Since seeing a couple of Puffins from a distance at Bempton Cliffs in July 2012 they were one wild bird I wanted to see more of this year. After a little research I found one of the best areas to see them was on Skomer Island, Wales. Skomer is small island just of the coast of Wales.
To get to Skomer you have to take a boat from Martin's Haven near Marloes. The boat trip is about 2 miles and takes around 15 minutes to get to Skomer. To get a place on the boat you have to first buy a landing pass from Lockley Lodge. Only people with landing passes are allowed on the boats. Boats leaving Martin's Haven at 10am, 11am and 12pm with 2 extra boats on busy days. On the first day we made the mistake of not getting there to buy tickets until 9am, thinking boats tickets went on sale in blocks throughout the day rather than in one lot. Unfortunately we missed out on landing tickets so we walked around the 'Deer Park' on the headland and then headed over to Tenby.
The next day, and our last chance to get to the island, we set out to arrive early. We managed to arrive by about 7am and yet we were still not the first in the queue. We managed to get onto the third boat of the day as a school party had prebooked a large number of the available tickets on the second boat. I'm not one for boats any way, with my previous eventfull boat trip out to Havergate Island and the recent headline news about the Skomer boats I was a little apprehensive but the sea was very calm. Boarding at Martin's Haven is relatively simple by walking down a jetty, whereas at North haven on Skomer you exit at bow of boat with a steep walk up some steps onto the meeting area. After the brief welcome talk we were free to explore the island.
One of the main colonies is on 'The Wick', there are probably hundreds, if not thousands there. The area is roped off as the Puffin burrows are right next to the footpaths. The Puffins are all around, they come within metres and sometimes only inches away from you. You can watch their behaviour from gathering on cliff edges, digging burrows and even bringing in sandeels for their young.
The colour of the wild flowers surprised me on Skomer as I was not expecting them. The island was covered in large areas of bright yellow and purple flowers, a great back drop to add a little colour into portrait images of the Puffins
Although the sun was bright and high in the sky, at the Wick you can position yourself so they are lit from the front in bright midday sunlight. At around 2pm the light had moved so the Puffins are nearly backlit. We left the Wick and walked back to North Haven to try some more in flight shots. I found Puffins in flight difficult to capture as they are such a small target compared to Red Kites and yet move quite fast too. With the huge number of Puffins in the sky it was difficult to locate and single out a Puffin out from the others around them.
Skomer Island is definitely one place I will plan to visit again,but the 7 hour journey there, coupled with the hope the weather will be good enough for the boats to run and being able to get landing tickets makes it a little more difficult for me. If only it was a little bit closer.