Updated: Jan 12
Skomer Island, located 2 miles off the West coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales is possibly best known for its Puffin population.
However, as a recent visit to the island showed, there is far more to this magical island than the puffins.
About Skomer Island
Skomer Island is a small island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is home to a large population of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, and razorbills. The island is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and is a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Skomer is also home to a small number of seals and rabbits. Access to the island is by boat only, and the number of visitors is limited in order to protect the wildlife. The island is open to visitors from April to October.
Skomer Island is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its important seabird colonies and other flora and fauna.
In addition to its wildlife, Skomer Island has a rich cultural history. It is believed to have been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times, and there are several ancient burial mounds on the island. It has also been used for farming and as a base for fishing and hunting.
Visitors can take guided walks and attend talks and events led by the island's wardens. There is a small visitor centre on the island, as well as a gift shop and a small café.
About the Skomer Island Puffins
Atlantic puffins are one of the most well-known and beloved seabirds that can be found on Skomer Island. They are small, brightly coloured birds with distinctive black and white feathers, orange legs, and a colourful beak. Puffins are known for their playful and comical behaviour and are a popular attraction for visitors to Skomer Island.
Puffins breed on Skomer Island and other coastal areas around the North Atlantic. They nest in burrows on the ground, or in crevices in cliffs. Puffins lay one or two eggs per year, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks. Puffins feed on small fish, which they catch by diving into the water and using their beaks to catch and hold their prey.
Puffins are vulnerable to habitat loss and other threats, and their populations have declined in some areas. However, the puffin population on Skomer Island is stable, and the island is an important breeding ground for these birds. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales works to protect the puffins and other wildlife on Skomer Island.
When is the best time to see puffins on Skomer Island?
The best time to see puffins on Skomer Island depends on the stage of their breeding cycle.
Puffins arrive on the island in April and May to establish their burrows and mate. The peak of the puffin breeding season is in June and July when the chicks are hatching and being raised. Puffins can be seen tending to their chicks and bringing fish back to their burrows to feed them.
August and September are also good times to see puffins on Skomer Island, as the chicks are growing and the adults are preparing to leave the island. By October, most of the puffins will have left Skomer Island to spend the winter at sea.
It is worth noting that the weather can be unpredictable in Wales, and it can be windy and wet on Skomer Island at any time of year. It is a good idea to bring warm and waterproof clothing, no matter when you visit.
How do I get to Skomer Island?
Skomer Island is located off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales.
It can be reached by taking a boat from Martin's Haven, which is a small village on the mainland. Boats to Skomer Island operate from April to October, weather permitting. The crossing takes about 20 minutes.
There are several companies that offer boat trips to Skomer Island, and it is a good idea to book in advance, as spaces can fill up quickly. Some companies offer combined boat and walking tours of the island, with guided walks led by the island's wardens. It is also possible to stay on the island overnight in a self-catering cottage or campsite, but advance booking is required for these options.
It is worth noting that the number of visitors to Skomer Island is limited in order to protect the wildlife and the environment. This means that access to the island is carefully managed, and it is not possible to visit the island independently.
My thoughts on Skomer Island
As a photographer, Skomer Island has been on my list of places to visit for many many years. Despite not going at the ideal time (I visited in April) to capture the classic 'Puffin with fish in its beak' shot, I was not at all disappointed. There were still hundreds (perhaps thousands) of puffins on the Island busying themselves with readying their burrows for the egg/s to be laid.
Besides the puffins, there were ample other birds, animals and flora to keep a photographer busy.
I will definitely be returning to Skomer Island again but will aim for June/July when the chicks have hatched and look to stay on the Island for a night or two as a day outing simply wasn't enough time to truly appreciate the Island and all it has to offer.
Definitely a destination you want to have on your to-do list when visiting the UK or Wales.