Today (Monday 2nd June) was the first ever Wildlife Trust South & West Wales / West Coast Birdwatching ‘Skomer Special’ – a chance to visit the island on a day normally closed to day visitors, led by myself, and in a small group of just 15. You could call in unique, except we have 2 more planned this year (16 June & 7 July)!!
From the beginning the day got interesting as we had an unexpected detour to Skokholm Island to do one of 2 weekly changeovers, the reason we went there before Skomer was increasing concern from the island warden, Richard Brown, of the swell that was building in South Haven on Skokholm. So the Skomer Special day trippers got to see Skokholm up close, including the replica Alice Williams that looked down on us from the cliff. The changeover took place, albeit in slightly hairy circumstances….
We were then dropped to Skomer, a little later than planned, but nobody seemed to mind….this is what island life is like, unpredictable! After enjoying the auks on North Haven, and 2 Peregrines on The Neck, we set off for the farm, enjoying 2 Chough on the way. A short stop to scan North Valley for Short-eared Owl was rewarded instantly…we had 2 different birds giving us excellent views, flying and perched. 3 pairs are breeding on the island this year.
Collecting ourselves after this excitement, we headed west towards Skomer Head, scanning North Pond from the hide as we went, and then we struck gold with our second owl of the day, an obliging Little Owl perched on a wall not too far from the farm. I had hoped for both Skomer owls, but we had scored them both before 11am…nice! A refreshment stop at Skomer Head followed, and a Gannet was watched offshore whilst 4 Chough floated past.
We headed on towards The Wick, stopping to scan the sea beyond Tom’s House, and a few of the group managed to catch a glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise breaking the surface. Everyone enjoyed the fantastic seabird spectacle at The Wick, including catching glimpses of Guillemot and Kittiwake eggs, a ‘bridled’ Guillemot or two, and another Peregrine. We were falling over them!
A well earned late lunch at the Farm followed, and the most unexpected bird of the day in the form of a Manx Shearwater, which was found by one of the group sheltering in the old bacon oven on the outside of the ruined Farmhouse – quite what it was doing there is anyone’s guess! The final little walk of the day took us out to the Garland Stone where at least 9 Grey Seals were seen, either hauled out on the rocks or trying to haul themselves out. Several Gannets glided by offshore, and a decent view was had of Grassholm, The Smalls and South Bishop from this excellent vantage point.
The finale to the day involved a short talk by Olly, one of the seabird researchers, who gave an insight to the scientific work being undertaken on the island. The group were able to watch whilst the researchers monitored Manx Shearwater burrows close to the Island Office and got to see an adult bird close up. I logged 39 species during the day, the only species we missed being Curlew and Mallard.
It’s an old cliche, but “a fantastic day was had by all”, really looking forward to the next one – it has a lot to live up to!! A little photo gallery here: https://www.facebook.com/westcoastbirdwatching