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#11 Skomer Island, Wales

Ever since our visit last year to the magical Skomer i’ve been itching to get back, not only have I done a couple of day trips this year, but we were fortunate enough to enjoy two nights on the island. Having booked in October last year, you can only imagine the images I’ve pictured myself taking in those 8 months. Unfortunately though, the weather was not on point for our two nights on Skomer. Here was me hoping for pink skies and golden sunsets, whilst in reality we had grey skies and rain. I did however get a couple of sunrise shots, if the puffin flew close enough to the sun it was possible to make it work, but that’s about it, you just have to work with what you have.

Although not great for early morning and sunsets, all 4 days i’ve spent on the island this year have been overcast, something I was very grateful for. Last year - our first visit to the island - it was a gloriously sunny day, most unusual for the UK right? Almost all the photos from that day were unusable, and it’s interesting looking back on them and comparing them to this years photos. A real difference. The grey skies meant no nasty shadows and really let me play around, getting a few wider angle shots too, something I’ve been wanting get.

One of the best things about staying on the island is the fact you don’t have to queue up from 6am to get the boat, but rather rock up at 8.30 to go across, quite civilised - well apart from the fact we needed to leave home at 3.30am to get there that is! What isn’t so good is having to lug everyones luggage on and off the boat and up to the lodge on the island. It’s at this point you start to question your packing choices and did you really need that extra t-shirt. All part of the experience.

The real beauty about staying on the island though - apart from if you are lucky enough to enjoy good sunrises or sunsets - is the fact bar the hours in the middle of the day, you have the place pretty much all to yourselves. Only a handful of people are allowed to stay on the island each night, along with the island volunteers and wardens, it can’t be more than 20 people all in. It really is a fantastic place to get away from it all, you can really forget about the outside world for a few days and just enjoy the island for what it is. It also means you get the puffins all to yourselves, at times of the day when they are more active on land, it’s win win.

On previous visits to the island I normally just focus on the puffins and never venture far away from them as time is limited, but with 2 full days there it gives you plenty of time to fully explore it and scout out less obvious places - there is certainly more to Skomer than just going to ‘The Wick’.

People from all walks of life stay on the island, and all for different reasons and interests. A lot of people are there for the Manx Shearwaters which only come out at night. For me though, puffins are the main draw and they get all of our attention. Visiting a few weeks prior to our over night stay, in the height of feeding season I already had lots of the iconic sand eel in beak shot, even more after my trip to the Farnes as well. So the over night trip was more about atmospheric shots and documenting behaviour. Coming later in the season obviously comes with the draw back that you don’t see so many puffins with sand eels in their beaks and there is less about, but we did get to see a young puffling, which was taking it’s first steps out side of their burrow. It's something that isn’t all that common to see, usually they do it under the cover of night, but this one was obviously brave - or stupid - you decide. I’m starting to build a fairly decent portfolio of puffin photos now, which is good as it’s allowing me to focus on certain traits and spend more time focusing on trying to capture a certain aspect of their life.

A certain highlight for me this year was capturing a puffin with a toad in its mouth. I was trying to find a puffin with some twigs in their beak, building their nest. The puffin in question had their back to me at the time, and all I could see through the camera was some brown bits sticking out either side of their beak, it looked like they had a lot in there. Winner I was thinking, this will be the perfect candidate. It was only after the puffin turned around and started waddling along did I realise it was actually a toad they were carrying?! After a few steps the toad - which was still wriggling - managed to break free and off he hopped. It took my brain a few minutes for it to fully compute what I had just seen as it wasn't something I was expecting, but thankfully the photo has come out perfectly. All the conditions were on point and it's allowed me to capture one of my favourite ever puffin pictures,

The more time I spend with these little birds, the more I fall in love with them. Everything about them just makes you smile. They’re just so adorable not to love. I have some ideas on what I want to do with puffins in the future, and I’m going to work hard to make it happen, I already can’t wait till next year to get to spend more time with them. Who knows what I might get to photograph a puffin carrying around then? Hopefully I'll get to visit some new locations to see them as well, but I'm sure I'll be venturing back to Skomer, maybe another overnight stay if we get lucky again.


July 2019


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