17/05/18-18/05/18. Skokholm: Storm Petrels I

Skokholm has beautiful geologic features; the dominant feature being red (raspberry coloured) sandstone.  This sandstone seems quite hard; it doesn’t weather into a smooth surface; instead it forms into shards.  These formations occur in massive scale along the coastline, and then also fracture over time into large, medium and smaller fragments.   Massive or small, these shards are always quite sharp and well defined. The photos below give some idea of the landscape along the south coast path, a particularly beautiful and special place for walking and reflection.


South Coast path, looking East


South Coast path looking West

This landscape appears ideal for lichens and mosses and all sorts of interesting things can be seen growing in the cracks.

It is also ideal for the Storm Petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus (“walking on the sea”).  This small bird (27 grams) is very rare, and Skokholm holds close to 2000 breeding pairs, or 20% of the UK’s population.   The Storm Petrels like to nest in crevices in rocks, and Skokholm naturally creates, and indeed destroys, such ideal nesting sites on a regular basis.   Further, as a consequence of human habitation, a series of stone/earth walls have been built around the island, and many of these also serve as homes for these little birds. The photo at the top of this post shows one of these walls.

Like the Shearwaters, the Storm Petrels only come out at night; thought they do sometimes sing during the daylight from their crevices.

I had never heard a Storm Petrel before, and when I asked what the song sounds like was told “like a fairy being sick”.   I find that descriptions of bird calls are often very difficult to internalise – at least until you have actually heard the sound for yourself.

This first recording was made at one of these walls.  The Storm Petrel can first be heard around 0:27 into the recording; then again at 2:21, 4:33 and so on.   Roughly 1-2 minutes between each call.  This recording was made during full sunshine at about 18:00 on 17/5/18.

More (and different) Storm Petrel recordings on the next post.


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