Skokholm Work Party April 2015

13th April 2015
Sunday 5th April

It was an early morning sailing across to the island – 7 am from Neyland. The weather had been rough since last Thursday when the previous work party had left. Today the morning was clear and crisp. The sun had yet to appear above the horizon and there was some ice on the boat deck. We sailed out through Milford Haven, past the LPG terminals, past the huge oil tankers and the tug boats. As one tug went passed we experienced its considerable wake. The rest of the crossing was extremely calm.
As we approached the island the cottage and central block stood out brilliantly, whereas the Wheelhouse was a grey-brown colour because the old mortar had been stripped off and renewed.
We were met in South Haven by Richard and Giselle the wardens, and two long term volunteers Leroy and Ruth. After having a cup of tea and some cake, it was down to work. With only a relatively small number in the work party most people were involved with lime washing. Howard started work on painting the rooms in the central block.
I spent quite a while before the evening meal looking at and photographing puffins above South Haven. I spotted 25 oystercatchers on the anticline. A few Manx shearwaters could be heard calling after dark.

Monday 6th April

Another day full of unbroken sunshine with little if any cloud in the sky. Four more volunteers arrived around 8.30. They were part of the ongoing project to digitise several decades of bird log data.
Lime washing continued, so much so that almost all of the walls had been done, some with two coats, together with the Wheelhouse roof. There was not much lime wash left so that would be prioritised for use on the cottage roof.
A large number of willow warblers, amongst other birds, were trapped and ringed.
I spent more time photographing puffins, this time catching some of the last light as it glanced over the sloping ground sidelighting the birds. I spotted 35 oystercatchers on the anticline this time around.

Tuesday 7th April

I went for a walk up to the lighthouse and back before breakfast. Several oystercatcher and two dunlin were seen on North Pond. Rob continued lime washing the cottage roof, Andy prepared the woodwork for white gloss painting and I prepared some of the doors and windows ready for black gloss painting, adding primer where the original paint had come away. The fog swirled in across the island halfway through the morning and stayed all day, tempering the warmth provided by the strong sun so it was not so hot to work in.
Two wrynecks were trapped and ringed in the morning. To get one is a rarity, to get two means we should probably have bought a lottery ticket.

Wednesday 8th April

The morning began hazy when I went for a walk around the neck. By the time we started work the sun was strong. I continued the black gloss painting together with Rob, while Andy, Leroy and Ruth carried on with white gloss. Howard continued with his interior painting.
More doors and windows were prepared for painting, and the group of gloss black painters gathered more members,

Thursday 9th April

There was still plenty of painting to be done and it still looked an uphill struggle. White glossers turned to black glossers. Paint spots were removed from the windows and spots on the walls were re-touched. Buckets, brushes, bins and tins were tidied away. Against the odds all the jobs were done.
If it hadn’t been for the superb weather over these few days we wouldn’t have been able to finish it all. There was still some work for Howard, but as he was due to stay on until Monday he’d be able to complete it. Yes, if there’d been more volunteers, and we’d had a couple more days we could have found little jobs to do. But the important stuff had been done.
But thanks must also go to Anne who did the cooking, without which the work party couldn’t have functioned. Thanks must also go to the ladies of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales at Bridgend – Linda, Shelagh, Jen, Mary, Chris and Anne who sent some great homemade cakes for us.

Friday 10th April

The wind had increased since yesterday afternoon. The boat arrived around 8 am, followed by the usual exchange of visitors, researchers, volunteers and everybody’s luggage.
The season was ready to start.

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