Sunday, July 25, 2010

Skomer Island

Last Wednesday, July 21st, I made my first visit for four or five years to Skomer Island, an island nature reserve off the western tip of Pembrokeshire. I made my way to the small cove of Martin's Haven, from where we made the fifteen-minute journey to the island:

Once ashore, and after the obligatory talk from the warden, I decided to head up towards the old farm buildings in the centre of the island, as there had been talk of owls (Little and Short-eared) being spotted in the fields around them. I didn't see any owls, but, after I had turned left by the buildings, I did manage this shot of one of the many Rabbits that make the island their home:

There was a small bird hide (blind) a little further along the path to my right, and I decided to have a quick look to see if anything was about. First thing I saw was this Oystercatcher foraging quietly on its own in the mud very close in front of the hide. There are thousands of Oystercatchers on my local beach, but they never come close enough for any portrait pictures, so this was an opportunity too good to miss. The bird was too close for my 500mm lens, so I switched to my 70-200mm. It was very difficult to make a decent exposure of this contrasty-plumaged bird in the bright sunlight, but I did my best with the help of a little fill-in flash:

There was a pool in front of the hide, which was mainly full of a large number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, which breed on the island:

Here's one of this year's offspring:

And an adult feeding its hungry 'child':

I'd like to have stayed here a little longer, to try for some better shots of the Oystercatcher in more overcast light, but we only had four hours ashore, so it was time to head for my main target, Puffins, and their main breeding grounds at 'The Wick':

Here, the Puffins are very confiding, seemingly unconcerned about the groups of people watching them, and will often come within a couple of feet of viewers. It enabled me to get a few decent shots, both with my 500mm and 70-200mm lenses, sometimes using an extension tube to enable the lens to focus close enough on the tame Puffins:

After a while, it began raining, at first gently, but then increasingly hard, and continued for about half an hour. I had a waterproof jacket in my bag, but decided to drape it over my camera and lens, and let myself get soaked. The conditions enabled me to get a few unusual 'Puffin in rain' shots:

Headshots were easy on the approachable birds:

A couple perched on the cliff edge:


I saw a few Puffins with sandeels, but was unable to get the classic shot with sandeels in a bird's beak as birds landing with sandeels invariably disappeared straight down their burrows before photos could be taken. I also failed to get any decent flight shots as my Sigma 500mm f/4.5 lens just wouldn't lock on properly (I will have to send it off for repair soon). Anyway, I was reasonably happy with the shots I'd taken, and began meandering back along the coastal path towards the last boat back at 4 p.m. Along the way, I spotted two Peregrine Falcons flying around the Mew Stone, a large offshore rock. I was about to take a photo of a perched bird, when, of course, it flew off! I took this shot, one of the many Lesser Black-backed Gull youngsters, on my way back to the landing stage:

On the boat back to the mainland, a group of Gannets, no doubt from the nearby colony of Grassholm, flew overhead, and I was able to take this shot:

I had an hour or so before I needed to head home, so I walked up onto the headland overlooking Skomer, an area known as the 'Deer Park' (there are no deer here!). I was rewarded with this view back across to the island:

The area was ideal habitat for Choughs, and sure enough there were several family groups flying around, stopping to feed on the short turf:

I headed back down to the car park, and had just packed most of my photo gear away, ready to leave, when I saw what looked like a small bird of prey approaching in level flight along the small country lane. At first I thought it might be a Kestrel, but as I looked with my binoculars as it flew very low overhead, I could see it was a stunning Peregrine! I cursed the fact that I had just put my big lens in my bag, as I could have got some great shots. Oh well!
I contented myself with this shot of St. Brides Bay, viewed across a golden cornfield, before heading for home:

It had been a long and tiring day; but a good one!


  1. pictures are wonderful... congratulations!

  2. An excellent resume of your Skomer trip. Shame about the Peregrine but the Puffins etc are great. FAB.

  3. Hi Jeremy Sepurb photo documentary of your trip, the images are great esp the Puffin shots. Well Done and thanks for sharing.

  4. The Puffin to me is one of my all time favorite Birds and you got some fantastic shots of them quite jealous :)

  5. Great serie of images! The puffin shoits with the rain are just lovely and tech. perfect ;) Nice blog by the way ;)

  6. Stunning puffin shots Jeremy!! Your landscapes and rabbit, kestrel are all so beautiful!