Tuesday, 21 October 2014

SKOMER ISLAND AND SKOKHOLM ISLAND



Skomer Island and its smaller sister island Skokholm, just off the southern end of St Brides Bay, are important 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest', chiefly for their diverse birdlife and the rich marine environment surrounding them.  Skomer's claim to fame in birding circles is that it houses around half the world's population of Manx Shearwaters.  Also sharing this patch of land are razorbills, guillemots and chough among others.  Added to which there are around 6,000 breeding pairs of puffins, and gull varieties including herring, greater black backed and lesser black backed gulls.  There is limited overnight accommodation from April to September, and the island can be reached on day trips from Martin's Haven on the mainland.

The red sandstone Skokholm Island gets its name from the Norse for 'wooded island'.  In fact, nowadays the vegetation on the island consists mostly of maritime grassland, its growth kept in check by the numerous rabbits living on the island.  It was the Normans who were responsible for this, having built a rabbit farm there in the 14th century.  The rabbits of Skokholm are said to have been the inspiration for Richard Adams' novel Watership Down.  Another interesting fact about Skokholm is that it was here in 1933 that the first ever British bird observatory was founded by Ronald Lockley who, when not scanning the island for interesting birdlife, set about selling the resident bunnies to make money from their skins. Like Skomer, Skokholm is also reachable from Martin's Haven.

Map of the area.

File:South-eastern coast of Skomer - geograph.org.uk - 1434332.jpg
South-eastern coast of Skomer. Photo by John Rostron, via Wikimedia Commons

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