As Valentines Day is quickly approaching, loved up couples are busy arranging plans for romantic meals out or a walk along the beach. Whether you truly embrace that loved up Valentines Day feeling or if you’d prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist, this love story is one that will warm even the coldest of hearts.
Monogamy is a treasured value in many human cultures, but it is rare in the animal kingdom. True monogamy (mating for life) is even scarcer; especially as males are hardwired to spread their genes and females try to seek the best to father their young.
There is however, a true love story close to home.
Just a few miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire lays the magical islands of Skomer and Skokholm. These Islands are home to thousands of birds (at least part of the year) as well as a plethora of other wildlife from interesting flora, seals and the characteristic Skomer vole.
Perhaps one of Skomers most well known residents is the Atlantic Puffin. These enigmatic creatures affectionately known as clowns of the sea call Skomer home from March to late July each year. Visitors to Skomer Island will be familiar with the incredible characters of these lovable little birds.
What visitors may not know however is the epic love story surrounding these wonderful creatures. Each year thousands of Puffins return to Skomer Island to mate, often travelling up to 2,000 miles! Puffins arrive in their thousands from March to April, all hoping to secure their perfect burrow ready for nesting season.
Puffins return to nest in the same burrow year after year, although there is often competition from rabbits, Manx Shearwaters and other Puffins! Puffins would prefer to nest close to the cliff edge to make accessing the burrow after a day out fishing as easy as possible; this is why places such as The Wick on Skomer are so popular.
We’re not sure whether Puffin pairs stay together whilst out at sea, but the welcome home from their mate is always a heart warming moment. Puffin’s will usually mate with the same partner year after year, so when one individual returns to the nesting site before its mate the waiting game begins. Once the breeding pair are reunited, they perform a courtship display in order to reinforce their bond. This is known as billing, a behaviour where two birds tap their bills together. Capturing this moment is one for the photography bucket list!
Once their bond is re-established, Puffins will begin breeding in April. However, the commitment doesn’t stop there. Unlike other species within the animal kingdom, the parental duties of raising their young are shared. Adults take turns to go out to sea to fish, often coming back with bills full of sand eels. Young Puffins are affectionately called, Pufflings.
A Puffin pair will stay together until their Puffling is ready to leave the island, usually towards the end of July. The pair will then head off to sea until the next year, when they will once again reunite.
If you would like to see these wonderful creatures for yourself, why not arrange a visit to Skomer this year? Contact the team on 01656 724100 for more information or visit our website.