For this entry i hand over to my friend and colleague, Rob Lott ...
As the Isle of Lewis field season draws to a close we’d like to say a huge thank you to Sarah, Nicola and Team Canine for their informative, inspiring and at times, emotional account of their days spent in this stunning corner of the world.
It’s now time to pass the baton to the Bardsey Island crew who will soon be heading up to North Wales to start their field season.
For those of you who have never heard of Bardsey (or Ynys Enlli as we say in my mother tongue) it’s a small island just over one and a half miles long and half a mile wide which lies just off the tip of the Lleyn peninsula.
For such a small island it has an incredibly rich spiritual heritage and Bardsey has been noted as an important place of pilgrimage since the early days of Christianity. Three pilgrimages to Bardsey were apparently equal to one to Rome.
Today Bardsey is just as famous for its stunning nature and scenery and is recognised internationally for its outstanding wildlife, in particular the birdlife, sea cliff habitats and marine wildlife.
WDCS’s interest in Bardsey was first sparked over 10 years ago. Local boat operators and visitors to Bardsey were increasingly reporting regular sightings of Risso’s dolphins around the island. So, in 1999 WDCS joined forces with the Friends of Cardigan Bay and initiated a pilot photo-identification study for Risso’s. During the study period a total of 133 Risso’s dolphins have been catalogued. Our work on Bardsey has already produced some exciting results and has demonstrated the presence of certain individuals year after year. Whatsmore, individuals identified off Bardsey have even been resighted in different parts of the UK.
WDCS is beginning to recognise the waters around Bardsey as a breeding and nursery area for Risso’s dolphin as well as an important feeding ground.
Our base on the island will be the Bird Observatory which was established in 1953 largely due to the island’s position on important migration routes. The island boasts a vast breeding colony of manx shearwaters and sizeable numbers of choughs and oystercatchers. Recent evidence suggests puffins may also be making a return to the island. Atlantic grey seals are to be seen in the rocky bays of the island and a small number breed on Bardsey each year.
WDCS will also have a base on the mainland looking across to the island monitoring the waters of Bardsey Sound.
The spirituality and sacredness of this island, together with its legendary claim to be the final resting place of King Arthur, have given the island a special place in the cultural life of Wales and has attracted artists, writers and musicians for centuries. Now, in recent years, we can add marine mammal scientists to the list.
We depart for Bardsey this weekend so please stay tuned for the Bardsey Blog.