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Skomer Island – Wales’ Wildlife Wonder

The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) is affectionately known as the ‘clown of the sea’, and after a few days on the island of Skomer you can certainly see why. These little seabirds, a member of the auk family, breed across many ‘rat free’ islands in the UK, and Skomer is one of the best places to see and photograph them.

So why the puffin I hear you ask, why would you want to spend a few days focusing on one particular species? Well quite simply, if you want to get the best images of any species, you need to be able to spend time with them. I guarantee that by the end of the first day you will be hooked and it will only leave you wanting more.

That is exactly what happened in June this year, when I made landfall on Skomer with a group of five clients. As soon as we arrived we were surrounded by these charismatic little birds and there were smiles all around. Perhaps it is their brightly coloured eyes, bill and feet that makes us gaze upon them with such adoration, or perhaps the soft coo they make as they sit in their burrows? It could even be their nosey nature and that unique waddle? Whatever ‘it’ is, the Atlantic puffin has it in abundance.

{img_alt} We were all drawn back to the puffins again and again. After a while it is sometimes best to put the cameras away, sit down and relax, and before you know it you are within inches of some curious birds. But fear not, Skomer isn’t just known for this seabird curiosity, it is also home to an astonishing array of other wildlife. Colonies of kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills nest precariously on the towering cliffs, while three species of gull breed across the island (greater and lesser black-backed as well as herring gull). Both short-eared owl and little owl can be seen as they make the most of this rich coastal habitat. {img_alt}  

But it is the nocturnal habits of the Manx shearwater that add an element quite unlike anything you can experience on the mainland. Over 300,000 pairs breed on the island each year, but only return to their burrows in the dead of night. It is possible to spend hours watching and listening to their ghostly calls as these ungainly birds crash land in the search for their burrows. It is of the utmost importance to only use a red torch in our nightly searches, to avoid disturbing these sensitive birds. But, the effort and the late nights are certainly worth it – just like the puffins, this is one of the UK’s truly magical wildlife experiences.

{img_alt} Once dawn has broken, island life is back in full swing again and another day with the puffins is guaranteed. They come and go with sand eels galore, toing and froing from their burrows to the sea, all to keep their puffling well fed and growing. All the time you are sat with the puffins, you are usually surrounded by other wildlife. The island plays host to rabbits aplenty, and numerous passerines too, even the corvids are well represented with jackdaw, raven and chough all easily seen from the comfort of your cliff top perch

No matter how long you stay, you will only be left wanting more. I have only just got back to the office and already I miss the island jokers, the ‘clowns of the sea’.

Be sure to join me in 2018 for one of the UK’s finest wildlife encounters … the puffins and I look forward to seeing you there.  

Trip dates for 2018 will be available in October - as places are limited, we suggest you pre-register your interest as soon as possible.