I spent last week photographing puffins on a small island off the Pembrokeshire coast called Skokholm. Positioned next to the highly popular Skomer island, Skokholm offers a less touristy, quieter and more wild experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are no day trip options to the island and a minimum of 4 days stay in required, there is also no running water or luxuries which I think really adds to the experience.
With around 2500 puffins and an abundance of other bird life, including manx shearwaters, razorbills and fulmers there is no shortage of amazing wildlife photography opportunities. I spent my whole trip focusing on the puffins and divided my time into getting a range of flight, portrait and wide angle shots. Along with being amazingly photogenic, puffins are fantastic birds to observe and photograph. Even a few days of being surrounded by these comedy characters give you an insight into how hard their life is. During the breeding season they constantly journey out to sea and then back to their burrows with beaks full of sand eels for their young. At sea they are bullied and stolen from by razorbills and back on land black backed gulls patrol the coast to attempt to steal any fish they bring back to land. As so often with nature, the longer you observe the more drama and intricacies you see; the gulls patrolling the coast appear to have have their own territories which they fiercely defend against any other gulls who may choose to try invade. The gulls seem to have good knowledge of their territories and often seem to have picked a “favourite” burrow to watch, most probably to the despair of the puffin owner. On a few occassions I even saw a puffin forward roll and crash land into its burrow only to be followed by a gull which would throw it back out into the air and steal all of the eels. Occassionaly a puffin will “lose” its burrow and will wander around with a mouth full of eels looking incredibly anxious, eventually it will either locate its burrow and dive in or get mobbed by a gull, drop its food and fly back out to sea. Overall Skokholm was one of my best wildlife photography experiences and I will be sure to return next year.
I have applied for permission to lead a small tour of photographers to Skokholm next year. The local wildlife trust are holding a meeting to decide whether this will be possible and I will keep you updated. If you are interested in attending then drop me an email and I will keep you updated directly.