Located off the coast of Anglesey, North Wales, Puffin Island is an important conservation area which is home to at least 10 species of seabird.
The Shropshire, Conway and Anglesey ringing group (SCAN) has been studying the birds on Puffin Island since 1982. In 2009, the group formed a new partnership with researchers from the University of Liverpool, Roehampton University, Bangor University and the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB). This facilitated more research and enhanced the conservation effort.
The History of Puffin Island
A hermitage was established on Puffin Island in the 5th or 6th century. This was the work of Saint Seiriol, the son of Owain Ddantgwyn, the 5th century monarch of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Seiriol had founded an ecclesiastical settlement on Anglesey but later abandoned this and relocated to Puffin Island where his remains are thought to be.
King Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd is said to have sheltered on Puffin Island when fleeing an invasion of his land by the Kingdom of Northumbria around AD630. A monastery was built on the Island in the 12th century and the ruins of several buildings are still visible today. These include a 12th century church of which only the central tower and the foundations of the nave remain.
Puffin Island has always boasted an abundance of marine life due to the strong currents in the area, particularly around the north coast. As the name would suggest, the island was notable for its puffins. Unfortunately, in the late 19th century the brown rat was accidently introduced to the island. The predatory rats reduced the population of puffins on the island from 2,000 breeding pairs to just a handful. In 1998 the Countryside Council for Wales began a poisoning programme and this eradicated the vermin. Sadly, there are still only 8 breeding pairs of puffins on the island.
Puffin Island is a Special Protection Area (SPA) and is home to great cormorants, guillemots, razorbills, shags, kittiwakes, herring gulls and both lesser and great black-throated gulls. Sadly, with the exception of the Cormorant, all of these birds feature on the red and Amber lists of threatened species.
The herring gull is of particular concern to conservationists. This bird features on the red list and is one of the UK’s most threatened seabirds. Over the last 50 years their numbers have declined by more than 50% but they seem to have something of a stronghold on Puffin Island.
Visiting Puffin Island
Puffin Island is a protected area and so it isn’t possibly to visit without permission, and this is unlikely to be granted. However, you can sail around the island to view the birds. Several operators offer trips from Beaumaris on Anglesey. If you enjoy watching seabirds, a trip around Puffin Island should certainly be added to your wish list!