, volunteers tasks/projects planning, things to buy, day visitors trips, working hours, administration, communication, any training, safety checks, report writing, any corrections, data management, emergency procedures and many more. The list is very long. Saying that, the more you start planning and thinking ahead you notice that the time is slipping away, it disappears, and time is energy. Therefore, the key to be able to tackle all those above and to be able to enjoy the work you do is to be in the present moment. Yes, planning is important but that can be done whilst you are enjoying yourself and you may even notice that suddenly you've got it all under control because time has surprisingly slowed down again for you. Some will say, oh hey but time is always the same, can't speed it up and can't slow it down. Is it though? Ha, time is relative. I am pretty sure that our life experiences and attitude towards it can perfectly reflect how time really does ''change''. This is how the 3 months on Skomer were like, first month almost felt like forever. There was so much to absorb and to learn that there was absolutely no time to think about what comes next or about future plans. It was difficult at times but that focus on the now is the key to happiness and fulfilment. October seemed like a mix of the two, there were days which lasted for a veeery long time and days that felt like hours have passed. November was like a ride on roller coaster! Days were much shorter and colder, there still were many tasks that needed to be either started for 2019 or completed before we left the island.
Both Sarah and Sarah left towards the end of October and then there were four of us. We stayed until the 23rd of November and pretty much until mid December in Pembrokeshire. We were warmly welcomed by our local and not so very local friends at their houses and we are very grateful for that.
Sarah J and Sarah K leaving Skomer (October) to be back in 2019
Bee waving us goodbye ;-)
Arrival to mainland (November)
And now Christmas has already passed and we are into a new year, which is very exciting! We hope that 2019 is going to bring us a lot of fun, many great achievements on the island, friendships and that we will be able to continue a great work of many wardens before us.
I am trying o reflect on 2018 and all I can think of is that it is not the goal we are so badly working to achieve, it is the journey, everything we go through in order to reach the destiny. This is the important part, because the moment of achievement is only temporary. We tend to remember more from the time, whether it's difficult or not on our way to accomplishment anyway. It is so important to try and enjoy the entire process of getting there, this is happiness.
And this is what we want to wish you for 2019, to enjoy the journey and every moment you live before the final destination, whatever it is. We are looking forward to seeing you on Skomer later this year!
and a few words from Ed and Bee:
For Bee and I, the last few weeks and months on Skomer felt like the end of a chapter, with none of the planning or mentally preparing for next season that Sylwia and Nathan have been going through and surprisingly little reflection. Like Sylwia and Nathan we were simply living in the present, monitoring the seals, helping with shutting the island down and trying to stay warm and dry. We really hope that our planning and hard work over the last six years has left the island in a good state. It feels great to have (just about) seen the completion of the new tractor shed at the Farm as well as a new water tank in the garden there. Thanks to everyone who has helped with either project, be it helping on work parties or simply helping with organising and logistics. Skomer is a massive operation really and is only going to get bigger. Managing overnight guests, commercial opperators and day trippers requires a huge amount of work and cooperation and we are proud of the way we have improved the ticketing system so that it works as well as possible. We are also very happy to have worked with Chrissie and Gary at Lockley Lodge and Dale Sailing without whome the system would never run so smoothly and professionally. The work of the Visitor Officer has also helped to manage the system for wildlife and people as well as possible. On top of that, the islands wildlife is the top priority and the monitoring and research work that goes on is also paramount. What a brilliant place for wildlife Skomer is. My (wildlife) highlights over the last six years have been four harriers in a single season in 2013, counting seabirds in June, the autumn colours and finally (on my last evening on the island this year) a bumper roost of Hen Harriers (7 ringtails and an adult male).
These are two videos I took of the seals on Matthew's Wick in the last few days.
The first one is of a young bull which is has a red tag on his flipper. I saw this bull two days in a row coming onto the beach and going a bit crazy - running about, rolling around and generally annoying all other animals which were asleep on the beach. On the second day I manged to film this funny behaviour of the rogue taggie. Speaking of tags: we are still waiting to hear back from the RSPCA about the tag. Hopefully we will find out the history of this young bull.
Young male Grey Seal going a bit crazy - YouTube
The second video I took yesterday. There was a bull sleeping on the beach when the beach master came home and he didn't like the competition mingling with his females. It's quite obvious who is the stronger of the two...
Grey Seal bulls fighting on Skomer Island - YouTube