Seabirds on Skomer

In recent years we have enjoyed watching the seasonal wildlife series from the BBC - Springwatch, Autumn Watch, Winter Watch. These programmes have stirred our fascination with British wildlife, and on several holidays we have tried in vain to spot seals and dolphins in our coastal waters, usually at just the wrong time of year. So it was wonderful to find a late-June visit to Pembrokeshire coincided with puffin nesting season. Excitedly we arrived at the nearby boat departure point for the Island of Skomer, which we had become familiar with seeing on our TV screens, and set off in search of seabirds. Well, with our track record, we thought we might be lucky and see a few. How delighted we were, as the small boat approached the island, to find ourselves surrounded by puffins, bobbing on the water and flying overhead with their funny little orange feet sticking out beneath them. Charming little clown-like penguins! Disembarking, we spent the day walking around the beautiful isle, and saw not only more puffins, right at our feet guarding their burrows in their hundreds, but guillemots, oyster catchers, fulmers and razorbills. The boys enjoyed watching and photographing the puffins, particularly.

Skomer is home to 50% of the world's population of Manx Shearwaters, and our smallest son was upset that the only birds of this species we saw were dead ones, many of them, hunted in their burrows by predatory gulls. On an evening boat ride later in the week, I was able to report back to him my sighting of thousands of "manxies" - alive and well -gathering offshore to return to the island after dark having spent the day fishing out at sea. Skimming along in our boat beside the flock was, indeed, an amazing experience, and I felt very novice with my standard Canon camera alongside all the birding experts who were thrilled to see this rare species in such numbers.

As well as a week on Wales' stunning beaches, our boys' love and understanding of native sea bird species was stirred in an unforgettable way - and resulted in some great pictures, and some beautiful artwork too!