Today was the second of 3 special Wildlife Trust/WCB day trips to Skomer, a select group of 16 of us heading out to the island – the only day trippers. The first trip 2 weeks ago was fantastic, and I was concerned it would be difficult to live up to, but I needn’t have worried. On the boat trip over some of the group glimpsed 3 Harbour Porpoise, and most had brilliant views of Gannets fishing. Almost as soon as we arrived on the island, welcomed by the Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins, we picked up a resting Peregrine on The Neck. After an introductory talk, we set off, and as we passed Captain Kites (still don’t know why it’s called that!) 2 Chough flew over, calling as they did so – the clue is in the name. We were off to a good start!
The next few hours were a seabird spectacular, taking in the magnificence of both High Cliff and The Wick. All 3 auks were seen well (including a Bridled Guillemot), plus Kittiwake, Fulmar and Raven. There weren’t many Puffins at The Wick, but those that were there did put on a good show, and one or two were glimpsed bringing sand eels in to their newly hatched young (perhaps only a day or 2 old). On to Skomer Head and 3 more Harbour Porpoises were seen, with Wheatears putting in a welcome appearance along this stretch of coast (on the botanical side, both 3-lobed Water Crowfoot and Scarlet Pimpernel were both ticked off).
Heading inland towards the farm for lunch, our target species was Little Owl in the old walls. Having checked the best spots, things were not looking good – no sign of this diminutive owl sitting out in the open as we’d hoped. Suddenly, the briefest view of one flying up from a patch of bracken, over the wall and out of sight. A brown blur! Then, minutes later, one of the group picked up another bird sitting out in the open at West Park, and it treated us to wonderful views as it fed almost oblivious to our presence. Best views I’ve ever had of a Little Owl! We all headed off to the Farm with empty bellies but with a spring in our step.
Lunch came and went and the Short-eared Owl hunt was on. As we crossed North Stream Valley, I noticed a shape that didn’t quite fit the landscape and there it was, a stunning Short-eared Owl sat on a post of the rabbit exclosure fence, and we were treated to amazing views for a good 5 minutes, before it flew off to hunt for a lunch of Skomer Vole no doubt. On to the Garland Stone, and true to form Grey Seals were seen hauled out, another Harbour Porpoise breached several times, and the impressive Gannet colony was visible in the distance, with several birds fishing closer to Skomer.
The final treat was a talk by the Oxford University researcher Olly Padget in North Haven, captivating the group with the amazing studies that he and his colleagues are undertaking on Manx Shearwaters. The group were privileged to see a bird in the hand, and a few of us got to see another shortly after as it strangely left it’s burrow in daylight by the landing steps and headed off out to sea. The last few minutes were spent soaking up the atmosphere of North Haven, and the final delight was seeing a newly fledged Guillemot chick close to the steps – we’re all hoping she/he makes it! A fantastic day on this magical island.