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13 June 2014
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Rocky Islands - Skokholm

Bird paradise

Skokholm

Skokholm on the Pembrokeshire coast is a great place to watch sea birds in the summer. Its rocky cliffs provide a great breeding habitat for Puffins, Manx Shearwater, Guillemots and Razorbills.

Skokholm Island - a rocky island off the Welsh coast.


Skokholm has been described as 'the ultimate get-away experience'.

The island is four kilometres south west of Marloes peninsular off the south west tip of Pembrokeshire.

Skokholm Island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and forms part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

It is also part of the Pembrokeshire Islands special area of conservation

Skokholm Island's Red Cliffs - Copyright D MilbrowRugged landscape

The island is roughly a mile in length and half a mile across at its widest point (100ha).

Old Red sandstone cliffs rise from 21m in the north east to 48m in the south west and are frequently battered by storms.

This onslaught formed a coastline of deep bays and gullies exposing much of the underlying rock strata in a variety of red and purple hues.

Surrounded by cliffs the island is a plateau sloping from south west to north east with few undulations but several rocky outcrops.

Grey Seals are present in the waters around the island throughout the year, and can be seen basking on rocks at low water daily.

There are also regular sightings of Harbour Porpoise, Common, Bottlenose and Risso's Dolphins.

Sea CampionFlora and fauna

Skokholm's maritime grassland is a rare example of rabbit-maintained vegetation.

The rabbits were introduced to the island in Norman times as a source of food, and have been present ever since.

The invertebrate fauna contains many nationally rare species, and the lichens of cliffs and outcrops are of great interest.

One common sight in summer is a mass of Sea Campion which can withstand the island's dry habitat.

It's also a popular food source for the rabbit population.

Puffin with sand eels Photo by Terry CavnerSea birds

The colony of Manx Shearwaters on Skokholm and a neighbouring island represents about 50% of the world population.

Breeding Storm Petrels may be 20% of the EU population.

These two birds spend most of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed.

These largely nocturnal birds are best seen at twilight.

The island is home to 4500 Puffins, and approximately 2000 Razorbills and Guillemots breed on its cliffs.

In addition look out for Fulmars, Razorbills, and Guillemots as well as Peregrines, Buzzards, Rock Pipit, Chough and Ravens.

Razor Bills taken by Stephen and Marion FryattSomething for everyone

Near the centre of the island are a cottage and other converted farm buildings that shelter in the lee of a rocky outcrop.

These provide accommodation for staff and up to 15 residential visitors or volunteers at a time.

At the south eastern tip of the island is an unmanned lighthouse.

Skokholm has something for everyone...

Wildlife enthusiasts are in their element, artists love it, photographers snap up the opportunities to shoot the wildlife, and visitors find the experience relaxing and exhilarating.

KittiwakePhoto credits

Images of flora and fauna courtesy and copyright of Sid Howells, Terry Cavner, Stephen and Marion Fryatt and the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

 

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