Thursday, 11 December 2014

Annual Reunion 2015

We hope to see as many members as possible at The Friends Reunion 2015. It will be held on Sunday 15 February 2015 at the Tithe Barn, Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire.

You will have received your booking form with your Islands News this week. If you haven't received it yet, it may be worth checking that your membership hasn't lapsed, and that the WTSWW have your current address if you have moved since the last time you received one. If you are receiving this update and haven't officially joined the Friends (click here to find out how), now is the time, and you can then book in to join us on this fun and interesting day...

(Draft agenda, subject to change)
10.30am Arrival, tea and coffee
11am Welcome by Renate Thome, chair
11.05am Update from Sarah Kessell, CEO WTSWW
11.15am Skomer Year by Jason, Skomer Assistant Warden
11.45am Skokholm Year by Giselle and Richard, Skokholm Wardens
12.15pm TBA
12:45pm Delicious buffet lunch
1.45pm Raffle
1.55pm AGM
2.10pm Manx Shearwater Navigation by Ollie Padget, Oxford University
2.40pm Guillemot Social Behaviour by Elspeth Kenny, Sheffield University
3pm Archive Project by Steve Sutcliffe and Carol Collins
3.20pm TBA
3.50pm Summing up by Tim Healing
4pm Tea and cakes

If you need any further information, please contact us by email at

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hello Friends of Skokholm and Skomer
All of you should by now have received your newsletters. If you are reading this and it has not arrived please get in touch so we can make sure you are on our list. Reunion on the 15th February don't forget to book.

Today I want to tell you about the training day we had on Tuesday for the Skokholm Archive project. Anna Sutcliffe arranged the day with the National Library of Wales and the People's Collection an organisation which has an archive of pictures relating to the history of Wales. They came to train some 14 people to learn to scan pictures and slides and to upload them on their website. This offers the Archive project a lot of possibilities for storing some of our pictures and for  creating stories and collections relating to Skokholm. Admire the deep concentration of the trainees learning new skills.

and check out the website for yourselves from this link

Monday, 3 November 2014

A Letter from the Marsh Christian Trust

Dear Members

The Marsh award for Local Ornithology

we would like to offer you our warmest congratulations on winning the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology.

Your contributions to ornithology are exceptional and have been recognised by the judging panel as outstanding.  therefore we have pleasure in enclosing a cheque in the sum of £1,000 to spend in any way you desire.

We enjoy discovering more anbout the dedicated work and invaluable contributions that our Award winners have made and would be delighted to hear from you in the future.

With best wishes

Brian Marsh OBE

We are discussing how to use the money to best effect and given the current archive project considering a number of options including an annual photographic competition of activities on the island (rather than pics of birds!) which may then also be part of the historic archive in the future.  More on this later.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Some updates and a Friends success story via the Pembs Bird Group Newsletter


Pembrokeshire Bird Group and BTO newsletter,
October 2014.

View this email in your browser


Pembrokeshire Bird Conference

Derek Moore 1943 - 2014

Funding Skomer Guillemot Studies

Marsh Award for the Friends of Skomer and Skokholm


Pembrokeshire Bird Conference

Picton Centre, Haverfordwest
Please note that the Conference is on a SUNDAY this year!
The programme focusses upon birding in Pembrokeshire, and our speakers include many leading Pembrokeshire birders
  • A Pembrokeshire Diary                        Brian Southern
  • Visiting Gulls                                       Dave Astins
  • A Welsh BTO Update                            Kelvin Jones (BTO)
  • The loss of arable habitats and their birds        Clive Hurford
  • Aspects of Skokholm                           Richard and Giselle (Wardens)
  • Thermal Imaging of Storm Petrels       Matt Wood
The Conference starts at 10.00am, finishing around 4.45pm; Registration from 9.30 am please.
During the Buffet Lunch (included in the Conference ticket price) there will be the chance to take part in a photo ID quiz and browse stalls and displays, as well as catch up with old friends
In response to feedback after last year's conference, there will be morning and afternoon coffee/tea breaks and a longer lunch break.
The price for this excellent day is £15 (including lunch and teas/coffees)by cheque or cash, or £16 if paying by PayPal (to cover the PayPal charge). Concession price of £7.50 for under-18's or full-time students up to 25.
To book your place print off the Booking Form HERE. Acknowledgements will be sent out by email.
The Picton Centre is a single storey brick building located to the front of the County Council Buildings, and is accessed from the Freemens Way dual carriageway. There is ample parking in the County Council Office Car Park. It is only a short walk from the bus and railway stations. For a map click HERE.
If you need any further information please ring 01646 63697001646 636970 or email
The conference is very kindly being sponsored by Valero. The funds generated by the conference will be used to support birding and wildlife conservation in Pembrokeshire.

Derek Moore 1943 - 2014

It is with great sadness we report that Derek Moore passed away on October 23rd after battling a long illness against cancer. 
Committed conservationist, entertaining speaker at our annual conferences, enthusiastic bird man and boon companion in the field, he will be sorely missed. Deepest feelings must go to Beryl at this traumatic time.

For memories of Derek, read his blog


Guillemots of Skomer need YOU.

A request from Tim Birkhead.

Thank you for your interest in my long-term study of guillemots on Skomer Island, Wales. And thank you to everyone that has contributed so far!

In the 1930s there were around 100,000 pairs of guillemots on Skomer’s cliffs, but by the early 1970s this had fallen to just just 2000 pairs. Since then number have increased and there are now around 25,000 pairs. The population on Skomer is one of just a handful of UK guillemot populations that is doing reasonably well at present. 

But there’s no room for complacency. The massive ‘seabird wreck’ of February 2014, which was the result of persistent storms killed at least 40,000 seabirds, many of which were guillemots and many of which were from Skomer. Our long term study, in which we have monitored the survival and breeding success of Skomer’s guillemots, puts us in a unique position to understand the consequences of this wreck. Ironically, ‘wreck’ coincided with the decision to terminate funding for the study.

The guillemot study started in 1972 and for the last 20 years was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). In 2013 CCW became part of Natural Resources Wales, and the funding for the guillemot study stopped.

As the quality of our seas continue to decline as a result of climate change and over-fishing, it seems crazy to terminate a study that could help preserve one of our most important seabird species. This project needs £12,000 a year to continue. With your help we can carry on collecting the information that is so essential for understanding the health of this sea bird population, the state of the marine environment, and for recognising the effects of climate change and oil pollution on the ecosystem.

The target is £12,000 for one year's research. So if 1000 people each donated £12.00 we would be secure for one more year. All the funds raised through this campaign will go towards the long term study of guillemots on Skomer: the university do not take any overhead or cut.

Please help this important study - Contribute here

Guardian article here 
Nature article here

Friends of Skokholm and Skomer recognised

At a ceremony in London, The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer  were awarded the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology in recognition of the huge amount of work they have done to put Skokholm Island back on to the British ornithological map.

Skokholm Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, is home to internationally important wildlife populations, and is particularly well known for its seabirds. It was the first Bird Observatory in Britian, but lost its Observatory status in 1976. The island was bought by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales in 2007, by which time the buildings and ‘birding’ infrastructure were in complete disrepair and non-functional. Thanks to the Friends this is no longer the case.  The work took four years to complete and almost 20,000 hours of voluntary labour.

The Friends are incredibly important to the islands of Skomer and Skokholm and since 1981 the membership has grown to over 400. Members help finance essential work on the islands through their subscriptions, but more importantly, many have taken part in voluntary work parties to help bring Skokholm back to its former glory and its return to official Bird Observatory status in 2014

Members of the Friends often act as voluntary wardens on both Skomer and Skokholm helping with practical maintenance tasks, wildlife recording and research studies and are currently engaged in digitising the daily bird logbooks which date back to 1933.

The award was presented by The Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) at the Mall Gallery in London.

Steve Sutcliffe, the driving force behind the Friends and a former Skomer Warden said, "I am absolutely delighted that the hard work of the many volunteers who have helped to restore Skokholm has been recognised in this way.  The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer have been the catalyst, raising funds and providing a huge amount of support for the project, and I am honoured to receive this award on their behalf."

Andy Clements BTO Director said, "The Marsh Awards for Ornithology enable BTO to recognise the excellent work of ornithologists at a variety of scales, all of whom are partners with BTO in ensuring science contributes to conservation. Volunteering is central to BTO Science and I am delighted that the local Marsh Award is going to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer whose hard work has rejuvenated a key migration watch-point."

The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer are a group of people who are enthusiastic and passionate about the Islands. We have some 440 members from all over Britain and a few from abroad. Mostly we are people who have visited the Islands and want to keep in touch with what is happening.

We support the Islands mainly through donations and volunteering. We organise work-parties, usually in the spring and autumn to maintain and repair the buildings, hides or anything else that needs doing. 
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Monday, 4 August 2014

Skokholm on ITV Wales

If you missed Richard and Giselle on Coast and Country, you can now view it online. The second part is on Friday 8 August 8pm.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Volunteer opportunities on Skokholm

Following on from our blog of 1st May which helped to get volunteers for digitising the bird logs on Skokholm early in the season, we are now after volunteers for weeks in the second half of  September –  the weeks beginning Monday 15th,  Friday 19th or Monday 22nd.  The work needs to be done in pairs and for this period we have one volunteer available but need at least one other person to work with him.  It helps if you have some knowledge of birds and familiarity with Excel, but other than that the work is not difficult – it just requires attention to detail.  On the plus side, accommodation on Skokholm is free (courtesy of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales) and we can offer some recompense of travel expenses (courtesy of Environment Wales), so the main outlay for any volunteer would be the food for self-catering whilst on the island.

If you are interested please could you contact Phil Blatcher (  01992 441024 ) who is co-ordinating the work on the bird logs.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

on being a Long Term Volunteer

Living on Skokholm I am struck at how much the weather influences our lives. On the mainland I often don’t notice the weather, caught up in my own activities. Here it determines everything, we depend on the sun for hot water and electricity, and the survey and monitoring work with birds is weather dependent.  In the last two weeks we have had it quite a mixture. Gales with 50 miles and hour winds stopped the seabird work as we could hardly stand up let alone lean over cliffs to count visiting birds. The sea-spray swept over the island and even the nettles suffered damage. I enjoyed the spectacle of the wild sea lashing the cliffs, but got very tired battling against the winds and had to go to bed early.

This onslaught was followed by a few calm and beautifully sunny days when we peeled off layers of clothing and reveled in the warmth of the sun. Bird work resumed at a pace. Manx-shearwater monitoring and the first eggs from the auks were noted. The sun brought out the bluebells and the sea thrift to full bloom, both have been particularly stunning this year, possibly because there are fewer rabbits. 

This bliss was followed by two days of heavy rain. I find the rain most difficult, as I have to constantly wipe my glasses and find it hard to see anything at all. Rain has its compensations as it brought dunlin, ringed plover, a wood warbler and a common tern to North pond. All taking shelter for a while on their journey to the breeding grounds

Six weeks of my time on the Island have gone already, the time has passed so quickly and I have learnt a great deal. Now the auks are back and breeding there is more and different bird monitoring to come, but more of that next time. I leave today with a picture of the sunrise over the mainland.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Skokholm Erratics

John Lewis's second book about Skokholm tells of the various influences in the island's development from the ice age to the present day. He tells how the Vikings, the birds, the Alice Williams, R.M.Lockley and finally the Island Work Parties have all left their mark, making the island what it is today.

150 page paperback, illustrated with over ninety photographs and illustrations, most of them in colour, showing the island's past and present. More recent scenes are of the new developments and  the various individuals who have participated in the work parties.
Available from the island shop price £12.99.

Profits go to the island development fund.

Also available from the author at :- Copse Green, Elmstone Hardwicke, Cheltenham GL51 9TB. Please add £1.50 for P&P

Friday, 9 May 2014

On being a Long Term Volunteer on Skokholm

Some of you may know that I applied and got the three month  Long Term Volunteer (LTV)  position on Skokholm for the spring season. I have now been here for a month and thought to give you a little insight into the life of the LTV. My first three weeks were pretty much business as usual with the spring work-parties doing general maintenance such as lime-washing the buildings and painting every room inside. The usual work-party routine.

These last two weeks have seen   the beginning of the season and of a different life for the LTV. Our days do have a routine and yet that can change depending on weather and bird activity. We of course keep an eye on kitchen and make sure  everything generally tidy.  On change over days the cleaning of rooms etc has to be done quickly as there is little time in between one set of visitors leaving and another arriving.

Our other important  jobs however are to help in monitoring the birds and learning about how to survey the birds.  So these last few days Molly(the other LTV) and I have been searching for Greater Black Back gulls (GBB) nests. There are some 70 or so pairs on the Island and so far we have located 58 nests. This task involves walking round the Island spotting a sitting gull and marking the spot on the map. This sounds easy enough but requires some accuracy and a fair bit of walking.

The Island is slowly moving into spring dress these last few days the bluebells have really opened and as I walk up from South Haven the spread of colour is breathtaking. The sea thrift is  luscious this year
Some of the migrant breeding birds are returning such as the Sedge-warbles who can now be heard singing from their usual perches. A trickle of swallows are passing through and we think a few of our breeding birds have started to return too.
The gulls are busy making babies and the noise of their lovemaking is deafening. Puffins and auks are slowly coming in.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A bit of help

A few weeks ago Natural Resources Wales pulled the funding for the long term monitoring of Guillemots on Skomer.  Its one of the longest running studies in the UK and immensely valuable  for understanding the issues which affect the seabirds on our islands.
There is an online petition going - please sign it and pass on to your contacts - it just might make a difference.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Data entry of Skokholm bird logs – could you help in May?

We are delighted to let you know that Environment Wales has awarded the Archives Project a grant which will enable us to refund at least part of the travel expenses of volunteers who spend a week on Skokholm this summer digitising the bird logs. The Wildlife Trust has already agreed not to charge for accommodation.  

This means we can start immediately and since there are some spaces during May we would particularly welcome anyone who could spend a week on the island (Monday to Monday) this month.  The work is done in pairs and each team needs some knowledge of birds and familiarity with Excel, so if you are interested please could you get in touch asap with Phil Blatcher ( 01992 441024) who is co-ordinating the work on the bird logs, to let him know which week you could do, as well as giving him some idea of your expertise with birds and Excel.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

About the islands and rats!

During the winter there was quite a lot of discussion about the risks of accidentally introducing rats and other animals to the islands and the enormous subsequent costs which would be incurred to eradicate them quite apart from the potential damage they could do to our seabird colonies. We have been lucky perhaps to date so a bit of care in the future will help to maintain the predator free status.
The Wildlife Trust has developed a package of actions designed to minimise the potential threats and one of these is specific to overnight guests but should also be observed by anyone visiting the islands.  They are very simple so PLEASE observe them when visiting:-
All food items, and preferably all bags, must be packed and sealed on the mainland before transportation to the islands.  You will be asked by Lockley Lodge staff to confirm this and may be asked to re-pack items which are in open carrier bags - just avoid Tesco's immediately before your visit!!
 Putting food into sealed and roped boxes will help a lot as it makes them easy to handle as well as bio secure.
Enjoy your visits this year - the seabirds are just about back now and its warming up now.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Wardens are back!

Yesterday after a bit of a delay at Neyland the Skokholm Wardens were re-installed on the island after a fairly epic boat trip and an even more epic landing on an extremely slippery jetty.

It was almost dark when we got to the island and very dark by the time Richard and Giselle got everything up to the Observatory although we took quite a lot back to Neyland when the sea got too rough to hang around longer. they have started their daily blog already (go to and will update this virtually every day through the season.

The damage on the island after the incredible winter storms seems to be minimal although there is guttering scattered around, rather than on, the buildings.  It must say something for the recent refurbishment works if it all survived some of the fiercest and prolonged winter storms this last 100 years.

The Skomer wardens, Ed and Bee, are hoping to get back onto the island later this week once their boat is repaired and no doubt will post something on the Skomer blog when they return.  Ed has recently posted some graphic details of the huge seabird wreck which is mainly centred in the Bay of Biscay but has also seen a few hundred dead birds in Pembrokeshire.  We already know that Skomer birds have been affected - nearly 15,000 dead puffins counted 10 days ago included three Skomer birds carrying geolocators (from just 20 birds fitted with them) so we are hoping the overall population is not too badly affected. 
Watch for more information on this.

Monday, 3 March 2014

New book published

"Skokholm Erratics" by John Lewis

This new book by Friends co-founder John Lewis tells of the island's history from the ice age until the present day. Illustrated with over ninety illustrations and photographs, mostly in colour. Group photographs of work parties and island scenes.

150 pages paperback.

Price £12.99 plus £1.50 P&P

Available from the author at:-
Copse Green,
Elmstone Hardwicke, 

GL51 9TB

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A bit of help on Skomer

The wardens on Skomer are looking for some keen volunteers to help with some pre season maintenance on the buildings in the last week of March.  At the moment there is still no news about the condition of the buildings after the incredible storms this winter/spring but Ed & Bee expect to get out to the island in the coming week.

Anyone who can help can they please get in touch directly with the wardens on :- or try a phone call on 07971 114302

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Reunion time hurry hurry

Reunion time 16th February 2014

There are only  a few places left for this year’s Reunion!!! 
Book with Carol Collins:

We have an exciting programme for you and some lovely food
Lots of friends to see and lots of memories to share.
Could some of you bring some cakes to eat. Preferably cut up in small pieces ready to hold.
Also reminder about those colouful blankets that Skomer folk so badly want .
We all look forward to seeing you all on the 16th of February at the Tythe Barn. Lots to talk about lots to see.

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

16th February 2014

Morning session chair: Holly Kirk
10 30               Arrive: tea/coffee and cake
11.00am          Welcome, admin, announcements: Renate Thome
                        Update from the Trust  Sarah Kessell CEO
                        The Skomer Year: Skomer Wardens
                        Skokholm Year: Birds and Wildlife.  Skokholm Wardens
                        Skomer Puffin research: Annette Fayet
12. 35pm                     LUNCH                                                                                           
                        Annual General Meeting
Afternoon session chair: Renate Thome
                        Matt Wood, Gloucester University
                        Lucy Griffiths, Author  
                        Update on work done:             Steve Sutcliffe
                        Update on Archive Project:    Carol Collins
                       Shearwater research: Holly Kirk
                        Summing up: Tim Healing
                        Tea/coffee and cakes