Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Skokholm DVD 'Dream Island' now available!

Good news, the long awaited DVD is now available, visit for more details, buy a last minute Christmas present, and support the islands!
50% of all the profits from the sale will go towards the Skokholm Island restoration fund.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Friends Reunion

  Hello Friends,
  Hurry hurry and book your place for the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer Reunion on the 
                                                 17th of February 2013 

                            The Tithe Barn; Cheltenham Road Bishop's Cleeve at GL52 8L


Morning session chair: Renate Thome
10.30am Arrive: tea/coffee and cake
11.00am Welcome, admin, announcements: Renate Thome 
11.05am Islands update: Sarah Kessell CEO / Lizzie Wilberforce
11.15am The Skomer Year: Chris Taylor, Skomer Warden
11.40am Skokholm Year: Birds and Wildlife.  Lewis Yates 
12.00am Skokholm renovation - project update  : Steve Sutcliffe  
12. 30pm LUNCH                                                                                            
1.30pm Raffle 
1.40pm Annual General Meeting 
Afternoon session chair: Holly Kirk 
2.00pm Phillip Collins : Skomer Research
2.30pm Richard Brown: Bardsey Birds 
3.00pm Nigel McCall: An Island trip around the world
4.00pm Summing up: Tim Healing 
4.10pm Tea/coffee and cakes 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Booking form for the Friends of the Islands Annual Reunion
Year 29
17th February 2013

Name: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

Email: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Tel no: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 

Cost £18 per person, by cheque only, payable to:  ‘The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer’ 
Acknowledgement of booking will be by email or please send a SAE for a receipt 

Return all to:
Renate Thome, Ranelagh, Precelly Crescent, Goodwick, Pembs, SA64 0HF 
Tel 01348 872 330 or 07966445782

If you have any queries please email 

PS If you are a signed up Friend and have not received a paper Newsletter in the last two weeks please contact me.

Hope to see you on the 17th


Monday, 19 November 2012

New Skokholm Wardens

Recently the Trust appointed the new wardens for Skokholm.    They are Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle - both currently on Bardsey Island where Richard has been for five years and before that he was on Skomer for a year.

Already looking forward to the job and taking an interest on what is going on here is a link for anyone who wants to know a bit more about them:-

Richard and Giselle are job sharing this season.  they are both experienced birders and Richard is an experienced bird ringer with a full A permit.  Giselle also holds an interdemiate C permit.   I think it would be fair to say they will enthusiastically embrace the development of Skokholm for the future.

One last note about wardens too - Chris is leaving Skomer and his post has been advertised too - closing date 3rd December so hopefully there will be another announcement soon.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Skomer pollen mysteries...

From a column in the Gloucestershire Echo:

"Pioneering research of all kinds is carried out at British universities. But what do the experts at the University of the Gloucestershire get up to? Here, we look at research by biology staff of the School of Natural and Social Science on the island of Skomer, off the south west coast of Wales.

From Shakespeare’s magical island in The Tempest to pirate treasure, islands have long been a focus of fascination and intrigue. For biologists, the isolation of islands can lead to unusual communities of animals and plants, and to “natural laboratories”, that can tell us a great deal about how the natural world works.

The vegetation of Skomer Island off the south west coast of Wales is mysterious because in late spring, the treeless island is carpeted with bluebells, a species normally associated with dense and ancient woodlands. In the summer, a small team of biology staff and students, led by Julia Webb and Dr Matt Wood, travelled to the Island to investigate the past.

They drilled through the soil to study pollen preserved from Skomer’s history. The team were hoping to discover the pollen of trees covering Skomer hundreds or even thousands of years ago that would explain the presence of bluebells. However, what the team found was even more interesting. There was no evidence of woodlands in the past on Skomer Island – so where did the bluebells come from?

The pollen record yielded other mysteries. Records of human occupation and evidence of agriculture can be seen in many places. However, while records show that some fields were ploughed, the researchers found no evidence of cereals growing on the island.

The team are now using radiocarbon dating to establish whether the record of pollen in the soil is continuous or whether there is a gap, caused perhaps by peat digging, that might contain the evidence for the missing trees and cereals. As Julia says, “If the dates show that the soil accumulation has been continuous it will mean that we may have to rethink some ideas of how species come to be where they are. Either way, our findings will inform future conservation management strategies for the island.”

Thanks to Friend of Skokholm and Skomer, Matt Wood, for this. He will keep us all up to date as more results emerge.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ideal Christmas gift?

A book about Peter Conder, John Barrett and John Buxton birdwatching whilst in Prisoner of War camp is to be published at the beginning of November and is being advertised on Amazon for advance ordering at a reduced rate.  

The book, Birds in a Cage: the remarkable story of how four prisoners of war survived captivity by Derek Niemann will also be featured in an article in the Sunday Telegraph Remembrance Day edition.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Laser survey reveals Skokholm's previous human inhabitants

Those that attended the Friends Reunion in February would have heard Oliver Davis talking about  The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales LiDAR survey, and its results. It has now been published and the BBC has reported it, click here for the story. For Oliver's original blog entry, click here.

*UPDATED* Skokholm Online

Those who missed it, or are outside of Wales, the 'Dream Island' programmes are available online, click the following links...
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Friday, 14 September 2012

Skokholm on TV tonight

Have just been told that the Skokholm programmes at 8pm on ITV Wales will be repeated on ITV 1+1 at 9pm.

So if you miss the earlier one then you should be able to pick it up later.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

More images and video

Pete Cheshire visited Skokholm in June and took loads of pictures and video which he is sharing with the world via his web site.

The 360 degree pics and the video of the Razorbills are really nice but there are loads of pictures to look at.  Enjoy - just click on

Don't forget to watch ITV Wales tomorrow at 8pm.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A message from Skokholm, sorry, STOCKHOLM

Any Swedish speakers amongst the Friends may enjoy these two articles published in two national Swedish publications. Click here and here to see them.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A message from Jerry...

I'd just like to send a quick message of thanks to everyone who chipped in for my leaving present, it's a gesture that means a lot to me. The money will go toward a shiny new camera lens (I've been told it's worth getting the best one I can).

Living and working on Skokholm and Skomer has been a terrific experience and I was sad to leave when I departed for the final time last Sunday. It felt like the end of a great holiday – when you're resigned to going home but know you'll take lots of good memories with you. That is tinged with excitement about what the future holds and a bit of mild panic as I'm rushing to pack belongings and find somewhere to live in Cambridge.

Life on the islands would be very different if not for The Friends. For a start I probably wouldn't have had the same job on Skokholm I've had for the past two years as The Friends have been the driving force behind the restoration project. The planning, purchasing, delivering, recruiting and actual building is a huge achievement and I'm always amazed at what gets achieved by enthusiastic, often untrained, volunteers. But it's not just the restoration work; in day-to-day running of the island there are a number of members who are always willing to help from the mainland - sending stuff out, consulting on problems or coming across to help out. Knowing that there's such a dedicated group behind you makes wardening Skokholm a whole lot easier.

The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer is doing a terrific job, I just want to thank you all for being members and hope you get out to visit the islands more and more.

Jerry Gillham

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Full house on Skokholm Island

A full house on Skokholm for the first workparty
this last week 

This first autumn workparty week has been  busy and eventful. A team of six builders ( our usual crowd) and  seven volunteers met at Martins Haven on Saturday. Jerry, our warden  and Charlotte, his girlfriend joined us for a  last week on the Island for Jerry before departing for Bird Island.  Tim Healing was also of the party to make a start on his mouse research. 

A mountain  of equipment was loaded. Mixers, Jack hammers, tampers and electrician Henry's tools, food for  a team of 20 was all heaved on to the Princess. John Reynolds  calm and efficient as ever, skippered the boat and landed us all in an agitated and bouncing sea,

Long term volunteers Teresa and Leighton
hard at work  
The plan for the week was to start on the water system installation, repair the top of the jetty and re-roof the kitchen and warden's quarters. Several Tank bases needed to be built this involved a lot of digging up old pipes and laying tank 

Leighton and Renate 

Some of the  builders immediately set up the scaffolding, working with the volunteers to explore the top of the jetty. This work proved  more problematic than anticipated and the top of the jetty will need more work in the spring. This time around it was made safe and tied in to withstand another winter. 

 The others made a start on the roof of the warden quarters and the kitchen.
Warden quarters and kitchen roof is off

The water work involved the setting up of several tank bases which had to be absolutely level.
within a few millimeters. This proved quite a challenge to some of us. Several attempts and lots of advice did pay off and all 4 tank bases are now in place. 

The pipe work was equally confusing at times. Now the pipes lie on the surface of the Island

waiting to be dug under  the turf. All connections still to be sorted out.

Henry our very own electrician wired up the cottage and now all the rooms have light.
He also set up the solar panels to power the system and installed the hot water system in the wheelhouse. Henry worked in the Lighthouse as an apprentice at the age of 16 he has returned to Skokholm recently as a volunteer electrician. He is obviously happy in his work. 

On Tuesday a boat arrived with  Gordon the  film maker, who has been filming events on the Island for  over a  year. The series called 'Dream Island' will be shown on the Welsh Television in September  in six half hour series. This week two actors worked with Gordon to recreate some of the iconic scenes on Skokholm. Our volunteers  were pressed into acting roles of the man from the ministry and rabbit catcher, and keeper of the light. 
Jasper as the rabbit catcher 

Keith as the man from the ministry 

Keith and young Lockley 

Nick as the keeper of the light 

On wednesday we had a party to say our goodbye's to Jerry. He has been a great support and help to the Friends. He  has worked so very hard handling impossible deliveries and shifting  large amounts  of sand and cement. His heart and soul went into the restoration of the cottage. We sent him on his way and expect him to return to the Friends reunion a star presenter in 2014 on his return. A festive table and a fantastic meal was enjoyed by all. Our cook Anne cooked for Wales catering for 22 at one stage with a smile and good humour

Another fabulous week on Skokholm with a team of great and skilled volunteers who achieved more than would seem humanly possible. Lots of work and lots of fun. A lot of weather from brilliant sunshine to torrential rain and gales. 

A big thank you to all who came and helped and a special thank you to the three very special  long term volunteers: Will, Teresa and Leighton who have worked hard and given their all during their time on the Island. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

TV Series and Island Bookings

Both Skomer and Skokholm will be on the TV soon:-

Skomer as part of the Springwatch Special on 23rd August at 9pm with some fledgling puffins and an update from Iolo Williams. 

Skokholm from 14th September - a series of six programmes on ITV Wales (sadly perhaps not on English TV) but also around the time of Coronation Street - so peak viewing time??  I gather the series will be called soemthing like "Dream Island" and will cover the work of the last few years with a background of Lockley's endevours - there have even been actors on the island doing Lockley impersinations!  watch this spcae for more information.

Island Bookings will be open soon too - Skokholm from 10th September for members and from 17th for everyone and Skomer from 1st October for members and 15th October for everyone.  Look at the Skomer blog for more information.

On Skokholm in 2013 there will be a new Warden and the lighthouse will be used by staff and researchers so there will be additional bed spaces at the Observatory buildings.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Another nice ringing control

Although we have caught and ringed relatively few birds on Skokholm in the last two years there have been some great controls and this latest one is no exception.  Fairly few ringed Willow Warblers  are ever seen again so to have our third control is a pretty good percentage.

This one was ringed on Cape Clear off southern Ireland on 23rd June 2011 as a recently fledged youngster and may have been raised on the island or on the mainland nearby.  We re-caught it on Skokholm as part of a group of passage birds on 11th April weighing a good 9.7 grams.  At a guess it was well on its way back to southern Ireland having been well down into Africa for the winter.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sponsor Day on Skokholm a success

In brilliant sunshine and with favourable winds [not all that  easy to organise]  some 40 sponsors and volunteer helpers made it on to Skokholm for the day. The trip  was organised by Steve Sucliffe and the Wildlife  Trust to thank all those who have in the last year given in, materials time and cash  to the renovation project.
Most helpers are involved in the delivery of materials and rarely get the opportunity to set  foot on the Island.


Our sponsors Valero, South Hook LNG, Zenith Interiors, Towy Works and the Friends of the National Park joined us to see for themselves the use we have made of their donations and materials.

One important sponsor, John Reynolds from Dale Sailing was not able to be with us . The provision of transport of materials and of people for the entire duration of the project has been a most generous and crucially important contribution to the project. Without this level of help and the flexibility offered by John and his team [we can  organise the deliveries at short notice when people and the weather permit]  this  project would be  much more costly and almost impossible to organise.

After a look around the buildings and a guided walk  everyone  gathered for a short tea and cake  break on the lawn before departing again.

A farewell wave from the  the boat in a joyful picture taken from an adventurous angle by Anna Sutcliffe.

I hope lots of people fell in love with sparkling and sunny Skokholm and  will return in the future.


Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Lighthouse engines leave the Island

The Lighthouse  engines sit on the jetty waiting to be taken off. No longer in functioning order the engines took up most of the  lower floor of the lighthouse and needed to be removed. The Cleddau King arrives riding backwards to take the engines off the Island. 

Will our longterm Volunteer is ready to helpSoon the engines are on their way on to the boat 

All on board ready to go The Cleddau King leaves the Island a bit lower down in the water all engines on board. 

Will watches as the boat leaves,  job done. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Some Lovely Images

A recent visitor to Skokholm has just put some of his stunning pictures on his web site and is very happy to share them with all islanders.

Look at his web site :-

Well worth a visit.  I have never seen any action shots as good as the Herring Gull v. Puffin.

Enjoy - and please submit your thoughts and memories and pictures to the blog too.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Tuesday of last week Steve Sutcliffe and his team of Ringers arrived on Skokholm to ring Puffins. Wendy, Richard, Renate, John and Caroline all set to the task. Helped by Jerry (warden) Will and Theresa ( volunteers on the Island) We ringed 57 Puffins. The teamwork was great and we all enjoyed the beautiful sunny day on the Island. Visitors watched the ringing with interest. 
I enjoyed visiting the cottage now furnished and with pictures in place. It all looked great. The weather has not been kind to visitors this season with quite a few trips cancelled due to bad weather. The Island ponds are all full which is unusual at this time of year this  might bring some interesting migrants in the autumn.
 The visitors who did make it were all falling in love with the Island which is not surprising. 

Deliveries and work parties are due to start again in August for the next lot of refurbishment mainly dealing with improving the water supply. More news to come as the work gets underway. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Prestigious Volunteer Award goes to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer


We have won the Volunteer of the year award in the "groups' category. Sponsored by Wildlife Trust we were chosen out of some 150 contestants for this national Welsh award. Sam, Shirely, Steve and I attended the award ceremony at Cardiff Castle yesterday. We were joined by Sarah Kessel (CEO) and Lizzy Wilberforce, we all enjoyed the ceremony and especially the tea and cakes afterwards. You may have problems recognising some of our party due to the unusual formal suits they found in their wardrobes, a far cry from work-party and Island attire. This award is well deserved by all the volunteers who have given so much and with such enthusiasm to the Islands.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Some Ringing Recoveries from Skokholm - one of them is amazing.

A Willow Warbler retrapped on Skokholm on 16th April 2011 was ringed at Portland Bill on 23rd April 2010 - so it was on its second northern migration and typically heading north west and potentially heading to Ireland or Scotland.

Another Willow Warbler retrapped on Skokholm on 20th April 2010 was ringed at Aros Moss, Strathclyde on 2nd May 2010 and probably breeding there and on its way back there.

A Reed Warbler retrapped on 26th September 2011 was ringed as a young bird in Mecklenburg-Vorpommen, Germany on 25th August 1281 km from Skokholm.  Its only the eight  retrap/recovery from Germany (there have also been four from Poland) but it was almost in Denmark.  Presumably it got its autumn migration completely wrong.  Have alook at Google maps and see just where it came from.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Fancy helping out on Skokholm?

Skokholm Island is currently undergoing a renovations project which has had massive input from The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer.
If you would like to leave your mark on the island - read on.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

Volunteers needed.......

When: 18 August - End Septemeber. Six to Eight people per week.
How long for? Minimum a week (Saturday to Saturday).

People with specialist skills (electrical, plumbing, etc.) are of particular interest but anybody with good general fitness and DIY skills are very welcome.
Cooks are also highly sought after to keep the work parties working at full strength.

Previous workparties can be read about on the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer Blog:
The Last Spring 2012 Skokholm Work-party

Who to contact if interested?

Please email Steve Sutcliffe  on
I Would recommend getting in touch soon if interested.

Work Plan

Builders on the island in the first week replacing kitchen and wardens roof and doing the top of the jetty. Vols to move materials and put down concrete tank bases etc.

 Internal work in wardens rooms (and perhaps the kitchen)

Garage roof to complete.

Digging in the pipework for the water system - currently trying to get a mini digger sorted.

Water tanks to erect and pipework to connect. Plumber installing solar panels and water system to kitchen.

UV System and controls to install - electrician hopefully.

Possible waste pipes to install in trenches for future waste water from bedrooms etc.

Heligoland traps to build
This is the cottage on Skokholm
Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

It is official the Lighthouse belongs to the Wildlife Trust

Hello Friends 

It is official the Lighthouse on Skokholm now belongs to the Wildlife Trust. 
Keys were handed over on Wednesday. 
Below is a summary of the TV coverage of the event. Our Friends Volunteers Wendy and Dyfed were able to say a few words about the work accomplished so far. Thank you to Dyfed for recording the events and making them available to us. 


Monday, 7 May 2012

A taste of bird ringing on Skokholm

Those of you who have been on Skokholm work parties will know the pleasure of that golden time before breakfast when the time is your own. I was planning to get up every morning before dawn to open the mist nets and hopefully catch some birds to ring. Unfortunately the weather demons had other ideas and wind and rain put paid to that except on two calm mornings. 

Bob, Jerry, Will and myself ringed 60 birds and caught one retrap on the 24th April. On the 26th there had been a big fall of birds as they dropped in with some early morning drizzle. By the time we had to pack up to start work we had ringed 92 birds of 6 species and a retrap Wren.

To give an idea of species that day - 
Willow Warbler 48
Chiffchaff 6
Blackcap 32
Sedge Warbler 2
Whitethroat 3
Grasshopper Warbler 1

Grasshopper Warbler
Looking back through the island records, this is a fraction of the birds that were caught in the days when a Heligoland trap was used. The massive advantage of this large trap is that it can be used safely in all weathers whereas mist nets cannot be used in wind or rain. With so many windy days on Skokholm it is a shame that when enthusiastic ringers are on the island no ringing can be done. 

A Heligoland Trap in Devon
© Copyright David Medcalf and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 
As mentioned in the 2011 report, it is hoped to make the island an Accredited Bird Observatory again. It was last accredited in 1976 but with the reintroduction of appropriate bird ringing and trapping regimes it is hoped to achieve this if the materials can be found and the traps built. 

The rebuilding of a Heligoland trap would seem to be essential to ensure the effective monitoring of birds using the island as a stop off point on their migration in Spring and Autumn. A small cost compared to the whole renovation project but a massive boost to the status of the island.

Wendy James

If you would like to help financially, or in any other way, to make the building of a Heligoland Trap happen, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Friends via 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Skokholm on BBC Radio 4

This weeks BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Drama, 'Through the Wire', opens with a description of very early Manx shearwater research on Skokholm, and two of the characters, John Buxton and Peter Condor, are strongly linked to Skokholm too.

John Buxton was Ronald Lockley's brother-in-law (married to Lockley's sister, Marjorie), and wardened Skokholm between Lockley's stints in 1939.  Peter Condor wardened Skokholm from 1947 to 1953 and in due course became Director of the RSPB.

You have until 7 May 2012 to listen to it on the BBC iPlayer  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Last Spring 2012 Skokholm Work-party

Hello all,

A few pictures and update from the last work-party this spring. On Monday the Island is open to visitors. The cottage looks beautiful white and pristine. Thanks to Dyfed James for the wonderful photos, especially for managing to catch the white of the cottage against a rare blue sky!

Work-party Phyl and Dorothy Blatcher, Wendy and Dyfed James, Carol Collins, Annie and Bob Haycock, aided and abetted by Jerry and Will put the finishing touches to the cottage and kitchen and pantry. 

The common room looks fabulous
 New furniture and pictures as well as warm fire
The four bedrooms in the cottage; Stewards, Carpenter and Gunner and the Smoke room as well as Ringing Room are ready to receive visitors  .

Ringing Room
These 4 weeks of work parties have again demonstrated how much can be achieved with willing and motivated workers. The weather has been incredibly varied with sunshine, storms and heavy rain. See Jerry’s video on TheSkokholm blog. We managed to get everyone on  and off pretty much as planned thanks to Dale Sailing and their team. Kenny is smiling after his holiday in the sun. Jerry our lovely warden has pitched in with enthusiasm and good humour. Will our long term volunteer has taken part with gusto in this episode of ‘Carry on Skokholm’. A big thank you to all of you.

The puffins are waiting for you all to visit and enjoy the Island.