Thursday, 23 June 2011

Skomer Island Trip

Becca recalls her recent trip to Skomer:

At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer on Skomer Island for a week.  Having never even seen a Puffin before stepping onto the island, I was in absolute heaven living in the researchers’ accommodation with views of hundreds of Puffins greeting me each morning.

Accommodation on Skomer

My main role on the island was to assist a PhD student from Oxford University with her studies of the foraging behaviour and migration patterns of the Manx Shearwater.  The nocturnal nature of shearwaters meant some very late nights, but the chance to handle these fantastic birds and to experience the phenomenal atmosphere created by 120,000 "Manxies" calling in unison was well worth the lack of sleep!  We deployed a total of 21 GPS units on individuals that were due to leave their burrows to feed out at sea on return of their partners – the data retrieved will contribute to the University’s long term studies into these birds.


With only a week on the island, I was keen to experience as much of the bird life as possible. This wasn’t difficult when living with David Boyle – an incredibly knowledgeable birder who has lived and worked on Skomer for the past nine years.  I assisted him with identifying colour ringed birds and was able to handle Razorbill chicks whilst he ringed this year’s broods that had so far managed to avoid the wrath of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

Razorbill chick

Adult Razorbill

Helping the Teifi Ringing Group with ringing of Shags and Great Black-backed Gulls on Midland Island (see earlier Blog uploaded 10th June) was a definite highlight – and it was certainly a relief to survive jumping off the boat onto the craggy rocks of the island!  The other big highlight was having Springwatch filming on Skomer Island all week.  Although more stressful than glamorous behind the scenes, it was good to meet the crew and Iolo Williams was surprisingly pleasant and down to earth (I am perhaps biased as he brought us cakes and beer on the final day of filming!)

Becca with the Teifi RG

All in all I had a fabulous week and am looking forward to getting back to handling all of the fantastic birds at Stanford with the Stanford RG again!

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