At a ceremony in London, The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer were awarded the Marsh Award for Local Ornithology in recognition of the huge amount of work they have done to put Skokholm Island back on to the British ornithological map.
Skokholm Island, off the coast of Pembrokeshire, is home to internationally important wildlife populations, and is particularly well known for its seabirds. It was the first Bird Observatory in Britian, but lost its Observatory status in 1976. The island was bought by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales in 2007, by which time the buildings and ‘birding’ infrastructure were in complete disrepair and non-functional. Thanks to the Friends this is no longer the case. The work took four years to complete and almost 20,000 hours of voluntary labour.
The Friends are incredibly important to the islands of Skomer and Skokholm and since1981 the membership has grown to over 400. Members help finance essential work on the islands through their subscriptions, but more importantly, many have taken part in voluntary work parties to help bring Skokholm back to its former glory and its return to official Bird Observatory status in 2014
Members of the Friends often act as voluntary wardens on both Skomer and Skokholm helping with practical maintenance tasks, wildlife recording and research studies and are currently engaged in digitising the daily bird logbooks which date back to 1933.
The award was presented by The Duke of Edinburgh at a ceremony hosted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) at the Mall Gallery in London.
Steve Sutcliffe, the driving force behind the Friends and a former Skomer Warden said, "I am absolutely delighted that the hard work of the many volunteers who have helped to restore Skokholm has been recognised in this way. The Friends of Skokholm and Skomer have been the catalyst, raising funds and providing a huge amount of support for the project, and I am honoured to receive this award on their behalf."
Andy Clements BTO Director said, "The Marsh Awards for Ornithology enable BTO to recognise the excellent work of ornithologists at a variety of scales, all of whom are partners with BTO in ensuring science contributes to conservation. Volunteering is central to BTO Science and I am delighted that the local Marsh Award is going to the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer whose hard work has rejuvenated a key migration watch-point."