On 1st March, the Skomer Island team, including myself Leighton Newman, Skomer Warden, Ceris Aston, Assistant Warden, and Beth Thompson, Visitor Officer, boarded the Helen Claire and headed back to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Skomer Island for the start of the 2022 season. There was, as usual, a huge amount of kit, including a months’ worth of food for three people! After a quick stop to Skomer’s sister island Skokholm, to drop off their island team, we made it to a slightly choppy North Haven, the landing point on Skomer, and began unloading bags, aware that the afternoon was drawing in.
There’s always an air of anticipation when heading back over to Skomer Island at the start of the new season… we never know what we will find. One of the first tasks we do on moving day is check the buildings for damage from the winter storms. This year it was extra worrying, with Skomer having been in the firing line of storm Eunice. Thankfully, however, the buildings remained relatively unscathed, apart from a few lost roof tiles, a chimney cap and the internet dish at the Farm.
Things were somewhat more of a rush this year, however, as we were joined on the 4th by a team of four from Rock Engineering who will be working on Skomer for the next few weeks to secure the cliff collapse above the boat shed.
Up early for a delivery of equipment, we witnessed the mass arrival of auks on to the cliffs. Starting just after sunrise, birds began swirling and rafting in North Haven, and just an hour later, the cliffs were seemingly full. We grabbed our Leica kit to get a closer look, to which we saw birds appearing to occupy previously un-occupied ledges and the cliffs were seemingly bursting with both Razorbills and Guillemots.
It seems a common theme from last year to this year, that one of the first birds we see when landing on Skomer, is a Red Kite. A previously scarce bird on Skomer, the number of records keep increasing every year.
We saw our first Puffins of the year on the 10th with 40 rafting offshore. Numbers have fluctuated since, however, 2,490 including hundreds on land in North Haven on the 15th was quite the sight.
The first truly settled warm day really jolted the breeding birds into action and stepping outside the house shortly after sunrise, the song of Meadow Pipits and Wrens filled the air. Skylark, after a few blank years, are currently singing in the center of the island too.
We have also witnessed the first Ravens nest building, with a bird making repeated trips to the beach in North Haven, scavenging washed up debris, and flying straight into Matthews Wick, the same site as 2021.
On the 13th we were lucky enough to witness the Northern Lights from Skomer; knowing that a ‘solar storm’ was on its way, sitting out on the cliffs under the starry sky didn’t seem like a bad prospect.
We are due to have our first volunteers of the year on the 19th and there’s still lots to be done before opening on the 1st April. If you’d like to visit Skomer Island in 2022, our day tickets are available online here: Land On Skomer – Pembrokeshire Islands.
We’re also excited to announce that the Skomer Island live webcams will be returning for a third year! Keep an eye on our socials for information on when we go live. The Skomer Island cameras would not be possible without sponsorship, and we’re delighted to be in partnership with Leica for the 2022 season.
We look forward to seeing you all soon.