We woke up to the hottest day of the year so far. The sky was deep blue and the temperature was already climbing. It was 7:45am when Pam and John picked us up ready for our day on Skomer Island. It is well known for its wildlife: around half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters nest on the island and the Atlantic puffin colony is the largest in southern Britain, so we knew we had to have the cameras ready for action.
We managed to get to Marloes where you board the boat to the island by 9am and hurried down to the booking office to stand in line amongst the many others who wanted to go too. Only 5 boats go at half hour intervals from 10am to 12:00noon allowing (50 person per boat) 250 people on the island a day.
We were booked on the 11:30am boat and had an hour and half to kill. We wandered over the headland marvelling at the amazing wild flowers. The temperature was rising quickly now and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The offshore sea breeze was warm as we climbed over the rocks and walked around the headland.
We boarded the boat and sped out to sea, landing about 20 minutes later at the bottom of the cliffs. Arriving in the bay the excitement was mounting as we all saw the puffins darting across the water, darting for fish and comically landing on the cliffs. We watched the Razorbills gliding as gracefully as the Puffins were comical, the sky above us was full of seabirds of all different kinds.
After landing and the 10 minute talk by the island wardens we climbed up the hill, discovering at the top the amazing sight of bluebells. We were about 10 days to 2 weeks late, as they were starting to lose their intense colour but the sight was still spectacular. There are paths running through the middle of the bluebells and although we have taken photos, the intense heady scent cannot be described. We all agreed that we had seen bluebells in woods in abundance but never out in the open quite like this.
Following the path to the Farm and hostel (also loo facilities and picnic area), we went through fields of red campion. Short eared owls were around here and the ‘professional twitchers’ were in force with their binoculars. Unfortunately, we didn’t linger too long to look for them too hard.
We had our first picnic at the cliffs edge (respectable and safe distance from the edge of course) and watched as a colony of seals basked in the sun on the rocks a hundred feet below.
We wandered through the island, remarking on the numbers of different seabirds and wild flowers. Many of which we were unable to name but some of the birds were, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, great cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, Atlantic puffins, choughs, common shags, Oystercatchers and gulls, as well as birds of prey including common kestrels and peregrine falcons. There are burrows everywhere and you have to keep to the paths otherwise you can do a lot of damage to the nesting birds.
We were nearing The Wick which is where the majority of the Puffins are located, It is such an amazing, wonderful sight to see so many of these wonderful birds coming in to land with their little red feet splayed out behind them. They are collecting grasses and bits of fluff and twigs to make their nests. There is love in the air at the moment and the birds are doing their courtship dances right in front of us. We managed to capture it on video and it is touching to see these tiny creatures build their lives together.
After spending a good hour amongst the birds we tore ourselves away and walked on around the coast line over the rocks and back around to the harbour, we watched choughs swooping onto the cliffs and into their holes, we saw nature in its raw state, as the enormous gulls pulled out the baby sheerwaters from their burrows. It wasn’t a nice sight but as I say nature in its raw state.
The Red Campion on the south side of the island is truly spectacular and the colour just shines through in glorious reds and pinks. We passed another colony of puffins and made our way back to the boat. On the side of the cliffs by the boat we watched as the puffins came into shore, darting here and there, diving into the water and landing very comically on the water. Such a great time to be on Skomer.
We found out that the famous puffin beak colour is only there during the breeding season and once the pufflings have left the nest then the puffins head back out to sea and they lose their colourful beaks returning to plain brown until the next spring when they make their way back to Skomer. We also learnt that the puffins were doing well at the Wick and it is probably down to the number of tourists visiting the island in this area, apparently, the gulls don’t like us but the puffins have no fear of us so we could be the reason the puffins are doing so well. Well, what d’ya know … that makes a change.
We boarded the boat again ready for the mainland and puffed and panted up the slope to the car park. The temperature was still at 26 degrees and the air was still. We had all caught the sun and had a great day. What better than to top it off at the pub for a great meal. We went to the Cambrian Arms in Solva and had ‘Pig Burgers’ and chips …. what a way to spend a day off.
I have made a short film of the day. Hope you enjoy. I’d love to hear your comments.