Puffin all the way to Wick

Day 3 of our birding adventure to the Pembrokeshire coast again started very early. My intrepid birders and I were determined to get in the Skomer queue as early as possible as the wind was forecast to be considerably calmer.

Indeed when we arrived at Lockely Lodge the weather had changed. Our luck was in , the sea was like a mill pond compared to the last two days, not a breeze of wind. We had been warned that it would be busy on the weekend and it was. There was already a full boat of people queueing  in front of us at 6 am.  The first person got there at 4.45 am!

I am so glad we arrived early as the queue grew exponentially and snaked all the way to the car parks entrance- easily over 150 people.

Our excitement grew and then we got the announcement we had long anticipated the boats were running and did anyone want to go on an extra boat being put on for 9.30 am. Guess what? We raised our hands and got tickets for the boat. I am a Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales member so get to land on Skomer for free. I only had to pay the £11 boat charge.

Paul, Nicola and me all felt like we had each won Willy Wonkas Golden tickets, at long last we were getting to go on the Dale Princess and get ferried across the Jack Sound to Skomer.

The journey over on the boat is always fun. You can feel the mood emanating from the happy smiley faces of fellow passengers who are all primed up with excitement. Whilst travelling across you often get good views of Puffins, Guillemots , Razorbacks and the occasional Gannet skirting low across the waves. The Puffins are often bobbing about in rafts feeding in the bay as you approach the landing quay on Skomer.

This year as we cruised in to disembark I was struck by the lack of birds compared to last year. The wardens claim there are about 30000 Puffins this summer and 5000 more than last year - perhaps they were all out at sea feeding or in their burrows when we arrived.

After the obligatory briefing from the Warden - which reminds me of the start of a running race. The regular visitors and photographers are slowly edging to the start line, trying to look interested but really they want to run off and see some Puffins.

The warden finally finished her briefing - all 10 minutes of it,  felt like 30 minutes, as my blood was up with excitement - she gave us the green light to go onto the Island. Hooray.

Paul shot off up the hill like he had suddenly become 40 years younger and huffed and puffed his way up the hill next to me like a steam engine. Nicola followed closely behind  carrying what must be one of the biggest camera bags on the market full of equipment I have ever seen - impressive!

The start of the route from the landing quay is up a steep hill and by the time we reached the top of it, we were all puffing like mad for one reason or another - my excuse was mainly having eaten too many doughnuts the last couple of mornings :). But it was hot - the summer heatwave had hit a new level of temperatures and we were all feeling it a bit.

We then headed for the Wick via the farm path. Near the farm we saw Choughs, a Short Eared Owl, Meadow Pipits and lots of gulls.

On arrival at the Wick which is at the top of a cliff that overlooks a steep gorge in the Island that has a huge cliff that is hundreds of feet high we finally got to see some Puffins really close up.

Again however I was struck by the lack of numbers of birds compared to last year. Its interesting as well how this year there were no daisy like flowers around the burrows but instead small white flowers. There was also lots of Cinnibar Moths flying about.

This year I was eager to learn from some of my mistakes last year and try get some pictures of the Puffins with decent backgrounds as they landed with fish to take to their solitary chick in it burrow whilst trying to evade the gulls who try to steal their hard earned fish.

I will now leave you to look at some of my pictures from the trip. I am really pleased we made it in the end to the Island it really rounded off our three days and ended our fantastic adventure on a high note.

Puffin with its catch of Sand Eels

Puffin at the wick with a Cinnabar moth photo bomb

A circus of Puffins

Up close they have amazing grey blue eyes.

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