Thursday – Skomer

Today we finally start our excursion to the bird’s island to see the Puffins – that’s actually why we came to Wales at first. Weather forecast is brilliant, unfortunately this trip means to get up early. Really early. You cannot book the tickets in advance – who comes first is the first to board the little boat and to enter the island. Who wants to take the first boat in the morning should at least be queuing in front of the ticket counter by 8 o’clock. It opens at 8:30h. We are lucky: 50 passengers to fit on the boat, we are about numbers 44, 45. The boat does not bring passengers to the island very often, they limited the number of visitors to a maximum of 250 per day.

A few minutes past 10 we land on Skomer. All information we were able to get hold off warn because of the 80 steep steps up the cliffs. We don’t really notice this path uphill. Exactly here where the boat lands there is a Puffin colony. Everybody stops every few steps to take the first photos of the Puffins. We are excited, oh my!, what beautiful birds they are; I got tears in my eyes.

When we arrive at the top of the way up we are welcomed by one of the aides, giving us intensive instructions about how to behave on Skomer. The birds always come first – you should never leave the path, not even for one step. You would always risk to destroy a breeding burrow and maybe bruise an egg or kill a chick. The birds don’t mind the tracks, they build their burrows everywhere. Always look where you are walking. At a cliff called The Wick the track leads through a big Puffin colony. If a Puffin wants to cross the path you have to make room, the birds always have the right of way, no matter from which side they come.

Gernot and I decide to take the long loop walk all around the island, we have got enough time. The mere walking time is about three hours. We go counterclockwise so we come to The Wick as the highlight of our tour at the end of the excursion.

First point of reference is the old farm in the middle of Skomer. The buildings had already collapsed but have been restored partly and now work as accommodation for the voluntary aides and for the few tourists who like to stay longer than just one day. Besides there are also a small information center as well as the only toilet on the island. All visitors are advised to use this possibility when necessary. There are no trees or bushes on Skomer but a lot of people with binoculars.

Skomer is not as I imagined a typical bird island has to be, just rocks and one bird beside the other, sitting closely together. There are cliffs all around the island but when you finally reach the top the plateau itself is relatively even. And everywhere out of the low vegetation the heads of the sea birds stick up. The big Herring Gulls are dominant, they cry loudest. We see Kittiwakes, other sorts of seagulls, Jackdaws, Choughs and Razorbills. The Manx Shearwaters leave their burrows only at dusk as they are the preferred prey of the larger seagulls. Again and again we see dead birds lying on the track. We at once recognize the Oystercatchers, we already know them from our journey to New Zealand. But there are not only sea birds on Skomer, one sort of owl lives here, Buzzards, Kestrels and Peregrines and a lot of small singing birds like Skylarks, Linnets, Wrens, Pipits…

Main attraction of course are the funny Puffins. The captain of the “Dale Princess” did not promise too much, The Wick is swarming with Puffins. We stand still for a long time and have fun watching the little clowns, Gernot takes hundreds of photos. Some Puffins come so close we would love to just stretch out our hands to touch them. All the efforts to get here are nothing compared with our happiness up there on the cliff path.