Skomer Island Update and Migrant Bird Sightings – October 2018

Skomer Island Seal

Skomer Island Seal

Grey Phalarope. Photo: Nathan Wilkie

Grey Phalarope. Photo: Nathan Wilkie

After an extremely busy and successful season on Skomer, we’ve now only got four people left on the island; Sylwia and Nathan – the new Wardens, and Bee and Ed - the old (but still very young) Wardens 😉 who will sadly be leaving the trust at the end of the year. They will be deeply missed and have done incredible things for wildlife conservation on Skomer.  The Trust is very excited to welcome Sylwia and Nathan onto our dedicated team and we can’t wait to see what they get up to.

It is definitely different on the island without daily visitors and volunteers' company. The wardens are still enjoying themselves and working hard to make sure that everything is safe, sound and secure for the next season in 2019.


Storms on the Islands

Unfortunately, we have been experiencing some storms on the island again this year, with wind gusts reaching 60 knots. Thank goodness we haven’t got anything like last year when Storm Ophelia and Brian hit both Skomer and Skokholm very badly. Our appeal to raise funds to help reverse the impacts of storms is still open for any kind donations you may be able to spare. Any continued donations will still be spent on storm-proofing the islands and developing protocols to deal with seabirds and seals effected by storms.

Although these storms aren’t as bad as last year’s, we’re still battling with a flooded toilet, leaking windows in the library at North Haven, broken garage doors, guttering that’s come off and our boat almost flying down the cliff! But apart from those and a few other small damages, everything is good.


Seal pups on Skomer

We have been worrying about the seals and are hoping that they have been OK! We cannot tell how the storm has affected them just yet but we will let you know as soon as we do.

However, seal pupping on Skomer is drawing to a close for 2018. It has been a good season for the seals with no disastrous storm events like last October, and well over 200 pups have been born! At least one of the storms this year corresponded with neap tides which meant the pups had somewhere to retreat to away from the crashing waves. So it seems that survival to weaning (around 3 weeks of age) will be good this year. Of course, knowing this is only possible due to the long-term monitoring that we do on Skomer. This monitoring is of vital importance if we are to understand the population dynamics of the seals and safeguard them for future generations to coexist with and enjoy.


Migrants during October

As always, we’ve been making notes of the migrant birds that we see either on the island or passing over. Here’s what we saw in October 2018…

First Great Northern Diver this autumn (adult) was seen on the 10th of October.

Grey Herons were seen almost every day between the 19th and 31st.

Single Eurasian Wigeons were seen between the 15th and 22nd with 2 on the 22nd. One Pintail was observed on the 5th, 21st, which looked like a possible Mallard hybrid and two potential hybrids on the 22nd. There were also 22 Northern Shovelers found at North Pond on the 21st, 5 on the 22nd, 5 on the 29th and 4 on the 30th.

Individual Tufted Duck was found on the 17th and 3 on the 21st. There were 4 Common Eiders seen flying by on the 29th. October was pretty good for Common Scoters with 11 flying through on the 3rd, 20 on the 11th, 8 on the 25th and 19 on the 29th.

Red Kites were seen over 5 non-consecutive days. Marsh Harriers were seen over 16 days during the entire month with an individual that roosted on the island on the 21st and 23rd. Individual Northern Goshawks were noted on the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th. Top count of Water Rails was 10 individuals on the 17th.

two Oystercatchers foraging on Skomer

Oystercatchers on Skomer

Monthly maxima for waders include 53 Oystercatchers on the 28th, 11 Eurasian Curlews on the 16th, 14 Turnstones on the 2nd, 10 on both on the 10th and 12th, 23 Common Snipes on the 18th. There was a record of 1 and a flock of 11 Lapwings flying through made on the 18th and the 30th. Single Purple Sandpiper was seen on the 23rd and 31st.

The highlights were 2 Grey Phalaropes seen in North Haven on the 15th (last month only one), 1 Jack Snipe on the 27th and 2 on the 28th, Cetti’s Warbler seen in ivy on the 20th, single Barred Warbler at Farm on the 5th, Lesser Whitethroat seen also on the 5th, Red-breasted Flycatcher on the 9th and a first flock of 10 Long-tailed Tits seen this autumn in North Haven.

Single Woodcock, which was struck by a Peregrine but killed and eaten by Ravens was seen over the Neck on the 27th and then 2 were seen both on the 29th and the 31st. Mediterranean Gull was seen on both the 24th and 28th as well as individual Common Gulls on the 15th, 16th, 28th and 29th.  8 Stock Doves were counted flying through on the 29th.


Shorteared Owl eying up Bee's cabbages

Shorteared Owl

Many Short-eared Owls were seen over the month with a top count of 7 made on the 18th. Single Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen on a few occasions with 3 individuals noted on the 7th. Kestrels were observed almost every day with the highest count of 5 on the 5th and the 19th. Single Merlins were present for 10 days and 2 on the 28th.

Goldcrests were seen almost every day with some top counts on the 7th and 10th (8 birds). Single Firecrest sightings were made on three occasions and 2 on the 31st. Blue Tits were generally seen on a daily basis with the highest counts of 58 on the 17th and 46 on the 18th. Great Tits seen less regularly with the top count of 8 made on the 7th, 17th and 20th. We had a single Coal Tit and the first one this autumn seen on the 19th. Sky Larks passage peaked at 1245 on the 7th, followed by 407 on the 17th and 582 on the 18th. Very last Barn Swallows (8) this month were watched fly through on the 11th and House Martins on the 7th (8).

Yellow-browed Warblers were seen on the 16th, 18th, 19th and 20th (1,2,1,2). Maxima of other warblers included 16 Chiffchaffs on the 16th, 16 Blackcaps on the 7th.

Flocks of goldfinches feed here in the Winter


Great passage of Starlings seen throughout the month with the highest counts of 1540 and 1545 made on the 19th and 23rd. There were two records of a Ring Ouzel made on the 16th and 23rd.  We had good numbers of thrushes with first Fieldfares this autumn seen on the 20th (4), first Redwings on the 17th (12) and first Mistle Thrush observed on the 18th. Top count of Song Thrushes (10) was made on the 28th.

Black Redstarts were seen in North Haven and at Farm between the 16th and 21st and on the 24th. There was also a Common Redstart seen on both 16th and 17th. Flocks of 14, 12 and 15 House Sparrows were made on the 18th, 20th and 23rd. Yellow Wagtails were seen on the 10th, 14th (juv) and the 19th.

First Bramblings arrived on the 18th. Highest count of Chaffinches (277) was made on the 28th. Single Greenfinches arrived on the 20th and 30th. Big flocks of Linnets (252, 215) seen on the 14th and 18th. 14th was also good for Goldfinches when we counted 177 birds. Siskins were mostly seen in the second half of the month with the top count of 6 made on the 18th.

Good count of 33 Reed Buntings was made on the 14th.

To find out more about Skomer and Skokholm Island or to book your 2019 stay visit, If you are able to donate to our storm appeal we would deeply appreciate any support you can give. You can find more information about the island’s storm appeal here: Thank you!