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A profusion of Puffins

July 22, 2017

On a recent tour of Wales, we stopped in at the small town of St David's, in the south-east, to take in a tour that guaranteed sighting of puffins - an enigmatic bird that we had never seen in the feather. We were fortunate to strike a sunny day - never guaranteed in Wales, even in mid-summer. After direction from the town that made it sound like the wharf was three blocks away, half an hour later we emerged from a winding maze of Welsh lanes (barely wide enough in places for our mini Fiat 500, so don't even think about passing!).

 

A curious wharf, evidently designed to launch rescue boats during fierce winter storms, had us trekking down to the beach, then back up a series of steps before finally descending the boat ramp. A dozen of us sat in pairs in a large zodiac and off we shot across the bay. A flock of gannets had us veering off-course on the hope of finding new porpoise in life - and we did! A small and shy family of porpoises including two young, were chasing a school of fish, to the great excitement of the gannets.

On approach to Skomer Island, a few Puffins came into view, dashing through the sky with their short wings that seem too small to keep them aloft. Frantic craning of our necks to follow the few puffins was met by a short reply from the skipper - 'we'll see a few more ahead'.

 

Entering a sheltered bay off Skomer Island, activity increased dramatically. An estimated 28,000 puffins inhabit the Island, but surprisingly, few venture to the mainland, less than a minute away in puffin wing-beats. They appear to have long memories for rats and cats, both targeting puffin eggs and young.

 

 

Swift flyers, the puffins can appear a bit awkward on water - giving a good impression of 'flying penguins'.

 Mixed with the puffins are large numbers of guillemots and razorbills, with a scattering of gulls and oystercatchers.

 

Atlantic Grey Seals lounge in the shade, though one was curious enough to come up to the boat for a closer look. Compass jellyfish are also common.

Surrounding waters are home to a large number of shipwrecks due to very strong tidal flows over a largely submerged reef between Ramsay Island and the mainland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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