Rob Lott wraps up the Bardsey blog for 2010 with an island perspective.
As the sun sets on another successful field season in North Wales, it is time for us to pack up, say goodbye and, like the birds of Bardsey, migrate south.
Some of Team Bardsey (“Life Aquatic”) managed to spend two weeks on this island paradise while the rest continued their sea watch from the mainland. Our comfortable base on the island was the Bardsey Birds Observatory and the wardens there gave us a warm welcome. Anyone staying on Bardsey can’t help but get caught up in the buzz of birdlife you get to see here – especially this time of year with the migration in full swing. And yes, we were there primarily to document the marine life but here are a few things I learned about our feathered friends. The wardens were kindly on hand to answer my most searing questions.
The most abundant bird in the world is….the chicken!
Seriously though, Bardsey is home to a true record breaker. A female Manx Shearwater (whose Latin name incidentally is Puffinus puffinus!) that breeds on the island is thought to be ….drum roll please….the oldest wild bird in the world. She was first ringed in 1957 as an adult and has made the incredible journey from North Wales to Argentina and back every year for over 50 years.
Sadly, she hasn’t been seen since 2008 so she may or may not still be with us but still holds a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
At school, I was always told that the smallest British bird was the Wren. Not so, it is in fact the Goldcrest and they were seen many times on the island. These are in fact the smallest birds in Europe and weigh less than a pound coin. Trained wardens ring the Goldcrests that come through Bardsey and the information gathered from this feeds into important conservation management plans for the protection of the species and its habitat.
Is this the Bardsey blog or the Birdsey blog??
During our field season, we were fortunate enough to see Risso’s dolphins on five different occasions and harbour porpoise most days when the sea was flat. We also had a few encounters with bottlenose dolphins on the south coast of the Llyn peninsula (we even managed to photograph one distinct animal on the two different occasions which is called a recapture!). Our winter project now will be to number crunch all the gathered data which will hopefully add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle and explain why this area is so special to the mysterious and elusive Risso’s dolphin (and the other cetaceans of course!).
No Bardsey blog would be complete without a mention of the abundant grey seal population that inhabits the island. They were our constant companions on this tiny kingdom and our visit just happened to coincide with seal pup season. It seemed that each day a new white fur ball appeared in the sheltered coves and beaches around the island. In the evenings, when it was calm, you could hear the eerie moans of the seals wafting through the night air.
My abiding memories of this very spiritual place will be the stunning Celtic sunsets, the wealth of marine wildlife and staring up at the star-studded night skies watching the Milky Way snaking overhead.
It just leaves me to thank the Team, without whose passion, hard work and enthusiasm none of this would have been possible. So please take a well deserved bow, Pine, Bea, Mike, Pablo, Pete, Sion, Jacki, Charlotte, Sam, Angela, Rachel, Laura and Mark.
Team Bardsey, I salute you!