2 nights on Skomer

30th July 2013
I've gone from hardly taking any images at the beginning of the year to being flat out over the last couple of months. Air show season has kicked off which is always a busy time and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of nights stay on Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire, so this is where I'll start..
I've been to Skomer to photograph the Puffins on many occasions but have never stayed on the island overnight before. All of my previous visits have been day trips whereby you arrive on the Island at 10 in the morning and your're off by 4 in the afternoon. This means you miss the best times of the day for light,which are dawn and dusk, especially at this time of year.

I had the Sunday and Monday night booked on the island so my good friend Phil and I travelled down on the Friday morning with the intention of getting set up in the campsite. We then intended trying for the Chough that nest and hang around on the coastal cliffs on the Friday afternoon before a quick recce to the island on the Saturday to see what areas were busy with Puffins. This would save time for when we were staying on the island as there's nothing worse than wasting good light so it made sense to do our homework on a day trip.

Arriving at the campsite early afternoon on the Friday we set up, had a bite to eat and then headed out in the search of Chough. The weather was a bit of a surprise as it was good for once!Cold still but at least the sun was out and the forecast looked very good for the next few days so fingers were firmly crossed that the forecast was accurate.

Having walked all around the coastal path the Chough were nowhere to be seen so we turned our attention to a few of the many Herring Gull's that were flying about.







After having a bit of fun with the Gull's, we finally spotted some Chough but they proved very difficult to get near and it took us several hours before we managed to get a few images..







That was the best I could do with the Chough and although I didn't get the images I would have liked, I still came away happy, so it was back to the campsite to get a good nights sleep before the day trip to Skomer in the morning.

Up early, we made our way down to the ticket office and got a huge shock when we saw the queue for the tickets. It was enormous and it meant we were on the second boat out to the island which I was not best pleased about.The weather had been pretty poor for a few weeks before our visit which meant the boat wasn't able to get out to the island as much, so I imagine every man and his dog were turning up hoping to get onto the island to see the Puffins.

Finally on the island, I noticed there were a lot of birds just sitting around on the water, not just the Puffins but Razorbills and Guillemots too. Normally you'd be seeing lots of activity at this time of year with birds flying back and forth with food to feed their young. After the island briefing by the head warden, everyone started to make their way of to explore the island so I took the chance to have a chat with the warden.
Asking her what was going on with the birds and why wasn't there that much activity, she told me that due to the bad weather during the spring the birds were all late in their breeding and were at least 3 weeks behind, most were still sitting on eggs..
Great I thought, finally get to stay on the island and all the birds are still on eggs, that meant hardly any flight shots and no shots of them bringing food back to the nests.

Oh well, I'm here now so I'd better get the most out of it and I decided to get some perched shots first,then try for some flight shots if any birds came into land on the rocks..









Some bonding between partners..



As I said there wasn't a great deal of activity, so flight shots were hard to come by and the only chances came when birds were coming into land on the rocks.





I also went for shots of the Puffins on the water which not many people do but it makes a nice change from the norm..







With what I was told by the warden and with what I saw with my own eye's I knew it was going to be hard work getting the images I was after but Puffins aren't the only birds on Skomer. With this in mind I set out to try and photograph the other species that nest on the island.

Arriving on the island on Sunday morning for the first of our 2 nights, we got settled into the accommodation..



..before heading out with the cameras. Skomer has a very large population of Black Backed Gull so they were the first in front of the viewfinder.





Then we found a very obliging Sedge Warbler singing amongst the beautiful Red Campion that cover the island.





There wasn't much happening with the Puffins so on the way back to the accommodation I grabbed a few silhouette shots.







Up bright and early on the Monday to a beautiful sunrise and a great view of a Short Eared Owl hunting over the Bluebells although unfortunately it never came close enough for full frame images but it was great to watch..





The rest of the morning was spent looking for subjects to photograph but I only managed a shot of this Whitethroat..



..and by mid morning the light had become very harsh so it was now a wait for sunset and a hope that a few Puffins would turn up..

By late afternoon, we made our way over to the Wick which is an area of the island where a large amount of Puffins nest. The previous night there wasn't hardly any Puffins on the Wick which was very disappointing as it's the best spot on the island for evening light. As we rounded the corner I looked over to the Wick and was relieved to see a few Puffins on the cliff edges and a few more amongst the carpet of flowers that were covering the surrounding areas where they nest.





The light was a bit flat due to a few clouds covering the setting sun but they eventually moved away and we finally got some golden light..





A few of the Puffins were still adding some extra bedding to their nest burrows and were busy collecting plant material.









Again there was lots of bonding going on between pairs showing just how behind they were in their breeding.





I went for a few close ups too.







and a few wing stretches.





All in all it was a great trip and despite the low activity of the Puffins it was good to stay on the island and finally get the chance to photograph them in nice early morning and late evening light...

Thanks for looking.