Friday, 2 June 2017

Skomer, Pembrokeshire

For a few years now, Bethan has been nagging me to take her to Skomer to see the Atlantic Puffins Fratercula arctica but when ever we've attempted to go either the weather hasn't played ball when we've tried or I've been tied up with work during the peak puffin season.

Middleholm and Skomer from Martin's Haven

Puffin Raft off Skomer
So with a couple of days off we went, before hand we stayed with a lovely couple (who we found on Airbnb) in . An early start at Martin's Haven and a long wait in the queue but we manage to make the first boat of the day and the weather was perfect.

It didn't take us long to spot the first puffin, as soon as we were near Middleholm we started to see birds busy bringing fish in to their chicks. By the time we'd reached Skomer rafts of hundreds of Puffins could be seen offshore, all waiting to come in. After bumping into two friends after landing, we wandered to the far side of the island past the old farm. The previous time I'd been to Skomer was early in the season when the Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta were at their peak, this time it was the Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum which was at it's peak. It was everywhere and provided a wonderful backdrop to any photographs being taken.
Sea Mayweed, Tripleurospermum maritimum covered slopes

Sea Mayweed, Tripleurospermum maritimum

Young Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus feeding in the Sea Mayweed 
After wandering around the North of the island and seeing the usual Seabirds we made our way towards the Wick. By far the best place to see breeding seabirds on the cliff ledges and the puffins which nest in the deep soil close to the path.

Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus also burrow here and had obviously had been breeding judging by the number of young about. Some happily feeding next to visiting tourists, although it was the puffins they had come to see.


Puffin, Fratercula arctica coming into land on The Wick

Puffling looking out of its burrow
Puffins are always top of peoples lists, admittedly their striking colours and character makes them a joy to watch but I think people would think the same if they sat down and watched any species for an extended period of time. Skomer has around 10,000 pairs of puffins making this the largest population in the southern Britain. The Puffins around the Wick don't have much fear of people and are quite happy to wander across the path in front of people. Many with fish for their chicks, Some of which were taking their first tentative look at of life outside the burrow.

Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica
Although the puffins are what Skomer is known for its the birds that many visitors don't see which the island is more important for. With 310,000 pairs on Skomer and 40,000 more on its sister island Skokholm, around half the worlds population of Manx Shearwater, Puffinus puffinus can be found breeding here. Although this time I didn't see any. Whilst walking back to the quay, deep within a burrow we could hear the distinctive eerie call of a shearwater, a lovely end to a lovely day.



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