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Fishink in Pembrokeshire Part 1. Skomer Island and visiting the Puffins.

July 24, 2013

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It has become almost a tradition that sometime in July, we pack up our summery things and head over to Pembrokeshire to stay with friends in their summer chalet for a long weekend. This year was no exception.

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During our stays there we have always tried to make the journey over to Skomer Island to visit one of the largest Puffin colonies in southern Britain. This year was the first year that the sea wasn’t too rough, the wind wasn’t blowing too much and we actually managed to get up early enough to get over to Martin’s Haven for the early boat ! Well actually this year the boats are running later and even though we were there in plenty of time to catch the 10am ferry, it was already full so we bought tickets for the 11am trip and explored the area during our wait. Taking care to avoid the nesting swallows swooping in and out of the low doorway to the toilet block  !

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I noticed this grey seal bobbing in the water off the coast and the wonderful drama of the cliff faces and the wealth of colourful flora around.

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The boat comes, and because us brits ‘seemingly’ love to queue,  a cliff-edge line of people forms. We file onto the boat (which takes about 50) and off we go. Noticing the gorgeous blues of the sea and sky as we go.

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It’s only a short ride of about 20 mins to the Island, the sign onboard the boat (below) made me smile and once there, the Guillemots and Puffins were lined up to greet us, embedded on the cliff edges.

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There is a good variety of things to spot on the island. It becomes a little like an adult game of i-spy !

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In the middle of the island lies a 19th century farmstead, a modern day gathering place for the tourists to sit and use the facilities. You need to bring your own food, and drink if you plan to stay a while, but can jump on any returning ferry so you’re not tied to having to be back at a specific time.

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We sat down to have lunch near to the Garland Stone, an impressive pyramidal stack just off the northern tip of the island.

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Surrounded again by beautiful views and beady eyed seagulls who no doubt had one (or both) eyes glued to our sandwiches.

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Below, on the shores of the Garland Stone, grey seals swam and basked in the sunshine.

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I noticed this Rock or Meadow Pipit, happy sitting on a rock looking out over the brown and green fields.

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There is a problem on the island with the over population of Rabbits, originally introduced to the island in the 13th century and farmed for their food and fur. There are now approx. 10,000 rabbits on the island and about the same number of Puffins. Sadly they destroy the natural vegetation, promoting the dominance of species like Bracken at the expense of of more palatable grasses and herbs. They also cause soil erosion caused by intense grazing and burrowing. In their favour they provide food for predatory birds which would turn to seabirds in their absence.

It’s been suggested that Shearwaters and Puffins require Rabbits to dig holes in which to nest but they are actually capable of digging their own holes. Puffins do, however, like nesting in areas free from tall vegitation. If Rabbits were removed, there would be a danger that the coastal slopes currently inhabited by Puffins would become overgrown and they would disappear.

The puffins were definitely the highlight of the day and on parts of the pathway, they were only a few yards from your feet, scurrying comically out of their burrows. They are a lot smaller than I had imagined (about 25 cms high) and have a permanently angst expression on their faces.

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This year it also happens to be the 60th anniversary of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. They’ve commissioned London company ‘ Hatched ‘ to design a poster campaign to promote the park’s natural beauty, coastline and abundant wildlife. I feel they have done this very well. You can find out more about purchasing the postcards and posters here.

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Thought this maybe a good place to post some puffins I drew a while ago, after visiting Seven Stories in Newcastle.

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Part two of this post about Pembrokeshire to follow soon.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. mandy permalink
    July 24, 2013 7:20 am

    lovely pictures, I visited Skomer on three occasions to take part in Seasearch, a marine survey to collect data on the King scallops & other sea life. Due to the “no take zone” …the seas there are full of life, you have captured the “above” so well maybe next time you will venture below! beautiful part of the country

    • July 24, 2013 7:42 am

      Hi Mandy, thanks for your lovely comment and information too. It must have been fascinating delving beneath the water there. Such a wonderful place.

  2. July 24, 2013 7:32 am

    Beautiful!!

    • July 24, 2013 7:39 am

      Thank you Corrina. Great to see other people are early birds too lol

  3. July 25, 2013 6:43 pm

    Thank you! I enjoyed this. Beautiful pictures.

    • July 25, 2013 7:11 pm

      Nice to hear. Thanks for letting me know Tanya.. more to come from here next week.

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