Whilst on my holiday to Pembrokeshire, in West Wales, I was able to embark on a trip to Skomer Island. The sun was shining brightly as the boat took us out to the island, and just under fifty others on the earliest boat trip were eagerly awaiting the day, with cameras poised and binoculars scanning the seas and skies. This was my fourth trip to Skomer and I was greatly looking forward to it.
As the boat pulled up to the steep steps on the island, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were already surrounding us, and various species of gull, including, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, and Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Once I had started off walking around the island, I soon managed to catch a glimpse of an elusive Water Rail, quickly darting into some reeds around a small stream, once it had realised that I was there, watching it. At this point, there were only a few Puffins on the island, as most of them were still swimming around in the nearby sea, seemingly waiting for the right moment to fly up and land.
The next stretch of walk brought up all the smaller birds that you might expect to see: Stonechat, Whinchat, Wheatear, Skylark, Linnet and Meadow Pipit. They just seemed to be everywhere, both singing up high on the top of shrubs or cowering down low from a passing predator overhead. A quick glimpse of both a pair of Choughs and a Peregrine Falcon proved exciting before a pod of Common Dolphins were visible far out at sea.
As I started to head towards the farm in the centre of the island, I managed to catch sight of a Little Owl in the middle of a short flight, before it landed in a field full of long grasses, therefore disappearing out of view.
One thing that I found astonishing was the huge number of dead Manx Shearwater remains found littered all over the paths. This is because they are very vulnerable to predation, hence why they only leave their burrows when night falls.
Around and about the farm area, while having lunch, I noticed a huge wealth in numbers of warblers, with Chiffchaffs, Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers all coming out in large numbers. From previous experience, I had realised that the best time and place on Skomer to see Puffins at this time of year was to go to the Wick, not too long after the sort of time you might have lunch.
Well, was I right… Only a few minutes after arriving at the Wick, Puffins started coming on to the island in huge numbers, where various courtship routines, nest-building and searching for burrows took place. The birds themselves were so tame that you could get within a metre of them, some even being brave enough to run across the path and in between your legs. It really was a great photo opportunity, with the birds being so tame and photogenic, I couldn’t resist taking quite a few pictures.
When at last it was time to catch the boat back to mainland, I was ever so desperately wishing that I could live on the island and stay here forever. Still, I am certain that I will return to be a volunteer there one day. As the boat left the island, the tide was coming in, and so the Grey Seals on the beach had to leave and swim out to see. One managed to find a safe refuge on a rock. Further away from the island some Gannets and a group of Porpoises were working together to catch fish.
Next post, I will write more generally about the birds that I managed to see whilst on my holiday to Pembrokeshire.