With huge thanks to the Martin Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust, BTO Cymru and Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory, an event was held for students studying at Welsh universities to get together with nature, conservation and what’s out there beyond their doorstep as common ground whilst staying at the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory (BBFO) at the end of April. The universities that attended were Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea.
Over the course of our week we were spoilt with what Bardsey has to offer; the stunning scenery, constant call of Grey Seals and of course the ever-present reminder that there were a few thousand pairs of Manx Shearwaters as their cackling call carried across the whole island throughout the night. Whilst on the island we experienced practically everything the British weather can throw at us, from calm days where the sea was like a duck pond to gale force winds as Storm Gareth giving everything it got, resulting on us being stranded on the island for an extra day, which in hind sight is never a bad sight when you’re on Bardsey.
Our week consisted of many activities from the fiercely competitive bird-race and trivial quiz to Manx Shearwater ringing and moth trapping, but what was so great about this week was that each student had something to offer with their knowledge about the natural world, meaning everyone came away learning something new, be it about the flora of Bardsey and seeing Small Adder’s Tongue or delving into Lepidoptera and learning about moths. What I can say is this trip was a huge success; it connected Welsh University students who all had a common interest and placed them in one location, long term friendships were made and most importantly we learned so much from this week.
On behalf of everyone else who attended this event I’d like to thank Steve and the rest of the BBFO staff and warden team for their hospitality. At least two students who came on this event are already heading back to Bardsey over the course of this summer to help volunteer with Manx Shearwaters. Finally, without the grant from the Martin Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust and hard work as ever from the BTO Cymru, this week would never have taken place; let’s hope a similar event can occur next year
Here are some of the fellow attendees’ thoughts on the Bardsey Welsh University Trip
Tom Williams – 2nd year Environmental Conservation Student at Bangor University
‘Staying on Bardsey Island with other students from Welsh universities was a great opportunity to observe some of the Island’s ornithological specialties in a stunning landscape. It was awesome to witness thousands of Manxies shearing past the Island each day, and then be surrounded by their strange calls as they return to their burrows each night. On top of the Island’s breeding seabirds and chough, there were also plenty of passage migrants to be seen during our stay, such as Whimbrel, various warblers, Tree pipits, and Wheatears. It was an experience I won’t soon forget and has definitely piqued my interest in birds and their conservation.’
Raphael Long – 2nd year Applied Terrestrial and Marine Ecology at Bangor University
“The sound of the Manx Shearwater colony echoing every night on Bardsey will stick with me for a long time and was what really made the stay special. The week was spent doing numerous activities, and was a greatly engaging ornithological experience for me. Taking part bird ringing, doing sea watches, exploring the island to see what was there each day was wonderful and helped boost my knowledge of how an observatory is run and what the aims and objectives of an observatory are. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in conservation and ecology, the island has huge amounts of history and is great for anyone interested in not only birds but all nature!”
Lizzie Waring – 1st year Conservation student Aberystwyth.
“Churning towards a battered island, seabirds adorning cliffs and ledges and swirling about your boat - an image I’d always thought unattainable for an average student, reserved for nature documentaries and Springwatch shorts. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to experience this in person, let alone the whirlwind of ecological experiences that awaited me once we reached the island. The observatory has an owl shaped pot, inviting guests to donate £1 for every ‘lifer’ seen on the island. I owe that owl quite a lot of money.
Whilst the island and its abundance of life astounds and amazes, it was the hospitality and guidance of the observatory staff that really made this trip incredible. I’d especially like to thank assistant wardens Sam and Lewis, for being so astoundingly friendly and sharing their time, skills and food with us. To see, unfiltered, what observatory life entails has been invaluable to my collective ecological experience, and I will take this knowledge to heart as I figure out what I’m going to do with my future.
One of the fastest ways to cement new friendships is on trips like this. Brushing your teeth with someone you met that morning, wandering around barefoot and dancing to bad music together as a stupidly big pot of pasta cooks. Reaching truly unholy levels of grimy and smelly, as a team, really brings you together.”
On behalf of BTO Cymru and the wardening staff on Bardsey a big thanks to the BTO Student Ambassadors who did so much to help organise and facilitate experience for their fellow students.
Photographs by Toby Carter.