They are about the size of a fat pineapple, though weigh far less. They have a chunky body, bright orange webbed feet, and very striking beaks during the breeding season. They fly and swim very well to catch their favorite food: sandeels.
While puffins spend most of their time at sea, they come to land during the breeding season. UK is lucky to have Skomer Island, an amazing largest island in Pembrokeshire and together with Skokholm island has the largest colony of breeding puffins in Southern Britain.
What makes puffins unique is that they have their babies called ‘pufflings’ in burrows. On Skomer, you can find thousands of puffins digging the ground, kicking up a lot of dirt to make, repair and tidying their burrows. As one of the 250 human visitors allowed on the island per day, you have to be very careful not to ruin their burrow by staying on the path. The burrows are sometimes not so deep and they are very delicate. One wrong step by humans and kapoof the burrow might cave in!
Skomer has about 6,000 breeding puffin couples on the island. The best time to see them is summer. Especially once the pufflings hatch, the parent puffins spend all day flying back and forth, bringing beak full of sandeels for their baby.
They are real characters and we can watch them all day long. But the RSPB classifes them as ‘Red status‘ birds, which means that they are highest on the conservation priority list with species needing urgent action. Skomer used to have many thousands more of breeding puffins, but over the years the population has declined a lot. Oh no!
Skomer island is an amazing place. It has the largest colony of Manx shearwater (they are a type of birds) in the world!
There are other wildlife wonders to be enjoyed too. We just missed the full bluebell flower season, but did get a nice wiff of the pink campion flowers.
Top dog tip
Skomer island only accepts 250 visitors per day, and the island is accessed by a short boat ride. You can only buy tickets for the day at their little ticket office at Martin’s Haven on a first-come first-served basis. The ticket office opens at 9am (or so we think) and tickets do well out at busy times, so come early, buy the tickets and either enjoy a bit of relaxation in Martin’s Haven or come back. The boats depart at 10, 11 and noon. Visiitors have 5 hours on the island as the return boat is also tied to certain times. The 10am boat people have to take the 3pm return boat, 11am people on the 4pm boat and the noon people take the 5pm return boat. 5 hours might not seem like a lot, but it’s actually pretty good and you get plenty of exercise. The designated routes are pretty narrow and not much space for disabled access, so make sure you are fit and ready!