This weekend saw me on a long awaited trip to Skomer Island to find some puffins. I had been lucky enough to see puffins a couple of years ago on Farne Island, so I was excited to see them again somewhere new.
We drove down to Pembrokeshire for the long weekend, just hoping that the long range forecast of rain did not ruin our trip. We arrived to a beautifully sunny evening and went exploring in the last of the sunlight. Pembrokeshire is beautiful and I’d love to explore the coastline more sometime.
The next morning, we arrived at the time the ticket office opened, to find a long winding queue of people already there. Unlike Farne Islands, where you can pre book your boat tickets, at Skomer you have to buy your landing pass at the ticket office (£10 per adult) then pay for the boat once on board (£11 per adult). I was rather gobsmacked to see someone paying the boatman with a card … so if you are reading this with a thought to go yourself – go armed with cash! Please! You’re on a boat … they don’t carry card machines around with them!
We arrived on the Island after a short 10 mins boat trip, and before we even got off the boat, we were surrounded by puffins, taking off and landing in the sea all around us.
They were on the cliffs as we climbed up to the welcome centre, and appeared out of their burrows all around us. The welcome from the volunteers was great – there was a big map showing all the best bird spotting areas, as well as where the facilities were etc. Then off we went. We had about 5 hours at our leisure on the island … so we headed straight for where the puffins were reported to be!
If you have never seen a puffin before, I would imagine that the picture you have in your head is of a bird about the size of a penguin. Well, imagine a much smaller bird! Puffins stand somewhere between about 20 and 30cm tall. Their beaks are beautifully bright with red, orange and black stripes.
At the moment, it is mating season, so there is a lot of head tossing going on – where they stand tall, and quick toss their beaks into the air.
They make a very specific noise – which is hard to explain, but sounds a bit like they are saying “Ohhh-hhhh-hhh”. Find a bird app online that has the mating call of a puffin! It’s brilliant.
They really are the most photogenic birds, with really comical behaviour – it appears they like to walk up and down in front of the photographers, posing! Or maybe they are just wondering if there is any food to be had!
They are currently nest building so we saw a lot of birds gathering suitable materials to line their nests so that once their single egg is laid,they have somewhere warm and comfy to incubate it.
Sometimes the burrows are old rabbit warrens, otherwise the puffins use their feet to dig out new burrows in the soft earth.
Because they are not yet rearing their young, it is too early to see them flying in with several sand eels hanging out either side of their beaks, which I was lucky enough to see in Farne (I was there later – around middle / end June). However, the advantage of the trip this early, was that due to the late arrival of the bluebells this year, we saw puffins in bluebells which is incredibly rare.
There were so many puffins flying around, I had plenty of time to practice getting birds in fllght – which proved tricky at times, but I didn’t mind spending time just relaxing in the sun watching the puffins all around me, and taking lots of photos to practice my birds in flight (BIF for those photographers amongst you).
This is one of my favourites – it looksl as though he is about to jump a hurdle!
On Skomer, it isn’t just about puffins however. there are plenty of other species to get excited over, including the short eared owl
Also not forgetting the guillemots, swallows, buzzards, and gulls of all varieties!
There are also some beautiful bunnies to be seen too!
It has to be said, there is plenty to see on the island in terms of birds and wildlife, and we were very lucky seeing the short eared owls, but the main attraction was definitely the puffins.
So I will leave my post with one more photo … I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, and perhaps it will inspire you to get out and explore!