Skomer Island Webcams Reveal Wildlife And Heritage

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 08 August 2008
A photograph of school children looking at a television screen

Courtesy Skomer Island Heritage Experience Project

Image - Children from Hubberston Primary School during their visit to Lockley Lodge, gateway to Skomer and now an interactive interpretation centre.

A project to help schoolchildren and those with physical disabilities access the wildlife on Skomer is enabling everyone to glimpse what is usually the secret life of the birds on the island.

Since being trialled last year, over 1,200 people have viewed footage on YouTube of the nocturnal activities of Manx Shearwaters in their burrows on the island off the Welsh coast. (See the link at the bottom of the story.)

People from all over the world have also been logging on to the Outersight website, which is hosting the real-time webcam feeds, in order to watch images from infra-red cameras of the underground life of these birds. Other cameras are placed around the island offering the chance to see puffins and seals in their natural habitat.

Alongside this initiative, on-site interpretation has been improved with the transformation of Lockley Lodge, the gateway to Skomer Island, into an interactive centre. This was achieved with the help of a £1.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

A photograph of the view from the top of a cliff

Courtesy Skomer Island Heritage Experience Project

But where are the puffins? Keeping an eye on the camera via the Outer Site website will reveal Skomer's wildlife in all its beauty.

This means that visitors to the island can fully access the Skomer experience whatever the weather. In the past, this could sometimes lead to a disappointing and wet ‘experience’.

Additionally, those with disabilities who might find exploring the island itself difficult can now appreciate what is there through the centre’s interpretations and displays. These include photographic exhibitions, historical information and the chance to hear about how the island has inspired people and impacted upon their lives.

Chairman of the HLF in Wales, Dan Clayton Jones, said: “Skomer is a vital part of Wales’ natural heritage and an internationally important conservation site. The remote cameras are a fantastic way of opening up Skomer Island for everyone to enjoy, enabling people of all ages and abilities to get closer to and appreciate nature without disturbing or distressing the birds or animals being observed.”

A photograph of two school children looking at a television screen

Available for viewing from the Lodge, children can follow up what they learn on the island when back at school. Courtesy Skomer Island Heritage Experience Project

While the island is enough to enthuse all visitors – 14,000 members of the public went along last year – Skomer and its wildlife is being used as a case study across a number of subjects in the National Curriculum at key stages 2 to 4 (ages seven plus to 16). School children made up 701 of the visitors to the island in 2007.

Key stage 2 teacher, Cheryl McNally, from Hubberston Primary School, Milford Haven, whose year 4 and 5 students visited the island at the end of July, said of the web initiative: “The remote cameras are a great addition to the experience and a resource we will be making a lot more use of. We’ll be using all the information online to follow up on the children’s findings and maintain interest.”

Skomer is also featured in many further education and degree courses and life-long learning schemes. The island is also visited weekly by local education centres. Last year 727 people aged from 16 to 60 came to the island as part of their education courses.

Jo Milborrow, the island’s Warden, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to provide visitors, students and researchers with access to the wildlife, even when off the island, with real time images. Being able to zoom in on a Puffin at close range and count the number of sand eels in its beak is amazing.”

As well as HLF funding, the project has also been supported by the Countryside Council for Wales, The Tubney Charitable Trust and the Crown Estate Marine Stewardship Fund.

Visits to Skomer, which is a National Nature Reserve owned by the Countryside Council for Wales and managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, can be booked via their website. Educational resources can also be downloaded from here.

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