Pembrokeshire puffins: How & when to spot them on Skomer Island

Photography by Alex Devol

'Ask the majority of visitors to Skomer Island what it is they want to see and the answer is almost certainly puffins.' They return to burrow every year in mid-April, the Atlantic puffin colony on Skomer Island is the largest in Southern Britain.

Best known for its large breeding seabird population, Skomer is not only home to puffins but also to around half the world's population of Manx shearwaters, among many other breeds. Huge numbers of seabirds use the island for nesting in the earth's impressive burrows, largely dug by the vast population of rabbits on the island. So when the birds move in during the Summer months, its a magical time for the public to come and see the wonder of Skomer for themselves. 

Limited to 250 visitors per day so that the crowds you see are strictly birds and not people, boat trips go to and from the island carrying adventurers of all ages to see the unique wildlife on Skomer. Its probably the puffins that get the most attention and due to the great conditions for nesting on the island, puffin numbers are on the up! Last year saw a 6% increase, from 21,349 in 2015 to a whopping 22,539 last year.

Mid-June to mid-July is the perfect time to spot plenty of these beautiful birds as puffin mums & dads are more regularly leaving the nest to find food for their growing chicks. The pufflings tend to stay underground for 6 weeks and will only surface when its time to fly the nest. This is usually during the last couple of weeks in July, and during the night, so you'd be very lucky to catch a glimpse of a little puffling! But generally speaking, its not too difficult to spot a puffin as they tend to be surprisingly unfazed by humans. With so many of them returning to nest each year on Skomer, you should be lucky enough to see plenty of these fabulous birds.

Visit the Skomer Island website here

This Wildlife Trust factsheet will provide all the puffin information you could possibly need. Read it here before your visit to Skomer Island.

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