This blog instalment comes from Harriet Alvis - a 2nd year Marine Biology student at the University of Wales, Swansea and a WDCS volunteer.
I had been volunteering with WDCS at their Chippenham office for about three months and my job there was to assist with their scientific document library.
One day in mid-September I was sat at my desk watching enviously as the WDCS Science Team packed for their latest expedition to Bardsey Island, North Wales. After expressing my interest to the Volunteer Manager who coordinates my work, I was offered the chance of joining the expedition for a couple of weeks. The timing was perfect and I jumped at the opportunity as I had a few weeks free before continuing my university studies. As a Marine Biology student with an ambition to work with cetaceans, WDCS seems like a dream job - in fact, my plan was to refuse to leave until they give me one!
So off I set on a long train journey to North Wales passing several towns I couldn’t even begin to pronounce. My attempts to get across to Bardsey were thwarted on the first day due to bad weather so I had an unplanned overnight stay in Pwllheli. The next day dawned bright and, most importantly, calm so I set off on the final leg of my journey to the very tip of the Llyn peninsula and then across by boat to Ynys Enlli – Bardsey!
I was met on the island by the Pine, WDCS’ Conservation Officer and given a quick tour of the island which revealed several new born squeal – sorry, seal pups! They got the name squeal pups as that was most people’s reaction on seeing these super cute babies for the very first time!
I was trained up on collecting data and happily spent the next few days surveying the waters around Bardsey for signs of the elusive Risso’s dolphin. People on the island had been coming up to me with that age- old annoying statement – “You should have been here last week; we had dolphins practically every day”!!
The following few days went by with little more than a passing glimpse of their unmistakeable dorsal fins and I was beginning to feel a little disheartened. Indeed, sharing a house with several bird watchers I was close to considering a change of career choice (but not quite!).
However, all the waiting was to make the afternoon of September 29th all the more exciting. Whilst on the lookout an excited call came from the terrace of the Bardsey Bird Observatory - “Risso’s!” A few shrieks and dashes for the scope and binoculars later and in our sights we had at least 8 Risso’s, including one calf! It was an amazing sight to see and we were kept entertained for over an hour as they milled around the west coast of the island, coming to the surface regularly with some wonderful acrobatic behaviour.
My experience that afternoon was definitely worth the wait and a highlight of my time on this wonderful island. A big thank you to WDCS.