I can't believe it's already been two weeks that I've been back in the "normal" world with showers, round the clock electricity, running hot water and... (drumroll) flushing toilets! I've also quickly realised that everybody seems to be in a hurry going places, but there's only one place I want to go and that's back to my magic island!
It's been an absolute fantastic experience! The island itself, like stepping back to the 1950s, but then somehow modern beyond my grasp; the Risso's dolphins and the porpoises - elusive like never before, but oh the joy when we did see them and got our hard-earned photo-ID shots of them. But it's not just about the cetaceans, there are the birds - Bardsey is on an internationally important migration route; the butterflies and moths - my two favourites being the hummingbird hawk moth that came to the fuchsia bushes at the Bird Obs regularly to feed and the crimson speckled moth found by the farmer's son, Ben, on the mountain. The haunting calls of the seals at night and seeing their newborn, megacute pups - all 11 of them that were born during our time there - will stay with me forever. For such a samll island (2.5 x 1 km), the range of habitats was amazing - from the heather-strewn mountain to the meadows and the rocky coves and beaches - stunning views all around! I have met some amazing and unique people and have come away with a real appreciation of the community spirit in this special place. I've had experiences on the island that I will forever hold dear - looking at the amazing night sky with its gazillion stars of the Milky Way clearly visible, going for a nightly stroll to find the Manx Shearwater burrows and their fluffy inhabitants, curry night at the Obs with songs and laughter, playing Bananagrams with Lis, the Obs' booking secretary, her husband, Bob, my colleague Rob and birder Simon (and me losing every game) or helping farmer Steve herding his ewes from one end of the island to the other. Rob and I have officially passed our sheepdog exam being sheepdogs that is, not actually controlling them!
Was it a good trip? Weatherwise - no! The seas were rough and the winds were high with a constant stream of hurricanes coming in from the Atlantic Ocean which made spotting our beloved cetaceans challenging. But the sun was shining a lot, giving us the opportunity to enjoy the island in all its splendour. As for the research, we did collect 24 hours of land-based data on 10 survey days and spent a total of 7.5 hours on farmer Steve's boat gathering photo-ID data of Risso's dolphins. From land, we saw a total of 25 harbour porpoise groups with 52 individuals and 14 groups of Risso's dolphins totalling 67 individuals, including five calves. From the boat, we encountered five groups of Risso's dolphins witha a total of 28 individuals, one of which was a very young calf. The valuable photo-ID pictures we collected wil enhance our current calalogue of known individuals and keep us busy during the dark winter months ahead.
All that's left for me to do now is thank Defra and Elite Couriers for their generous funding of our fieldwork and much needed equipment, my fabulous colleagues and volunteers - Rob, Mark, Vicki, Roger, Harriet and Pete for all their help and all the laughs; the Bird Obs crew - Steve Obs, Emma, Rich B, Icky Steve, Giselle and Connor for their help, advice, patience and willing enthusiasm and all the wonderful guests who were staying at the Bird Obs and were great company at all times. From the Bardsey Island Trust, special mention must go to the resident warden, Emyr, who has the most amazing vegetable garden in the whole world and looked after us beyond measure while we were staying in the Trust cottages, Nant and Hendy. And last, but by no means least, a huge thanks to the Porter family, the island's resident farmers, Steve, Jo, Rachel and Ben. You are an inspiration and have provided us with lots of happy memeories! Your willingness to help us with our project and with all our weird and wonderful requests was hugely appreciated and will never be forgotten.
It's been a pleasure meeting you all and I hope to see you all again next year!
Bardsey, I salute you! Diolch yn fawr!