Bardsey Blog 01 – 11 September 2011
Here starts the report from the other UK field work ongoing this year by the WDCS team – the study of cetaceans around Bardsey Island off the North Coast of Wales.
After a 24 hour delay due to stormy seas, the notorious Bardsey Sound fell calm for a few hours and allowed us to cross over to our home for the next month, Bardsey or Ynys Enlli - the Island of the Currents! We quickly settled into our cottage, Ty Nant, or Brook House amid reports that another storm was brewing out in the Atlantic. Ty Nant occupies a stunning position on the north of the island with views across the hay meadows and then west out across the Irish Sea.
There are about forty people on the island at the moment; WDCS Science Team, an environmental Christian group on a pilgrimage, the island’s resident farming family and the staff at the Bird Observatory.
Living on an island, especially one as sparsely populated and as small (just 3 km long) as Bardsey, comes with its own challenges. Our cottage has no electricity just gas to power the heating, stove, refrigerator and lighting. Luckily, our vast array of electronic equipment can be charged at the Observatory just down the track or by our latest very exciting piece of kit, the Power Gorilla!
Safety here is paramount as the island is regularly cut off from the rest of the world for days, sometimes weeks, when the weather turns in. If, however, you were injured and needed helicopter assistance, there’s a very good chance that the future King of England, aka HRH Prince William, would come to your rescue, as he’s stationed nearby on Anglesey.
The resident Bird Observatory warden gives all visitors a presentation early on during their stay highlighting the amazing variety of birds that come through Bardsey underlining its important location as a prime migration route. It’s not just the birds that the Observatory collects data on. It also records moths, butterflies and marine mammals – primarily the Grey seals and dolphins that frequent its waters. There are an estimated 400 Grey seals here at the moment and now, in early September, we are starting to see the first of the seal pups with a current count of four.
By the end of the season about 30 seal pups will have been born on the rocky beaches and sheltered coves of Bardsey. Link here to see what the WDCS Director of Science has to say about his encounter with the seals.
The weather is particularly challenging at the moment with wind speeds of 50+ mph screaming across the sea. The weather has no obvious effect on the reason we are here on this island paradise – the Risso’s dolphin. This mysterious and elusive dolphin is frequently encountered around the island and the neighbouring mainland peninsular. They are often spotted with young and Sunday was no exception, as we witnessed a group of six adults with two calves breaching and surfing in high seas just a hundred metres offshore at the north end of the island. This appears to be a typical travel pattern, as from our previous land-based surveys we observed the dolphins arriving from the north east coming very close along the north west shore before heading west back out to sea again. Even with hurricanes Jack, Irene and Katia turning the waters around Bardsey to a bubble bath of froth, the Risso’s have still been spotted frolicking in the waves on six out of the last eight days.
Hopefully, as this current weather systems blows through we’ll be able to establish our two land based viewing platforms and set a schedule for our boat surveys……..
Bardsey Blog 01 – 11 September 2011