Generous financial support towards the cost of new equipment has enabled the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales to continue delivering the highest standard of seabird monitoring and research on its internationally important nature reserve, Skomer Island.
Skomer Island is a National Nature Reserve, as well as being protected under European legislation for its internationally important seabird populations. With its sister island of Skokholm, which is also managed by the Wildlife Trust, Skomer holds over half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters. Together, the islands are home to over 350,000 breeding pairs. There are also nationally important populations of cliff nesting seabirds like Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemot, as well as many thousands of Puffins.
Every year the Wildlife Trust’s staff, with support from partners and many volunteers, undertake essential monitoring of these seabirds. The total number of individual birds is counted for most seabird species, and their breeding success monitored, as well as the over-winter survival of the adult birds whilst they are away from the island.
This year, the Wildlife Trust was fortunate to receive a very generous donation from the Beryl Thomas Animal Welfare Fund which has supported the purchase of essential equipment which was in desperate need of upgrading and replacement. New lifejackets, VHF radio, personal protective equipment and binoculars have supported the essential work of counting all the cliff-nesting seabirds. This is an epic task that has to be completed every year, counting many thousands of individual birds from a bobbing inflatable boat, not a job for the faint-hearted. Tapes, ropes, a new GPS-enabled camera, and audio players have also supported the routine census work of the burrow-nesting Manx Shearwater, whose occupancy of burrows is tested by their responses to sound recordings of their calls.
Seabird monitoring is a labour intensive process, but is critically important; for better or for worse, the trends in our charismatic seabirds tell us a huge amount about the health of our seas. For Skomer the news is good; most of our seabirds are currently doing well, but the detailed monitoring undertaken will allow us to be vigilant for the early signs of any problems like the population crashes that have been recorded in Scottish seabird colonies in recent years. The information gathered will also support our advocacy for a more sustainable approach to the management of our marine environment.
The Wildlife Trust is indebted to the Beryl Thomas Animal Welfare Trust for their financial support.