Chris Packham gets close to puffins on the island of Skomer.
Browse content similar to Skomer. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
I'm on my way
to the amazing Skomer Island, off the southwest tip of Wales.
But, you know, Britain a nation of islands.
There are more than 6,000 scattered around our coast.
Often they are great places to go to see amazing natural spectacles.
Skomer is one-and-a-half miles long and one of a cluster of islands just off the coast of Pembrokeshire.
It has unique mixture of wildlife which makes it a magnet for visitors.
I've chosen one of the best times to visit - May.
The entire island is a reserve run by the Welsh Wildlife Trust,
and its warden is Ewan Brown.
-Welcome to Skomer.
-Thank you. Picked the right day.
-Absolutely! Lovely day.
-Absolutely glorious. A map of the island here.
Most important thing, network of footpaths, clearly marked. Please stick to these at all times.
Obviously, the puffins, everyone's favourite.
A good place to see them is the Wick - you can get within a few feet of them.
So definitely visit the Wick.
-OK. I'll spend the day exploring and we'll meet up tonight.
-Have a good day and I'll see you later tonight, Chris.
Ewan and I are meeting later for a night-time ornithological extravaganza, but first the puffins.
I've already glimpsed a group on the water.
In less than half an hour I've reached the Wick,
and puffin paradise.
For many people, the highlight of a visit to Skomer would be the puffins.
Their upright, waddling gait, their brightly coloured bill
make them many people's favourite bird. Just look at that.
One of the best things is
you can get really close to them here, without leaving the path.
Without having to break the rules.
The puffins use the numerous rabbit burrows on the island for their nests.
It's perfectly safe because there are no ground predators, like rats or foxes.
I suppose the reason why the puffin is so tame here is they are never accosted by humans.
In other parts of the world, the Faroes and Iceland, they actually catch them to eat them -
tens of thousands - and apparently they are meant to be quite tasty.
The fact you can get so close to them makes this a photographic opportunity par excellence.
I've come equipped with this thumping great lens
and it's virtually redundant, because, here, with the happy, snappy, everyday digital camera,
you can get top puffin pin-ups.
I look at these birds, with their legs right down the back of their body and their upright stance,
and I think of penguins. In a sense their wings
are being very much reduced into these flipper-like paddles.
And whilst they struggle to fly very well in the air, they fly brilliantly underwater.
And my thought is, puffins might be in the process of becoming flightless.
Like their distant cousins, penguins, at the other end of the planet.
These two puffins are doing a bit of billing behaviour.
It's a sort of a greeting.
A bit like us giving each other a peck on the cheek when we get home.
Now, if you visit Skomer in May, you're going to be in for a very pleasant surprise indeed
because you'll get to enjoy this fabulous carpet of bluebells.
Just look at it. The ground is, quite literally, blue.
Now, we do tend to think of bluebells as very much a woodland plant here in the UK.
In fact, on the continent they are a cliff-top species.
Here, they do rely on a woodland surrogate.
The bracken grows up after they've finished flowering,
and forms a dense canopy, which shades out any of their competitors,
but allows their leaves to gather the energy they need to produce the bulbs.
So the next year, you get another show just like this.
If you come out here as a day-tripper, I'm sure the puffins will be top of your pops.
But if you book in advance you can stay in a few chalets out here
and, after dark, you can witness one of Britain's greatest ornithological spectacles.
Now then, when I say spectacle, what I really mean in the literal sense is the audio equivalent.
Because just listen to that.
That is amazing.
That is the sound of tens of thousands of Manx shearwaters
coming back to their nesting bars, here on Skomer.
And it's one of the largest breeding colonies anywhere in Europe.
They are all up there in the sky - you can hear them clattering across there.
But they are quite difficult to spot. I've got this hand torch and this little thing.
Ah, very fetching.
The shearwaters come in at night, particularly when there's little or no moon,
to avoid being spotted and eaten by the larger gulls.
They spend most of their life far out at sea.
So on land they're rather clumsy.
Like the puffins, they use old rabbit burrows for their nests.
You've got one there.
The warden, Ewan, is licensed to handle these birds because he's monitoring the population.
Be careful of the claws because they are actually quite sharp.
-They're designed for digging burrows.
What about the face?
They've got this beautiful black, velvety plumage.
And, obviously, if you notice the bill, it's quite moist around the tube there.
It's probably secreting salt
-because they drink sea water.
-Let's let this one go.
-We'd better let it go.
-We've had it a while.
The cacophony sounds chaotic but, in fact,
each bird can recognise the sound of its mate calling from the nest.
Absolutely, and it's amazing to think that every one is probably individual, as well.
-To our ears, we can actually hear the difference between male and female.
Go on, I don't know that.
The males sound like Mr Punch, there's high frequencies in there.
The females are a lot more, sort of, gruff.
-That's a male.
-That's a male.
-Yeah. With the high frequency.
But even the few birds we've just heard sound different, don't they?
So you can imagine the shearwater that's tuned into that sound, they certainly know who each other is.
GRUFF BIRD CALL
-That's distinctly different.
-Absolutely, that's the female.
It doesn't have that squeal, that pealing at the end, does it?
No. That's right. It's a lot lower, isn't it?
There is a folklore, as well, that shipwrecked sailors were terrorised so much by the sounds
that they thought were the sounds of haunted souls, that they threw themselves off the cliff.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd - 2006
E-mail [email protected]