Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Never mind the Puffins...give me puffinus puffinus

Of course everybody loves Puffins, but the bird I really wanted to photograph on last week's holiday in Pembrokeshire was Skomer's other speciality, the Manx Shearwater. This involved being very nice to the family so they would let me head back out after dinner for an evening cruise on the Dale Princess. Cooking the pasta and doing the washing up did the trick and leave to sail was duly secured. Unlike Skomer landings, these trips can be booked in advance (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays). There is virtually no chance of seeing Shearwaters on land on Skomer during the day, although I did accidentally step on one about 10 years ago which had managed to mistake one of the hides on the island for its burrow!

On boarding the boat, our guide announced that due to high tides we would have to head back in earlier than usual, reducing the chances of seeing Manxies up close. Added to this, the clear, bright conditions meant that they were less likely to be rafting offshore than if it was darker and overcast. Having been cheated out of a much anticipated campervan holiday and failing to get tickets to land on Skomer earlier in the day, this was starting to feel like a slightly cursed holiday. I resolved, however, that there was no way I was getting off that boat without getting a good view! This seemed to do the trick as I was first to see Manxies in the distance and first to spot a small raft further out in St Bride's Bay, towards which the skipper was able to steer the boat. For the next half hour we were treated to very good views of these fascinating birds as they flew effortlessly around the boat. Pictures below.

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