Puffin watching at Skomer Island

Where do you go in the UK if you want to see puffins?

There are three well-known puffin colonies in the UK. Lunga, one of the Treshnish Isles, just off the Isle of Mull in Scotland, on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, and on Skomer Island off the coast of Wales.

And when is the best time to see puffins? They tend to arrive around April when they start nesting, laying their eggs in early May. The best time to see them is from mid June to mid July when the chicks start to hatch and the parents fly back and forth with sand eels to feed them. In August they depart for the winter to feed in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

From the moment you get off the boat on Skomer islands, you can see birds nesting, whether they are guillemots or puffins. It’s not just puffins, there are the gulls, Razorbills, Gannets, and Fulmars.

Gulls

 

There are over 6,000 breeding pairs of Puffins on Skomer, arriving mid March from the North Atlantic somewhere to start the breeding season. At this time, you see them out and about, gathering twigs and grass for their burrows.

Puffin with sand eels
Puffin with sand eels

In June when the puffins start having their chicks, they start to bring in fish.

We sat at the Wick, with the rest of the paparazzi, watching the puffins take-off and land, a bit like at Heathrow. There was a definite landing path, and if the gulls were around, they would abort landing and go around for another circuit.

The puffins have a very distinctive landing strategy. They seem to sight their burrows, glide in, hit the brakes by bringing their wings back, then dropping straight down. Very impressive, but it did make it harder to get that classic photo of a puffin with fish, as they kept dropping straight into the burrows with their feed.

Drop landing
Drop landing

Skomer is larger than it looks. The Wick is where the action is at from a puffin perspective, even though there are other smaller areas on the island, the puffins at The Wick are closer to the path (be careful not to walk over their burrows). It does seem a bit like the paparazzi are there, but the puffins are spread over a large area so there was room for everyone, even though it was a busy Saturday.

Numbers on the island are limited, so you do need to arrive early to ensure you get on a boat onto the island, but its definitely worth it. They are such characters and have definite personalities. Very comical.

Coming in....
Coming in….

Logistics:

We stayed on Broadhaven which is about a 20min drive from the car park at Martins Haven. There are only a limited number of tickets from the visitors centre every day, so in peak times you need to get there early, around 8am as it’s not possible to prebook tickets. There is no cafe on the island, so be sure to pack lunch.

While you wait for the boat, there is a nice walk to the point with views over to Skomer, and lots of wildflowers.

More information about Skomer Island can be found here – https://www.welshwildlife.org/skomer-day-trip/

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