At the 44th Annual General Meeting of the Bird Observatories Council at Portland last weekend Skokholm was officially reaccredited as a Bird Observatory. This recognises the huge amounts of work done on Skokholm during the restoration period, the reestablishment of intensive bird monitoring on the Island and our desire for this to continue into the future. Skokholm thus becomes the 19th Bird Observatory recognised by the Bird Observatories Council and part of a network extending across Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man. These 19 migration hotspots offer some of the best birding going with 85% of the birds on the British and Irish list having been recorded at just these sites. But being a Bird Observatory is much more than this.
The thing which links all 19 sites is the standard and consistency of their ornithological record keeping, each Observatory amassing long-term datasets which reveal trends in the numbers of birds passing through each site. The majority of Observatories have either completed, or are well on the way to completing, the digitisation of these datasets which are a very powerful tool showing the state of our birdlife. The Bird Observatories Council coordinates and promotes the work of each Bird Observatory at a National level (http://www.birdobscouncil.org.uk/index.html).
Skokholm was home to Britain and Ireland’s first Bird Observatory, established in 1933 by the pioneering ornithologist R. M. Lockley. The Observatory was the focus of huge amounts of scientific research, so much so that there were several published references to the Island being one of the most intensively studied in the world. These studies continued until 1976 when a change in land ownership saw the cessation of ringing and the loss of Bird Observatory status. Happily a Warden remained on the Island to continue the daily census work. There is to this day a phenomenal record of migrating and breeding birds dating back to 1933, the only break being due to the war. One of the most important jobs we will undertake in the next few years is to digitise all of this data.
The plaque on the Cottage wall is once again highly relevant.