On my first morning I walked all around the island, stopping at my favourite spots to soak up the scenery. The guillemots are still at sea but the cliffs are scattered with kittiwakes and fulmars, the sky is filled with the screeches of gulls and oystercatchers, puffins are gradually returning to the island, and at night the shearwaters are as noisy as ever – there are plenty of interesting birds to be looking at! The weather has alternated between glorious clear blue sky and sunshine, extreme wind, and thick fog, and I am glad of my many layers.
Despite the absence of my study species, I have plenty to be getting on with. I need to go through my field work plan to ensure that my questions are focussed, and search the database for specific birds which will be useful for answering my questions (that sounds like I can just ask them… that would make things easier ha!). Fortunately my relatively early arrival onto the island also allows me the time to settle into island life and get to know the new team members. I have been helping the team of staff and volunteers with an ‘island clean up’ by lugging TONNES of scrap metal down to the landing stage and onto a waiting boat. The 30+ years worth of junk includes old tractor parts for tractors that are no longer on the island, several old fridges, cookers and washing machines, a rusty cement mixer, multiple car batteries, generators, scaffolding, reams of rusty chicken wire, metal poles, plastic pipes, toilet seats and inexplicably (considering there are no trees on Skomer) a leaf-blower. And much, much more. Our team of around 15 people took 4 hours, several cuts and bruises, and (surprisingly, considering the terrain!) zero slips or accidents to transport everything onto the boat. The boat was seriously listing by the time we got everything on! Pictures of the dream team to follow.
Thanks to Howard’s fine handiwork last season, both hides at the Amos are in fine condition. Mine has been bleached in the winter sun and could do with a lick of paint to make it more camouflaged, but they remain strong, sturdy and (relatively!) cosy.
Unsurprisingly, my first bread-baking attempt this year didn’t turn out so well – any tips on bread making or fool-proof bread recipes would be very welcome! I’ve heard that raw dough isn’t too good for you…
Bird of the (yester)day: a wryneck, spotted on the wall by the hut. These light brown/grey birds are very well camouflaged, and have a distinctive dark stripe from the top of their head down their neck. They get their name from their ability to twist their head around 180 degrees, which they use in threat displays. They are the odd-bods in the woodpecker family, preferring the ground to trees.
Bird of the day: a ring ouzel, spotted behind the Farm. Similar to blackbirds, but with a white band around the throat (breast band), silvery feather edgings on the wings, and longer tail feathers. Both males and females have these characteristics, although the females are paler. They breed in mountains (a mountain blackbird!), and 4 or 5 pass through Skomer each year on their way to their mountainous breeding grounds.