The Skerries

Tuesday 9 June 2009, 19:15

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron

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We approached the small islets by rib and thankfully the crossing was light and breezy with no real dramas and within 20 mins we were on the island.

As we approached the mooring, thousands of terns took to the air before us with their trademark 'dread' resembling a scene from Jurassic Park.


The main island has a lighthouse built on it dating from 1717 plus a couple of out buildings but that's about it.

The only people living on the island are two RSPB wardens, Denise and Jenny who spend around three months of the year here monitoring the tern population.

The skerries are home to a vast number of arctic terns with a smattering of common terns thrown in for good measure.

The terns 'dread' regularly which involves them flying and swooping 'en masse' down one side of the island, out to sea for a few circles and then back again, bickering and pecking each other and us as they flew past.

If you were brave enough to show your face over the the relative safety of the lighthouse wall then all out attack ensued as well as rapid fire bird 'guano' being dispersed at will.

They seemed to find their targets with astonishing accuracy too!

Whilst on the island we also saw oyster catchers, great backed backed gulls, herring gulls, puffins, a few common seals basking, some rock pipits which were nesting in the lighthouse wall and a peregrine falcon which had recently reduced the local pigeon population by one.

Unlike cemlyn bay, there are no sandwich terns here and you can get within spitting distance of the birds who litter the floor here with eggs and nests laid out in a random fashion. I even saw eggs laid on a piece of tubular metal pipe...

It was tricky trying to avoid the eggs at times, especially when under prolonged air bombardment by hundreds of irate birds.

The RSPB accompanied us over and one of the wardens informed me that a visitor had once had his eye pecked as he glanced up, so I decided to don my sunglasses, keep my head down and go for a wander.

I'd only crept around ten feet from the sanctuary of the lighthouse wall before I was viciously attacked.

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I was struck in the head and then pecked in the hand whilst I held the camcorder up to film so I made a hasty retreat!

Terns - 2, Gull - 0

I later found out that they go for whatever is highest up (nearest to them in the air) so I cunningly offered to carry the tripod back to the boat and extended the legs which worked beautifully.




The Skerries

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