See Skomer Puffins and stay at Puffin House in Broad Haven.
Visiting Skomer to see the puffins has to be one of the most wonderful day trips if staying in Pembrokeshire between the months of May and July. The little birds return in April from their winter base in the Southern Hemisphere and settle on the island of Skomer to breed. Each pair will usually lay one egg underground where it is safe from the herring gulls which torment not only the puffins but especially the manx shearwater who also breed on the little island. There are normally over 10,000 breeding pairs of Puffins on Skomer and Skokholm Islands, making them one of the most important Puffin colonies in Britain. They arrive in mid-April to nest in burrows, many of which have been dug by the island’s large rabbit population. The last Puffins leave the island by the second or third week in July. Puffins feed mainly on small fish and Sand Eels; often they can be seen with up to a dozen small eels in their beaks.
As everyone knows the storms this year have been some of the worst for a hundred years in this part of Wales. Luckily we are told that the damage on the island seems to be minimal although some guttering has been wrenched off the buildings. Of more concern though are the reports starting coming in from France of large numbers of seabirds washing up on beaches, including Puffins in the Bay of Biscay region. Amongst the Puffins were three juveniles that were fitted with geolocators last year on Skomer. Latest figures are suggesting that 25,000 birds have been effected and that over 14,500 Puffins may have died not all from Skomer but some certainly have suffered.
This photo was taken in February 2014 and shows the bodies of puffins washed up on a beach in Sainte-Marie-de-Re, western France, after heavy storms. This could not be coming at a worst time for our seabirds. It is at about this time of year that Razorbills and Guillemots return to the Pembrokeshire islands to claim their places on the sea cliffs and some of the birds were in breeding plumage. With a high chance of local birds being involved the long term studies of these important colonies are more urgent than ever. It is therefore devastating that NRW (National resources Wales) have we are told just withdrawn funding for one of Skomers most important and longest running monitoring programmes.
The Skomer wardens, Ed and Bee, are hoping to get back onto the island later this week in March once their boat is repaired and no doubt will post something on the Skomer blog when they return. Ed has recently posted some graphic details of the huge seabird wreck which is mainly centred in the Bay of Biscay but has also seen a few hundred dead birds in Pembrokeshire.
However despite the gloom we are sure the puffins will be back breeding soon on Skomer and if you do want to visit the island then its worth having a look at Puffin House seaside apartment in Broad Haven to see if they have availability for your stay – Availability Calendar or check out Old Oak Barn which also has an up to date availability calendar too.
The Welsh Wildlife website will give you all the information you need to find out how to plan your trip to Skomer. You have to catch the little ferry from Martins Haven in the morning as early as possible to sail across the short distance to the island. If you visit the Trip Adviser page and have a good read you will get some tips on what to take and when to arrive in order to be sure to catch the small boat. Visitor numbers are limited and you cannot book much in advance because of the weather so you do have to go prepared to wait your turn for the boat. I think this is all part of the adventure!
The Skomer puffins arrive back from their winter habitat in the southern hemisphere towards the end of March and normally the first chicks hatch out in May. Ideal weeks to visit are in June after the Whitsun week which can get very busy. The small birds have normally flown away by the end of July.