Are you planning on coming to Bardsey to Stay at the Bardsey Lodge, or Bardsey Trust Cottages, or even on a day visit with Bardsey Boat Trips? If so, why not come and join the Bardsey Bird Observatory staff on a guided wildlife walk and learn about the island, with our local expertise on the staggering array of wildlife to be found here. We offer three different walks each week (see below). All are welcome to join us. Cost is £10 per person per walk (£5 for children). It is unlikely that the day trip boats will coincide with the timings of the guided walks, but we may be able to offer a bespoke guided trip - see below.
General Wildlife Walks
We run a guided walk once each week for visitors staying on the island, though the exact day varies due to weather and other commitments. We take a circuit of the middle of the island, normally lasting two or three hours, encompassing the west slope of the mountain, the coast, the central lowlands and bird hotspots such as Pen Cristin, Solfach and The Narrows. It’s a fairly easy walk, although at some times of year (particularly March-April and September-November, but generally whenever it’s rained a lot in the previous few weeks) Wellies are advisable.
Visitors at the start of the guided walk
On Pen Cristin having seen the seabirds
Looking at the Golden-hair Lichen
On the Narrows being shown how to identify immature gulls
What you will see varies widely depending on the time of year, but there are plenty of regular staples like the acrobatic Choughs, and large numbers of Grey Seals loafing on the rocks in Henllwyn. Spring sees the first wildflowers in bloom, and a good chance of migrant birds (too many potential species to mention!) alongside those breeding on the island, which include Wheatears, Stonechats, Peregrines and Ravens. Summer sees the meadows in full bloom, with Butterflies like Green-veined White and Small Copper on the wing as will as uncommon plants include Small Adder’s-tongue Fern, Sharp Rush and Western Clover.
By autumn and the main focus is again on birds, although the beautiful orchid Autumn Lady’s-tresses can sometimes bloom in spectacular numbers in August and early September. Migration is in full swing by late September, with a good chance of arrivals of migrant Warblers (mainly in August-September) like Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats, or Finches and Thrushes (mainly in October) like Siskins, Chaffinches and Redwings. The list of species we could potentially see is vast, and no two days are alike! Occasionally rare birds like Black-browed Albatross, Citrine Wagtail and Western Bonelli’s Warbler have all been seen in recent years, with the last two years in particular producing record numbers of “drift migrants” such as Yellow-browed and Icterine Warblers. The chance of seeing a scarcity, or even a major rarity, is higher in September and October than at any other time of year.
Alongside all this excitement, there’s much unique and under-appreciated fauna on the island, such as the rare Golden-hair Lichen. Bardsey is a good spot to find cetaceans, with Harbour Porpoises frequent throughout the year, Risso’s Dolphins frequently recorded in late summer/early autumn and annual but irregular reports of Common Dolphin. Even Minke and Killer Whales have been seen offshore in recent years!
'Meet the Manxies'
an adult Manx Shearwater
From April to August, Bardsey is home to one of the largest colonies of Manx Shearwater in the world with a staggering 21,000 pairs nesting here. Ringing studies taking part on the island have recorded the presence of one Shearwater at least 54 years of age, at the time it was last trapped in 2008 it was the oldest wild bird currently known to science! This elegant, oceanic species can often be seen out to sea during the day, riding the wind and banking over waves while its wingtips almost clip the surf (hence the family name “Shearwater”). They only visit Bardsey itself after dark, when the cackling, almost demonic cries of up to 42,000 Shearwaters resonate across the island.
guests waiting for the first shearwaters to arrive
Joining the Bird Observatory staff for a night walk (once a week - but not round the FULL MOON weeks), you will be able to get up close and personal with this mysterious and charismatic species, as they utilise the cover of darkness to visit their burrows and their chicks. Shearwaters, for all their elegance on the open oceans, are remarkably cumbersome on land. This means that, with a careful and responsible approach, it is possible to get fantastic views of them, and a very rare insight into the lives of one of Britain’s most secretive breeding birds.
Guest holding a shearwater
We begin each walk with a fifteen minute talk and presentation in our information center/gift shop. When possible, we will try and coincide these walks with Storm Petrel ringing run during the summer months, giving visitors the chance to see another exclusively nocturnal and incredibly elusive visitor to Bardsey! This walk is only available to guests staying overnight on the island.
Listening to the informative talk about the life of a shearwater
Mark showing guests a Storm Petrel
Manx Shearwater Chicks
A fluffy shearwater chick in August
While the adult Manx Shearwaters feed offshore during the hours of light, their chicks bide away the day in one of thousands of burrows found all across the island. Observatory staff are all qualified and licenced to handle these chicks as part of our ongoing research into Manx Shearwaters, and we are able to offer visitors a rare opportunity to see a young shearwaters. Initially, when they hatch in late June, they resemble nothing more than a fluffy grey pom-pom, though soon becoming the size of a football as they get fed by their parents, with the characteristic long bill of a Shearwater, they’re quite a sight! Like our other walks, this one will be run once a week, whenever the weather looks most suitable.
One of our adoptors being shown 'her' shearwater chick
see http://www.bbfo.org.uk/adopt-a-manxie/ for more info on adoptions
A Shearwater chick just a few weeks before it fledged
How to Book your place on a guided walk
Guests who are booked to stay at the Bardsey Trust cottages and the Bardsey Lodge are sent full crossing details and instructions when they book with either the Lodge or the Bardsey Trust. For staying guests, bookings for guided walks can be made upon arrival. A member of the Observatory staff will call round to your cottage (usually on a Sunday) to take bookings and find out if you wish to join us. There will also be a sign at the Lodge giving details of time of the walks each week.
Day visitors wishing to join one of our guided walks on a day trip need to book the boat directly with Bardsey Boat Trips http://www.bardseyboattrips.com. However, they should contact the Observatory Warden first to find out which day, the guided walks are available email email@example.com. The cost of the boat should be paid to the skipper of the boat on the day and the cost of the walks will be paid to the Observatory staff on the island. Bespoke nature walks are available on any day to suite at a cost of £15 per person, with a minimum of 3 people in the group (or £30 for two people £45 one person). Again bookings for the boats need to be confirmed with Bardsey Boat Trips separately after contacting the Observatory Warden with you requirements.
For information about the boat crossings, please contact Colin Evans on 07971 769895.