This month Andy Kurzfeld gave a very interesting talk on the Pembrokeshire Islands of Skomer and Skokholm. These islands have been inhabited since long before the Vikings, with early records telling us that rabbits provided an income before more conventional farming with sheep and goats. Since 1950, when the last inhabitants left, several changes of ownership have resulted in the wildlife thriving, but the buildings suffering from years of neglect.
Now a nature reserve, and equally importantly, a marine nature reserve, the islands are managed by the Wildlife Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales. With a £3 million lottery grant, they have repaired the derelict buildings to provide self catering accommodation. This enables staff, volunteers and researchers to stay on the island to carry out vital work. Up to 300 visitors arrive by boat every day at peak times, some of them now able to stay. The income from this enables the island to be self supporting.
Skomer and Skokholm may be small but are certainly not lacking in interest. They are famous for their birdlife, most notably the huge colonies of Puffin and Manx Shearwater, and they are also an important breeding ground for many other species including Storm Petrels, Guillemots, Fulmers, Razorbills and even Peregrine Falcons and Owls who feed on the Skomer Vole which is unique to the island. Rabbits play an important role as lawnmowers, as the grassland is undermined with burrows, nest sites to the Puffin and Shearwaters. Thankfully, there are no rats on the island to steal eggs or young birds and records show that bird numbers are up for most species. I am sure that Andy’s fascinating talk will inspire our members to visit the islands, or even volunteer or perhaps stay.
By Pam Willey