Some thoughts on the Puffins of Skomer

The enigmatic island of Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coastline comes alive in the summer. Recently I spent three nights on the island guiding a photographic holiday focused on the Puffins of Skomer for NaturesLens, with Richard Peters. I visit the island tens of times every year with my own business, but it’s always an exciting time to head over to this seabird paradise.

A puffin seeks out a burrow amongst the Sea Campion - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

Leaving the small cove of Martin’s Haven on the Dale Princess, taking in the smell of the sea air & the gentle swaying of the boat it’s a relatively short trip across the sea to Skomer. Nearing the island, you see birds whirling around the sky above you & hear the cacophony of thousands of birds calling. Reaching the island and disembarking, up the numerous steps to the farm, en route passing countless burrows & nests where the Manx Shearwater calls home for the summer. Skomer & neighbouring Skokholm island hold over four hundred thousand pairs of Manx Shearwater making it the most important breeding site in the world. It’s a real wildlife escape only a stone’s throw from the mainland.

Puffins in flight against a dark background are one of the signature images of Skomer - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

The main draw to this small corner of Welsh paradise in summertime are the charismatic Puffins. These quirky small dumpy sea birds are full of character & it’s hard not to be drawn in to their own little world. The main area on the island to gain great views of them is called the Wick & is the best place to capture those iconic images of the birds with lots of sand eels held in their beaks. Birds poised ready to take them down their burrows to feed their hungry young. Also, the Puffins are not afraid of humans as there are no ground predators on the island so will happily walk past your feet allowing some fabulous up close & personal views.

The fact that the puffins on Skomer are not afraid, leads to some awesome wide-angle images - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

The real benefit of staying over on the island, compared to a day trip visit where you can have harsh light as visiting time is around midday, is the magical light that bathes the landscape in golden tones during dawn & dusk, also more birds tend to congregate here right up til sunset. Being on the south west coast of Wales & on the Atlantic Ocean’s doorstep, it does get its fair share of weather.

The images that it is possible to capture at the end of the day are bathed in beautiful tones - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

We had mixed conditions over our trip ranging from blue skies & wet weather, to full-blown gale winds blowing the lens hoods around. However, Richard & I were proud that everyone at least once, headed out in the pouring rain to capture some very different images. One technique in these conditions is slowing the shutter speed down to emphasise the rain drops, a tricky balance to nail though with fast flying Puffins!

An Atlantic Puffin attempts a landing fghting against the rain - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography HolidayAn Atlantic Puffin seeks out a landing place with a beak full of sand-eels - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

The, Atlantic Puffins, the clowns of the sea are the stars of the show on Skomer, however other highlights over the weekend included good views of the Short Eared & Little Owls, including their young, plus lovely close up views of the Guillemots & Razorbills near the landing, including a young & fluffy Gull chick.

A simple image of a gull chick - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

All in all we had a fantastic group from across the UK & Europe.

The group at the top of the steep steps that provide the ascent to Skomer - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

Richard & I enjoyed the company of the group & the ensuing banter massively! I’ll leave the words now for a few shots of mine from the tour …

The classic portrait of one of the Atlantic Puffins of Skomer - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography HolidayIn addition to the puffins, Skomer is home to many other seabirds - such as this gullemot - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography HolidayComing in head-on - a puffin in flight photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday  A puffin bobs in the bay - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday    A gullemot comes in to land on one of the cliff faces - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography HolidayA beak full of sand-eels - a portrait of an Atlantic Puffin - photographed during the NaturesLens Skomer Puffins Photography Holiday

Why not photograph the Puffins of Skomer for yourself?

Skomer is one of the most important locations for the colonies of Atlantic Puffins in Europe & it is easy to see why. For photographers keen to add puffin images captured in different conditions & lighting to their wildlife portfolio, a three night stay on the island provides an abundance of opportunities. Our focus during the NaturesLens photography holidays are the comical puffins, which can be seen on Skomer in abundant quantities from mid-May through to July.

Our puffins of skomer photography holiday for the dates of June 17 – 20, 2017 still has spaces available & costs £499 for the 3 night stay on the island! There will be a second 2017 holiday, to be held in July, over the dates of July 15 – 18, 2017.