Posted 21st May 2018
Have you got to hear the sound of the Manx shearwater, calling through a wild night?
Night will seem to fall like a blanket, muffling the sounds of the day. Offshore, the black and white birds are gathering, with thousands of Manx shearwaters in large rafts appearing like a dark stain on the water's surface. Above the old farm, there will be the first whoosh of feathers ruffling the air, as the noise starts off slowly before building into a crooning wail, as crowing howls and gurgling screams take over, and the screams of the shearwaters' calls begins to come from the sky, the land and underfoot. Gentle torch light will provide a glimpse of their white underwings as thousands of Manxies search the island for their burrows. Half the worlds' population seems to come home for the night, while their home is the islands of Skokholm and Skomer.
The Manx shearwater is a relatively small seabird, similar to the size of a collared dove but also with a wingspan of up to 90cm. Black above and white below, they have a distinctive flight pattern and stiff wings end them their name, as they use the air currents passing just above the surfaces of the waves to 'shear' with barely a wind beat to propel them. Manx shearwaters make the extraordinary journey across the Atlantic from the coast of South America to nest on the off-shore islands along the western coast from March to August.
How to do it
Plan! Accommodation on Skomer and Skokholm is limited, so it's worth booking up in advance.
If you can't get to the special places listed below...
Manx shearwaters can be seen migrating past our coastline during the late summer.
During the summer, you can stay overnight on both the islands of Skomer and Skokholm, off the Pembrokeshire coast. Along with the Manx shearwaters, the islands are home to thousands of seabirds, which include 6,000 pairs of puffins and grey seals.
In August, you can accompany the Wardens on Skokholm Island as they measure and weigh the rarely seen (and incredibly cute) storm petrel and Manx shearwater chicks. You can learn about their amazing homing instincts, predators and the incredible journey once they have left the safety of their burrow.
Please note, there are no day trips to Skokholm island - only short breaks are available.
Image courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts / Amy Lewis