Author: Lizzie Wilberforce

Skomer Photography Workshop 20th May

The workshop on Skomer Island yesterday was memorable for a number of reasons. The forecast the night before was terrible but there is always the chance that the showers would miss us! Remarkably, and to my great relief,  the day started with sunshine and no wind and we made our way to the Wick to make sure that we spent as much time photographing the puffins before a storm passed through. The bluebells in South Stream Valley were glorious with pink campion coming through strongly and the air filled with song of  warblers.

There were plenty of puffins at the Wick and the faces of the group were beaming with smiles as they couldn’t believe how close the birds were. The rain started around 1pm and we sheltered in Moorey Mere hide as one of the heaviest rain storms that I have ever seen lashed the island.

An hour later and the skies cleared and the wind had picked up making spectacular flying conditions for the fulmars and puffins. These gave great opportunities to learn how to capture birds in flight. The slopes were covered in hundreds of puffins as the rain and wind had brought them back to land where many were busy collected new nesting material as many burrows would have been temporarily flooded by the deluge. A puffin pair were seen mating but this is probably far too late to be successful in raising a chick.

Fulmar in flight at the Wick Mating puffins _DSC8135.


Skomer Photography Workshop 1st May

The Skomer Photography Workshops kicked off last Thursday and the rain cleared after the intro talk at the farmhouse and the sun shone for the rest of the day. Numerous puffins posed for us at the Wick with many pairs rubbing their bills to reinforce their bond.  A few were opening and closing their beaks in a threat display to humans as well as doing a comical foot-stomp near a burrow to show that this was their territory. The bluebells have started to flower already, a full five weeks before last year and about three weeks before an average year. The fulmars performed a masterclass in aerial flight, providing the perfect opportunity for the group to practice in-flight shots with the Atlantic grey seals were hauled-out below them on the beach in North Haven.  Many thanks to Lynne, Laura, Andrea and Chris for their great company.


Atlantic grey seals hauled out on North Haven beach, Skomer


_DSC7460 _DSC7391

Island Invertebrates course on Skokholm

John sweeping for invertebrates in Skokholm ragwort

We are delighted to announce that Skokholm Island will be running a fully catered week, between Monday 5th May and Monday 12th May 2014, during which we will be joined by entomologist John Harper.

John sweeping for invertebrates in Skokholm ragwort

John sweeping for invertebrates in Skokholm ragwort

The study of certain invertebrate groups has become very popular in the last few years, with ever improving literature allowing more and more people to get to grips with butterflies, moths and dragonflies. But in terms of invertebrate study, these groups are just the very tip of an enormous creepy crawly iceberg. John specialises in the groups studied far less frequently, from spiders to snails and from woodlice to ants. These groups contain species which have bizarre and incredible life histories unlike anything encountered in the birds, seals and cetaceans recorded each day by the staff of Skokholm Bird Observatory. But John is not just great at finding and identifying a huge range of invertebrates, he also has an infectious enthusiasm for teaching and sharing the amazing world of invertebrates.

Island invertebrates will begin with a look at a variety of different sampling techniques. A fantastic array of nets, traps and devices will be available for use; John even has a modified garden vacuum in his arsenal! Every course participant will also go away with their own build-it-yourself pooter. This is not a child’s toy type pot but a cleverly designed device for accurate trapping and close-up inspection.
Using a pooter to collect samples

Using a pooter to collect samples

We will then put our trapping techniques to good use, and what better place to look at invertebrates than on one of Britain’s most spectacular and beautiful Islands. Skokholm, famed for its 90,000 Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels nesting in the walls around the buildings, Puffins, cliff-nesting seabirds and as the site of Britain’s first Bird Observatory, is also home to a wonderful variety of invertebrates specialised to live on an Island. In among the stunning Bluebells and carpets of Thrift, live specialists which have evolved some truly amazing strategies to allow for mating and dispersal. John will show you a world which is almost unbelievable, and show you it in a way which will have you captivated.

 An army marches on its stomach, so we have drafted in Wendy and Sam to take care of the catering. Skokholm has recently gone through a period of renovation, the vast majority of which has been done by volunteer work parties. Sam and Wendy have both catered for these groups and have produced such beautiful food throughout that they are now asked for specifically by our regular guests. There is a fantastic atmosphere on a night, sitting down to dinner in the Wheelhouse below the legendary figurehead of the Alice Williams, gathering around the fire in Lockley’s cottage to go through the evening bird log and then listening to the nocturnal seabirds arrive.
If you would like to join us for what is going to be a very memorable and educational week, please contact Wendy, our bookings secretary
phone 01239 621600
The price for this catered week, including your accommodation, all meals, the Island Invertebrates course and even your own pooter is just £425
It is well worth bringing a x10 hand lens if you have one and, if you are already working on a particular group, bring your own favourite equipment along. We’ll be bringing chocolate as it is apparently a sure fire way of finding ants. Macrophotography is welcomed.