Monday, 7 May 2012

Skomer Island

I set the alarm for 5.15am, But we are all up well before the alarm is due to go off and ready and waiting in the car park when Brian arrives to pick us up at six. We head for Martin's Haven and with the weather conditions looking good we have high hopes that the boat will sail. We won't find out if the boat is going to make the crossing until 8.30. Last year the weather was also good but the boat didn't sail, and so we take nothing for granted.
The boat crossing normally takes about 15 minutes but the captain has to navigate the infamous white water of Jack Sound.
With fingers crossed we head off towards the Deer park. The days birding gets off with a bang as Brian spots some black shapes on the grass slopes. Red bills, red legs, we start to count them and have 18 Choughs feeding right in front of us. First year tick of the trip and we haven't even left the car park yet.
Well pleased with the start to the day we continue on through the swing gate and head towards the park. A quick scan of the field we are in reveals at least 15 Wheatear, along with Whitethroats and Linnets. Heading down the path and onto the Deer Park itself, We soon realise that there are Wheatears absolutely everywhere. There's also a family party of Stonechats with the parents busy feeding the youngsters.
Walking down towards the sea we again spot the group of Choughs in the distance. While watching them feeding we hear the "Kronk-kronk" call of a Raven overhead. It lands on the rocks at the far end and becomes even more vocal.
We reach the far end of marloes peninsula and can see Skomer Island to the West. A second year tick for me comes when three Shags are seen flying along the edge of Skomer. Even better is to come with a third year tick when we spot a single Manx Shearwater flying low and fast across the water. It's a surprise but a  welcome one.
We head back towards the booking office, and get good news that the boat is going to sail. We make our way to the boarding spot and wait for the boat to arrive. It's already made a trip across to the island with this weeks volunteers. Now it is returning with last weeks volunteers aboard, someone says that Ray Mears was among them, if he was I didn't see him.
The Dale Princess
The boat trip across to Skomer is relatively smooth as crossings go, and after listening to the wardens brief speech we head off towards the farm.On the walk we see Oystercatchers, Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls along with double figures of Wheatear
The walk down from the farm doesn't produce any sightings of Short-eared Owls, But the warden did say that they were sitting on eggs and that sightings were becoming rarer at this time.
We continue on towards Garland Stone and find some Grey Seals hauled up on the rocks below, there's also a Shag preening itself on the rocks nearby.
As we continue round we get views of porpoises with three seen. We reach "The Wick" a sheer cliff face which is home to nesting Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and Fulmars. We take advantage of the wooden bench and sit and watch as the Puffins come in off the sea and land just feet away from us before making their way to their burrows.
It's approaching the time for the boat to pick us up, so we make our way back towards the landing area. The waves look much more fierce than on the trip across, so the captain only takes forty people back on the first trip instead of the normal fifty. We are numbers forty four to forty seven in the queue, So will have to wait another thirty minutes for the boat to return. After boarding the boat we soon realise why the captain is concerned. Dad stands up to make room for more people getting on the boat,  Then finds himself on the deck of the boat. As usual he gets no sympathy from any of us and we find it even funnier when he gets trapped there by the ruck-sack on his back which is now wedged between the seats and the life raft. He sees the funny side of it himself as usual, but he has suffered cuts to both of his knees.
The crossing is eventful with the boat leaning to one side then the other before splashing down and drenching most of the people at the stern of the boat, us included.
Glad to be back on dry land and resisting the temptation to bend down and kiss the ground, We head for marloes Mere which is only a mile away. We were told that there were four Glossy Ibis present this morning. Reaching the hide dad is the first to locate a single bird in amongst the taller grass, We scan the rest of the area but can't locate any of the other three birds. The water is alive with  large numbers of Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand martins, (Another year tick).
We call it a day and say goodbye to Brian and wish him good luck for the rest of the week. A relatively early night in readiness for an early start to our third and final day, With a trip planned on route home.

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