What’s been happening on Skokholm…

Skokholm Aierial by Lucy Griffiths

Skokholm Aierial by Lucy Griffiths

We've been blogging about our antics on Skokholm Island this month and have chosen a few of the best bits for you to read below...

6th August: The most exciting observation of the day was of a loose flock of 27 Storm Petrel following Boy’s Pride, one of our local potting vessels. Not only was this a fantastic sight from the Lighthouse, but it also promises a lot for tomorrow - there are clearly a lot of seabirds around and tomorrow we are heading out to sea with Dale Sailing to see what we can find. Other birds logged included 11400 Manx Shearwater, another Storm Petrel at sea (55 were also ringed and seven retrapped last night), 365 Gannet, nine Cormorant, 128 Common Scoter, four Moorhen (with two new fledglings at Orchid Bog), 12 Whimbrel, ten Curlew, three Redshank, a pale Arctic Skua, seven Guillemot, four Razorbill, 32 Puffin (including five in with fish), 80 Meadow Pipit, only 16 Wheatear, nine Sedge Warbler, a Chiffchaff, four Willow Warbler, eight Chough, ten Raven and six Starling. At least 16 Common Dolphin were around the coast and a Grey Seal was tucking into a ray below the Light. It was Fulmar chick ringing day today with a great group of visiting ringers.

Bird ringing on Skokholm© Richard Brown

8th August: A big full moon last night was perhaps not ideal for Storm Petrel ringing (it was so bright that we were casting shadows, conditions which allow the birds to see the nets). Nevertheless we handled 82 birds, 14 of which were already wearing rings from here or elsewhere. Not only did the evening generate some fantastic data, but it was a great opportunity for our guests to see these amazing seabirds up close. The bright night also meant that there was little in the way of avian arrivals (if the heavy rain which hit well after dawn had come a bit earlier, then migrant numbers might have been a bit higher). Totals for the day came to 15000 Manx Shearwater, 120 Gannet, three Cormorant, 13 Common Scoter, three Dunlin, a Snipe, seven Whimbrel, a Curlew, three Redshank, four Turnstone, four Guillemot and only two Puffin (none with fish), 19 Swallow, 26 Wheatear, eight Sedge Warbler, a Chiffchaff, five Willow Warbler, 14 Starling and nine Reed Bunting. A minimum of 29 Common Dolphin were logged, 25 of which were hunting close in off the Lighthouse.

Dolphins Dolphins© Giselle Eagle

11th August: A dark night was perfect for Storm Petrel ringing with our guests (at least until yesterday became today and a big moon rose high in the sky). Regular meteors and a stunning star filled sky were enjoyed as we worked. We handled 85 Storm Petrels, ten of which had previously been ringed here and seven of which had been ringed elsewhere (we don’t know where yet). One of these seven was wearing a French ring, our fifth French control in five years. Despite a brisk wind we managed to squeeze in a changeover boat just after lunch, taking the number of Skokholm residents to 25 (our maximum). The guided walk was a perfect opportunity to meet Manx Shearwater chicks and a few of our other birds which today included over 42000 Manx Shearwater off the Lighthouse, 138 Gannet, six Common Scoter, five Dunlin, five Whimbrel, five Curlew, two Turnstone, three Guillemot, 11 Skylark, 87 Meadow Pipit, another two Pied Wagtail fledglings, a Robin, just 17 Wheatear, a Reed Warbler, a Whitethroat, a Chiffchaff, six Willow Warbler and nine Starling.


Storm petrel© Giselle Eagle

19th August: Given that it was the 27 year anniversary of the only Skokholm record of Black-browed Albatross, it could perhaps be predicted that seawatching would be high on the agenda today, particularly as a stiff westerly was again blowing. Early signs were good with a Balearic Shearwater and the first two definite Arctic Tern of the year heading west. Although it wasn’t exactly kicking off, there was enough interest to demand a presence at the seawatch hide and this was rewarded just after 0800 with a close in Great Shearwater heading west. I’ve been staring at the sea from Welsh Islands for the best part of 13 years and this was my first Great, but views that good were worth the wait. This was perhaps surprisingly only the fifth for Skokholm following two on 9th September 1993, one on 9th August 2000 and one on 5th September 2007. Although only Rich saw the Great, we still managed to put a smile on Jenny’s face (and make her dance) with great views of her first Balearic Shearwater this afternoon (the second of the day). Other birds logged included 18220 Manx Shearwater, 215 Gannet, five Shag, 18 Oystercatcher, eight Dunlin, an adult Black-tailed Godwit, three Whimbrel, two Curlew, three Redshank, the Wood Sandpiper, a Turnstone, four Sandwich Tern, 70 Guillemot, 18 Razorbill, 18 Skylark, 18 Swallow, 138 Meadow Pipit, five Robin, 32 Wheatear, seven Sedge Warbler, a Reed Warbler, a Chiffchaff, 13 Willow Warbler, the first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn (a bit on the late side compared to recent years, perhaps unsurprisingly given recent rough weather), 23 Chough (there have only been two higher Skok counts, with 26 in September 2007 and 32 in September 1965), seven Starling and a Goldfinch. There were brilliant views to be had of the Wood Sandpiper as it fed at South Pond this evening.

Wood Sandpiper© Richard Brown

25th August: A glorious day saw a small arrival of common migrants to Skokholm, but it was the invertebrates that again took centre stage. The highlight was a European Corn-borer, the first for Skokholm and one of very few Pembrokeshire records; this species breeds in the southeast of the UK, but is perhaps just as likely to occur as an immigrant from the continent. A Western Conifer Seed Bug at the Well was only the fifth to be found here. Birds logged today included 34 Storm Petrel handled last night (four already wearing rings), five Shag, two Grey Heron, a Shoveler, two Common Scoter, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel, a Merlin (something of an early autumn raptor bonanza), two Water Rail, four Dunlin, a Snipe, five Black-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel, six Curlew, a Green Sandpiper, eight Turnstone, a Guillemot, three Sand Martin, 179 Meadow Pipit, two White Wagtail, 16 Robin, 25 Wheatear (including the first Greenland bird of the autumn), a Song Thrush, six Sedge Warbler, three Reed Warbler, five Whitethroat, four Chiffchaff, 16 Willow Warbler, 19 Chough and eight Starling. A Frog near the Red Hut was a fantastically rare daytime sighting.

Moth© Richard Brown

To read all of this months entries to the blog visit the skokholm blog.