At the end of my first year at Falmouth University I was lucky enough to get a place on an organised photography trip to Skomer, the trip was full until a place became available just one week before departure, so I was extremely thankful to receive this exciting opportunity!
Skomer is an island off the coast of Pembrokeshire in southwestern Wales. The island is renowned for being a wildlife haven, and is surrounded by some of the richest waters for wildlife off the British isles. As we drew closer to the island arriving in fantastic sunlight, we spotted our first puffins floating on the waters surface, bobbing up and down on the waves. We also saw a young seal taking a break from swimming on the rocky shore and were able to pass it within in meters, as we carried our heavy camera gear up onto the land. The next four days could easily be described as any wildlife photographers dream our group was staying in a renovated farmhouse at the centre of the island, which was a perfect place to meet between trips out taking photographs. During the day I would spend my time photographing guillemots, razorbills and puffins and occasionally a number of other species including oyster catchers, kittiwakes, herring gulls, shell ducks and curlews. The landscape itself was also incredibly photogenic and at the time of our visit in early June bluebells, thrift and sea campion added colour to the surrounding habitat. Most evenings I spent at 'The Wick', which is a sheer cliff carved with many ledges that are ideal homes for nesting seabirds. The grassy slopes are the best place to see the puffins which aren't afraid to walk within meters past island visitors, as they return to their burrows with sand eels. Another great thing to see on the island is all the rabbits, they have the usual brown wild rabbits but also some that are darker colours and look like pets! They are really cute but also provide a valuable food source for many birds on the island.
The puffin is an unmistakeable bird with its brightly coloured bill and distinctive plumage, it was certainly my favourite species on the island. They each seem to have their own personality, and are very humorous to watch as they walk around, glancing down at their webbed feet as if they were trying on slippers that were several sizes too big!
The puffins are distinct in their ability to transport several fish at a time, crosswise in their bill rather than regurgitating food for their chicks. This adaption allows them to take longer foraging trips and increases their young's chances of survival.
It was not only the day time that was fantastic for wildlife on the island. We went out on night time walks and on a stormy night were surrounded by tens of thousands of manx shearwaters returning to their burrows on land, skimming the air gracefully until they clumsily reach the ground and seem to flop around with no control of direction! One even managed to fly straight into someones face! With so many birds calling at once there was an magical atmosphere and it is easy to see why in the past people thought they were the calls of souls lost at sea. The island also has a remarkably high population of frogs and toads, and you had to watch every step to avoid stepping on them! My favourite to photograph was the unusually vibrant orange frog that resides on Skomer.