6/4/17 Shearwaters leave Skomer for nightly feeding

On the way back from the warden’s evening Bird Log and Lecture I set off about 100 metres downhill into the shallow valley to the south of the Farm. On the way back I had heard underground noises of Shearwaters from their burrows. This suggested to me that they all hadn’t yet made their evening exit, so I thought I’d go stand in the path in that field and wait for a bit; perhaps I would get lucky. I stopped on the path and started to set up the recorder and microphones. And just then I heard the noise beginning to build: Gulls of all kinds, Manx Shearwaters and more. The sun was now well down and the horizon almost completely dark. I think it was beginning; evening rush hour on Skomer as 600,000 birds set off to feed.

It is overwhelming; very dark and incredibly noisy. You hear the shearwaters still in their burrows, then perhaps a dark flash of a small black figure heading for the sky. There is stress and frenzy in the air. The predators are raucous and intense in their chattering.

This is a life or death moment; or rather, life and death and life. Death for some means life for the gulls. Life for the shearwaters means another day; and as this nesting season begins perhaps life for the next generation. Shearwaters can live beyond 50. Imagine 50 years of this every single day from April to August..

It is an incredibly moving experience; simultaneously frightening and uplifting.

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