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18 June 2014
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Activities | Islands

Nature spotting


Our islands offer amazing opportunities for wildlife watching. Why not take a few tips from the Hands on Nature team as we get close to wildlife with three activities that you can participate in at home.

Puffin watching - compulsive fun!

These are three different activities that you can try out for yourselves throughout the year in island locations:

Bird watching on Skomer Island

puffinNo trip to Skomer would be complete without a visit to see the island's birds. For many visitors, Puffin and Manx Shearwater watching can be highlights of any bird spotting trip.

Top birding tips

* The best place to see the Puffins is at the Wick where you can get within a few feet of them by following marked pathways.

* Puffin season runs from May to August.

* The Manx Shearwater is characterised by its beautiful black plumage and webbed feet.

* To see the amazing ornithological spectacle of Manx Shearwater, book in advance and stay overnight at the island's chalets.

* The Manx Shearwater are best seen at night when they put on a fantastic audio show - they can be identified by their distinctive calls. The male makes a high pitched noise resembling Mr Punch whilst the female sounds more gruff.

Grey Seals c/o William ShielSeal spotting on the Farnes

Seal spotting is a great way of getting close to island wildlife at the Farnes.

Hands on Nature tells you how to spot the difference between Grey Seals and Common Seals.

Fact file

* Atlantic Grey Seals are bigger than a Common Seal - they are characterised by their Roman noses.

* Grey Seals are inquisitive creatures. Take an underwater camera to get good close up shots, but don't forget to attach the camera to your wrist.

* Whilst cumbersome on land, Grey Seals are athletes when in the water. The seals can swim up to 100 kilometres a day.

* Grey Seals can hold their breath for an hour and a half underwater, and can dive to depths of almost 1,500 metres.

* Take a boat from Seahouses - most visitors land at Inner Farne. The journey takes 30 minutes and a visit lasts about two hours.

Bird watching on the Farne Islands

Group of Puffins c/o William ShielBird spotting is great fun on the Farnes with a huge variety of different birds to look out for.

The Farne Islands are the Heathrow Airport of the wildlife world with birds landing and taking off every few minutes, creating one of nature's great spectacles.

Amongst the many birds are Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots and Arctic Terns.

Arctic Tern c/o RSPBTop tips: Arctic Terns

* Arctic Terns have uniformly blood red bills and short red legs.

* Sandwich Terns have black legs and black bills with a yellow tip.

* Arctic Terns live for 30 years and cover 650,000 miles of flying distances in their lives.

* The terns can be found on the grassy areas in the middle of the island.

Underwater nature off the Isles of Scilly

ScillyOne of the most rewarding experiences at the Isles of Scilly is watching nature underwater.

Go under the sea to get a spectacular nature watcher's view of the rich marine life and mammals which live in the islands' waters.

Top tips

* Use a cheap underwater camera to capture photographs.

* Carry an underwater sketch pad/note book.

* Wear the correct equipment - a mask and snorkelling kit. Don't forget to spin on your mask and then rinse it before diving - this will prevent it from steaming up. Don't breathe through your snorkel if it is full of water.

* Watch out for seals coming up behind you - they are very curious creatures.

* Don't touch the seals as they are sensitive and you may frighten them. Let the seals come to you.

* Book in advance. Most seal trips run from St Mary's Island.



Watch and Listen

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Today's video clip:

Manx Shearwater

Hands on Nature


On the rest of the web

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Bird at Skomer

access to Skomer
How to get there, opening times and visitor info.

Bird watching on Skomer Island.


Farne Island puffins

access to the Farnes
How to get there, opening times and boat trips.

Seal spotting and bird watching on the Farnes.

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