Monday, 28 September 2015

Bardsey Bird Observatory Review/Feedback

Having applied for the BTO young birder's grant to visit a bird observatory in Britain, I am required to provide a written review/feedback of my trip to the observatory so I have decided to place it here. The Bird Obs I visited is Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory. Bardsey is a small Island placed 1.9 miles off the Llŷn Peninsula in the Welsh county of Gwynedd. It was recently made famous within the birding community after having played host to the first Cretzchmar's Bunting not to be seen in the Shetland area. It's position in the Irish Sea, makes it a hotspot for particular migrants, including a great sea bird passage, not to mention the huge number of Manx Shearwater which breed on the island and are visible offshore by day. Having visited in late August, 22nd-29th, the majority of migrants hadn't quite reached the West Coast by that time and were still grounded on the east coast of Britain. However, the week still proved to be one of the most enjoyable birding weeks I have ever had, but we will get onto that later. Following the 30-minute boat trip over to the island, our first bird was a Tree Pipit which flew over whilst calling. However, I digress, this is not a summary but a review. The week was filled with plenty of activities organised by the Bird Observatory specifically for our visit, although the majority of our time was left to us just to generally go birding. Our counts were then compiled in the evening's 'Log' and were added to the official counts from the island which would be sent to the BTO or uploaded to BirdTrack. This was very compelling for me to actually observe each bird, be it common or scarce, and have those numbers make up future statistics!

One of the evenings that we were on the island was dedicated to recording and ringing Manx Shearwaters, especially adults, which is why we had to go out at night. A brief presentation by Steve (Obs Warden), before heading out was very informative and gave a perspective on Manx Shearwaters on a whole, with statistics I had previously no idea about. For example, the oldest Manx Shearwater had been ringed and recovered on Bardsey and was at least 50 years old, as well as being informed that around 90% of the worlds breeding population is contained in the United Kingdom! Being a bird in decline, makes these investigations immensely important and once again to be part of it was amazing. Some of us were allowed to ring a few individuals and encounter them at very close quarters where we could really enjoy them for what they are, instead of a black speck out to sea. A day or two after this event, we headed out to the burrows to record more Manx Shearwater numbers, this time by day as we were interested in the immature birds. We were instructed to pull some birds from their burrows (obviously not quite as crudely as I am describing), and bring them down to Steve where we would be able to process them ourselves! Another amazing experience!

During our stay we also managed to have two Bird Races, one against the Observatory staff and another against Skokholm. The Bird Race against Skokholm was throughout the week and joyfully we managed to beat them! But unfortunately the Bird Race between staff and NGBers didn't work out quite as well, due to us losing by a margin of only one species! However, James O'neill and I were able to locate a Barn Owl that evening which if it had been included could have possibly won us the competition! On our last evening Steve was kind enough to organise a quiz for us and all observatory staff. Sadly I clumsily shouted out answers resulting in my team sometimes getting slightly aggravated in me, but nevertheless the evening was very enjoyable.

On a whole the week proved to be a very memorable and enjoyable experience, meeting new people and getting to participate in the field studies of another Bird Observatory, and much more, was great fun. The adventure has encouraged me to try to volunteer at as many bird observatories across Britain and Europe as possible, hopefully starting in my Gap Year from Summer 2016.

Thank you for reading,

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