The end of another season

So for the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about terns (and posting a lot about terns, and taking a lot of pictures of terns, and writing a lot about terns…!).  I’ve been carrying out a survey of the breeding terns of Rye Bay and although they mostly flew away a while ago I’ve been making graphs, charts and tables about what I saw.  But it’s now the actual end, even though it’s dragged out a little bit over the last few weeks, and the report is all written up.  It will be published online but it’s working its way through the admin. process so I’ll post again to let you know when its up.  Its just left to me to get it all out of my system now, so here are my favourite tern photos of this year…



It took me a while to get used to the speed of some tern dives…


…quite a while…

Little Tern with prey

But sometimes the Little terns were fishing so close together that you couldn’t miss getting at least one in shot.

Just before a dive

And watching the moment just before the dive showed the absolute focus of a hunting tern- head locked in position and body wavering in the wind like a cat about to ponce.

Little Tern with lunch

So when you saw a tern with a fish it made you appreciate just how hard it had to try to get every single one.

Little tern decoys and electric fence

When there weren’t any real terns around there were always the decoys on the shingle trying to tempt them to nest.

Adult coming in to land

The Common Terns were much more reliable to watch and produced a reasonable number of little fluff balls this season.

Common Tern with prey

Common Tern often had prey and seemed to find better hunting conditions than the other species.

So there you go, a handful of the hundreds of shots I took showing some of the amazing acrobatic skills of the “sea swallows” around Rye Bay.  This year has given me a new appreciation for the sheer effort it takes to produce a new tern.  Fishing seems to have become much harder for the birds and even then they face the risk of being predated on the ground, if they find a nesting spot on the small nature reserves which try and protect them.  I just hope that in the coming years our management of land and sea help these dwindling breeding populations rather than hinder them…

Another Season

Puffin Landing Frontal
Well I am once again back on the mainland after a beautiful four and a bit months out on Skomer Island. This year I was the Field Assistant of the island, so instead of looking after people and hostels I spent many, many hours on cliff tops watching some seabirds and monitoring their performance this season. I worked on five main species and got involved with several others too:



Guillemots took up most of my time, trying to work out how many chicks successfully made it off. Razorbills were second on my list and were very similar, just less awkward to observe. Kittiwakes were next on the list, again looking at their productivity this year. Then there were Fulmar, plotting their nests within study plots and returning later in the season to spot chicks just before they fledged. And then there were the Great Black Backed Gulls, mapping every nest on the island, following them to see how many chicks fledged and after they left looking at their nests to see what they had been feeding on (mostly manxies and rabbits…).

if only this shot was razor sharp...


And in my free time I helped to ring Manx Shearwaters, young Puffins and Storm Petrels. I helped the Oxford researchers to deploy a variety of tracking devices to the Shearwaters and Puffins and even spent some time monitoring Storm Petrel colonies to try and work out how many of these elusive birds were breeding this year. Whilst doing this I also recorded some calls to see if it was possible to identify individuals by sound (a work still in progress). And I can’t miss out finding the first Pallid Harrier for Wales!
pallid harrier2

So all in all an amazing year. But unfortunately I think it will be my last on the islands- I hope to be able to visit again but my mainland life has caught up with me and I think a few years of enjoying fresh food and reliable water supplies may be in order! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a few pictures from my island life, and I’ll try to keep my mainland posts just as interesting…

Skokholm Sunset

Skokholm Sunset

Flying Puffins

flybypuffinIt won’t be long until the island is full of a huge variety of birds, both seabirds and passerines, but until them I’m making do with occasional evenings of Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin.  And seeing as I’m spending a season studying the first two I’m waiting a bit to give some proper blog posts about them.  So here is yet another picture of some Puffins.  The in flight shot is the holy grail of Puffin photographers because they appear out of nowhere to fly right past your face at high speed…. the worst case scenario for someone standing in the cold with a camera.  But hopefully I will do better in the coming weeks so this is my benchmark- keep watching this space!


daffsSpring is definitely on the way… I’m almost sure of it.  Its been a bit of a slow start with migrating birds hanging back this year but the flowers are emerging and the Daffodils on Skomer are looking pretty good at the moment.  It won’t be long until the bracken is thigh high and the season is well and truly under way.  By then I will be busy with cliffs full of birds to manage but at the moment I’m still waiting for them to settle a bit more on the cliffs so have a few moments to contemplate the coming season.

End of Season

Well it snuck up on me and literally came sooner than it should have but Skokholm island is shut for the winter so I have been evicted from Dream Island and slung back on the mainland.  Here’s a teeny tiny summary of my year and some of my better pictures! (more…)


Well the season has well and truly started and I’m counting down days in the last week of my mainland life!

Just heard that the first batch of the Skomer team have made it out to the island, read bout it here.  I’m just sorting out supplies for myself (food, clothes and camera gear mainly) and half wishing I was there with them/half glad I didn’t have to brave the fog…  But it won’t be long now and then it will be roughly six months of island life for me- but with the added luxuries of running water, electricity and even wireless broadband this year.  I think I might just be able to survive…