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Skomer Island Puffins

I don’t know about you, but the idea of seeing Puffins in real life got me very excited indeed. And I wasn’t disappointed. Our visit to see the Skomer Island Puffins far exceeded our expectations.

These colourful little characters kept us completely enthralled as they busied themselves around Skomer Island.

Read on for puffins in every pose possible, puffins on video, (including a pooping puffin and cuteness overload with a baby puffling), and information on the Skomer Island Puffins including maps and everything you need to know about visiting Skomer Island.

Puffin head shot

Skomer Island Puffin

Our Skomer Island trip was part of our Weekend in Pembrokeshire, in early June, and was an amazing experience. Watching and seeing nature is one of our favourite activities, but spending time with the Skomer Island Puffins took that to a whole new level.

Just off the wild Pembrokeshire coast,  you’ll find this amazing Nature Reserve that is Skomer Island. The waters around it have been designated a Marine Conservation Zone and it is the only protected section of water in Wales. You cannot help but be captivated by the thousands of puffins that inhabit this island for four months of the year.

VIDEO: Puffins on Skomer Island – Puffin Personalities

Watch our quick fun snippet of these little cuties going about their Puffin business on Skomer Island, Wales.

Skomer Island

Skomer Island, in Southwest Wales, is one of the most accessible and important seabird breeding sites in Europe. This Nature Reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust and is an absolutely incredible place to visit. The particular highlight is to see the Skomer Island Puffins.

The landing point for the boat at Skomer Island is at North Haven. If you haven’t spotted the Puffins flying in overhead or floating in the water as you arrive on the boat, then it is here that you are likely to get your first close up view of these colourful little fellows.

Can’t make it to Skomer Island but love puffins?  Then did you know that you can adopt Skomer Island puffins? Find out how further on in this article.

Skomer Island, Wales

Skomer Island – North Haven

Atlantic Puffin flying on Skomer Island, Wales

Incoming Puffin flight at Skomer Island

Skomer Island has a 6.5-kilometre walking trail around the island, as well as a trail that crosses through the centre. Therefore, you can choose a longer or shorter route depending on your preference.  If you choose to walk the full trail, as we did, it takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours. It actually took us about 4 hours as we spent a lot of time stopping and taking photographs.

Skomer Island Puffins walking trails

Skomer Island Puffin walking trails

The pink star shown on the map above shows the North Haven boat landing point. The blue star shows ‘The Wick’, a fabulous clifftop location where puffins launch themselves to sea returning with beaks full of sand eels, scurrying past your feet to feed their young in the nearby burrows.

If you arrive at Skomer Island by yacht, motorboat, diving boat or kayak then free visitor moorings are available at North Haven and South Haven. Strict regulations are in place which you may read about here.

Two puffins on Skomer Island

Focussed Skomer Island Puffins

Important Information About Your Skomer Island Trip

  • You MUST stick to the walking path.  There are thousands of burrows all around the island and stepping off the path, even slightly, could result in you crushing a bird or its chick.
  • There are steep steps to climb on arrival 
  • Wear walking shoes or boots – the paths are mainly flat but can be rough in places.
  • Wear enough layers as the island is exposed to the wind and the weather can change quickly.
  • Bring a packed lunch and water as you will be on Skomer Island for five hours and there are no refreshments available.
  • Take all of your rubbish home with you – there are no rubbish bins on the island.

Skomer Island Puffin Facts

Type of Skomer Island Puffins

The Puffins that you’ll find on Skomer Island are Atlantic Puffins, which are the smallest type of Puffin. There are about 25,000 – 30,000 breeding Puffins on Skomer. Luckily the Puffin colony here is thriving, which is fantastic news because many Puffin numbers and colonies elsewhere, such as in Iceland, are declining.

Puffin Environmental Concern

The Puffin colonies in the North Sea, around Norway and Iceland, have suffered greatly in recent years with many not being able to find enough food to feed their chicks. As a result, thousands of chicks and eggs have been abandoned.

Marine environmentalists suggest that the lack of sand eels (the Puffin’s primary food source) is due to rising sea temperatures. Therefore paying strict attention to signs and following the rules of Skomer Island will help protect these marvellous Puffins.

Keep to the path sign on Skomer Island

Skomer Island Puffin Life

The Skomer Island Atlantic Puffins live out at sea for the majority of the year and only return to land for nesting. The amazing bright colours that we see on the Puffins are not always so vibrant. In winter their beak and feet are a much duller colour as they wear their winter plumage.

Their average lifespan is about 20-30 years but some have been known to live up to 40 years. During that time they find a mate and that bond continues, with one egg being laid per year from the age of about three years.

Once on land, the Puffin digs a burrow using its sharp claws on its feet, and its beak. The egg is laid in the burrow on a nest of feathers and soft grass.

Once the egg hatches, after about 40 days, the chick is fed regularly by the parents who can be seen returning to the burrow with mouthfuls of silvery sand eels. They catch on average about ten sand eels per trip, which is made possible due to their specialised beaks.

Puffin cleaning its foot and the sharp claws on its orange webbed foot can be seen

The Puffin’s sharp claws can be seen here on its webbed foot

Puffin with a beak full of silver sand eels

Puffin with a beak full of sand eels to feed its chick

Baby Puffins – Pufflings

The baby Puffin is called a Puffling – which in itself is adorable – but it is unlikely that you will see one. They remain in their burrow and when mature, leave the nest under cover of darkness to head out to the Atlantic Ocean to start their own life, only returning about 3 years later to begin the cycle again.

You can see a baby Puffling being gently lifted out of its burrow here is this BBC Nature Video:

Quick View: Skomer Island Puffin Facts

  1. The Skomer Island Puffins are Atlantic Puffins
  2. Puffins live for about 20 to 35 years
  3. Puffins bond with one mate for life
  4. A puffin lays one egg per year
  5. A baby Puffin is called a Puffling
  6. The Puffins have sharp claws with which to dig their burrows
  7. A Puffin spends its first three years of life at sea

When to see Puffins on Skomer Island

The Puffins arrive on Skomer Island in April to begin nesting and leave again at the end of July. These amazing little seabirds are at their most busy between June and mid-July when feeding their chicks.

Skomer island Puffin with sand eels in its beak

Puffin with a mouth full of Sand Eels

two puffins looking at each other

Puffin chatter

Best Skomer Puffin Photography

You can see the Skomer Island Puffins almost anywhere on the island, but there are certain areas in which they are more prolific.

To see the best airborne action then ‘The Wick’ is where you’ll need to be. ‘The Wick’ is on the southwestern side of the island in a setting of cliffs perfect for Puffin photography. Here, puffins use the updraughts to take-off from the land in their hunt for sand eels. There are hundreds of birds here, both around the burrows, clustering on the cliff edge and in the air. The comings and goings are akin to Heathrow Airport.

The returning Puffins have beaks filled with sand eels.  Once they land, there is no rest. They shuffle quickly to their nests to feed their hungry pufflings. The cliff walkways are very close to the Puffin burrows and clifftop action so you’re in the perfect place to have these pass you by and for some fantastic Skomer puffin photography.

Puffin head shot

Skomer Island Map

Watching the Skomer Island Puffins

The Puffins can fly at about 80 kilometres per hour and their little wings flap incredibly fast. Standing near the Wick cliff face, you may feel like you are surrounded by hundreds of tiny dive bombers. The blur of black and white with a glint of silver (from the sand eels in their beak), may be all you catch before you see the Puffin clumsily land and waddle into its burrow with its catch.

Close Encounters with the Skomer Island Puffins

It is here at the Wick, that you will likely get your most ‘up close and personal’ encounter with the Puffins. Many of the Puffins seem happy to waddle between your feet and some appear quite intrigued by these rather large beings with their big zoom lenses that to them, may seem like over-sized beaks. We caught this little fellow literally ‘on camera’.

Puffin pecking at a camera on Skomer Island

Can I be on camera? 

I personally didn’t want to leave this area at The Wick, but it’s important not to spend too much time here so that the puffins don’t become overwhelmed and to make room for the other visitors who also want to experience these little cuties. I couldn’t believe that I had this special privilege of watching these amazing creatures going about their everyday life so close to me.

You’ll get some great shots here but it is really important not to move towards the Puffins when they are flying in to land with their beaks full of eels. If frightened, they may hover too long and fall prey to a gull or drop the eels and not have enough food for their chicks.

Skomer Island Puffin with sand eels in its beak

While you’re on Skomer Island, take your time to just simply watch these cute creatures, and you may even see a Puffin squirting poo, gathering grass for its burrow or showing affection to its mate by ‘billing’, often with many interested Puffin on-lookers.

Puffin's billing - knocking their bills together

Puffins in the process of ‘billing’

two puffins billing - which is knocking their beaks together

Adopting Skomer Island Puffins

Yes, you can! Adopting a puffin will help with the ongoing conservation work of the island and these cute little ones. You’ll receive an adoption pack and ongoing reports about your puffin. It’s a great way to be involved and make a difference with these amazing birds. Find out here how to adopt.

Skomer Island volunteers have also created a Blogspot to share the sightings and other activities. It is regularly updated. But if Facebook is more your thing then here’s a link to their Facebook page.

Puffin with its beak open

 Skomer Island Isn’t Just About the Puffins

You might be surprised to learn that Puffins aren’t the only attractions on Skomer Island – although in my opinion, they are definitely the cutest!

When you arrive on the island, you will get a quick induction from the ranger who tells you all about the do’s and don’ts as well as the various wildlife sightings that you may encounter on your walk around Skomer Island.

What else can you spot on Skomer Island?

Manx Shearwaters

One of the largest breeding populations of Manx Shearwaters is found on Skomer Island. Over 600,000 nest here, which is approximately half the world’s population. You are very unlikely to see one of these seabirds as they only leave their burrows at night avoiding their main predator, the Great Black-backed Gull. You will, however, likely see the remains of a few scattered around the island.

Razorbills / Guillemots / Peregrine / Black-backed Gull / Chough and other Birds

As you get off the ferry at North Haven you will see many Razorbills and Guillemots nesting on the cliffs to your left and right.

Guillemots and Razorbills on Skomer Island

Bluebells

The peak flowering time for the Bluebells is during May but even in early June, we were lucky enough to see some of the late flowering Bluebells and other wildflowers.

Skomer Island covered with wildflowers and bluebells

Grey Seals / Porpoises

On our arrival at Skomer Island, a Grey Seal lay nonchalantly on a rock close by. We didn’t take a photo as we assumed we would see plenty more but as it happened, that was our only sighting for the day.

Rabbits

Sharing the burrows around the island, and seemingly unperturbed by this annual influx of Puffins, are hundreds of rabbits. We saw plenty of baby bunnies hopping around among the Puffins, all going about their business as one happy little community. In fact, there are estimated to be about 10,000 rabbits on the island.

Want to know more about the island’s wildlife? Here is a very comprehensive Q&A on Skomer Island wildlife published by Welshwildlife.org that is an interesting read.

Rabbit on Skomer Island surrounded by Puffins

Spot the odd one out!

Buying Skomer Island Tickets and Skomer Island Boat Tickets

You will need to purchase two tickets to get to see the Skomer Island Puffins.

  1. Firstly, the ticket that allows you to land on Skomer Island is bought at Lockley Lodge.
  2. Secondly, the Skomer Island boat return ticket, which you purchase on the boat itself.

Skomer Island Tickets

  • Tickets cannot be pre-booked, and can only be bought at Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre at Martin’s Haven near the tip of Marloes Peninsula on the morning of the day you plan to travel.
  • The cost is £11 per person landing fee
  • Before you buy tickets, check https://twitter.com/skomer_boatinfo at about 7.40 am to see if the Skomer Island boats are running that day or if they are cancelled due to bad weather
  • When buying your ticket, you will be asked by the staff at what time you want to catch the return boat from Skomer Island to the mainland. This time will be designated on the ticket. Many visitors catch the first boat to the island and the last boat back.
  • It is advisable to arrive early (at about 7 am) at the Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre, to ensure you get a ticket when it opens at 8.30 am
  • The island is closed on Mondays (except the Spring Bank Holiday)
  • Landing tickets are strictly limited to a total of 250 visitors per day
  • Dress warmly for the ticket queue as the wind can whip up in that area and be especially nippy at that time of the morning
Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre at Martin’s Haven

Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre at Martin’s Haven

Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre, Wales

Pretty seascape views at Lockley Lodge

Skomer Island Boat Tickets

  • Return boat tickets are bought once you are on the boat
  • Cost is £11 per person which is paid in cash but during our boat trip a credit card machine was passed around
  • Boats run from the 1st April to 30th September at 10 am, 11 am and 12 pm but sometimes extra trips will operate depending on the weather and the demand
  • When you buy your Skomer Island Ticket, the boat return time from Skomer Island to the mainland will be designated on the ticket
  • There is a maximum of 50 people per boat
  • The boat trip takes between 15 and 25 minutes depending on the sea state
Skomer Island Boat Wales

Skomer Island Boat

TIP: If the boats to the Skomer Island puffins are not running there are plenty of other things to keep you busy in southwest Pembrokeshire. Check out our post on our Weekend in pembrokeshire where we experienced other great nature adventures including other Welsh wildlife that you can spot in west Wales.

Puffins on Skomer Island in Wales

Busy colonies of Puffins on Skomer Island

Overnight Accommodation on Skomer Island

Do you fancy overnighting on Skomer Island?  if so make sure to book plenty of time in advance as it’s a popular place to stay.  An old farm on the island offers self-catering accommodation with a communal kitchen, lounge area and library.

Is there a minimum stay on Skomer Island?

  • Between the 1st May to 1st September, overnight stays are two nights or a multiple of two nights duration: Sun and Mon, Tues and Wed, Thurs and Fri.
  • Saturdays are a one night stay but or you can able to add this to any consecutive 2-day stay either side.
  • The Whitsun Bank Holiday in May is a 3-night stay only.

How to book your overnight accommodation on Skomer Island?

All bookings are done taken by the Island’s Booking Officers based at the Parc Slip Nature Reserve, Bridgend. 

Email: [email protected]  ;   Telephone: 01656 724100 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)

Further information is available from https://www.welshwildlife.org/skomer-skokholm/skomer/overnight-accommodation-on-skomer/. To give you an idea of pricing, here is an extract from this site.

Year 2020 Pricing taken from https://www.welshwildlife.org/

Accommodation near Skomer Island

We stayed at a fantastic Bed and Breakfast, only 20 minutes from Lockley lodge, but unfortunately, it is now closed. 

 Booking.com 

Booking.com however, has plenty of accommodation options within the Skomer Island area to suit the budget of most travellers.

Skomer Island Puffin

Getting To Skomer Island

Skomer Island is accessible by a 15-minute ferry ride from the south-western Pembrokeshire Coast inWales. Tickets can only be bought on the day at Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre at Martin’s Haven.

By Car

Lockley Lodge is at Martin’s Haven, near Marloes in Pembrokeshire, Wales. (Telephone number 01646 636800)

When you reach Marloes, drive through the village and continue for approximately two miles before parking in the National Trust car park on your left.

For satellite navigation, the postcode is SA62 3BJ which get you within 300 metres of Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre.

There is a National Trust car park at the Visitor Centre which is free if you are a National Trust member, or £5.00/ per day for non-members. After paying, you are able to come and go during the day using the same ticket.

By Public Transport

If you are relying on public transport it will be difficult to get to the Visitor Centre early so you may have to use a taxi instead. There is a ‘Puffin Shuttle’, Bus no.400 that services the area but not early enough for the opening of the Lodge to get a ticket.

You may be able to get a bus for your return trip though. Bus times can be found here at Pembrokeshire County Council.

We just adored watching these cute little puffins on Skomer Island. We’d love to hear if you’ve visited this island or for you to share your puffin experiences with us. Drop us an email or leave a comment below.

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A Weekend in Pembrokeshire – Escape to Nature

A weekend in Pembrokeshire, particularly the west coast, is the ideal getaway for nature lovers who enjoy coastal walks, abundant wildlife and photography.

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