Sunday, 6 July 2014

Pilgrimage to Skomer

Common Guillemot

Pembrokeshire offers fantastic wildlife watching amidst atmospheric coastal scenery and the islands off the western Marloes peninsular are the jewel in the crown. The three islands are home to huge breeding colonies of seabirds.  Grassholm is the farthest out and home to 78,000 Gannets. Next is Skokholm, which hosts 20% of the European Storm Petrel population. Closest and easiest to visit is Skomer, which has a regular boat service throughout the spring and summer.

The boys and I visit Skomer every couple of years. On the short crossing, the water is alive with feeding auks and the cliffs echo to their raucous calls. Thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills are constantly flying in and out to feed their young. At the Wick, hundreds of Puffins visit their burrows and will sometimes walk around your feet. Added to this are breeding Raven and Chough, the latter usually sweeping around the eastern cliffs.


Skomer is best known as home to about half of the entire world population of Manx Shearwaters but as they only come to land under cover of darkness, they are seldom seen on a day trip. This year, though, we found one dangling by its leg from a wire fence,  with several gulls in close attendance. I managed to free it and after an abortive flight it struggled into a burrow and relative safety. Conor stayed overnight with a friend who is carrying out research on the island so he was able to witness the nocturnal visits of literally thousands of Manx Shearwaters to their breeding burrows.
Common Guillemot