After a deluge of rain overnight, the drenching rainclouds slowly abated in the hours preluding sunrise; a dramatic veil of mist clung to the island for most of the day, lifting only towards the day’s end and revealing a burning sun and bright blue skies.
Its the ever-changing weather conditions that make life on Bardsey so interesting!
Day 2 of 30 Days Wild was a busy one for me, although a particular highlight was helping my Mum out with some National Vegetation Classification (NVC) surveying on the island’s south tip.
My Mum works as an ecologist for RSPB here on the island, where monitoring the unique and diverse habitats of Bardsey is crucial to inform the appropriate management for their flourishing condition.
Whilst Phase 1 habitat surveys have been carried out intermittently in the past, there has only been one broad attempt at a NVC survey two decades ago. Phase 1 surveys provide a useful and rapid system for recording wildlife habitats within broad divisions; in contrast, the NVC system is far more detailed and provides a classification system for more specific floral communities – a key tool in assessing sites at regional, national & international scales.
Mum is currently undertaking a detailed NVC of Bardey’s varied habitats, which is part of a wider project across Wales looking particularly at its maritime communities. The survey consists of first dividing an area into its general homogenous habitat types, before using at least five quadrat sampling points to derive more specific information on the species present and their relative abundance.
Today’s location for surveying was a general community known as ‘MC8’: grassland dominated by Thrift (Armeria maritima) and Fescue grass (Festuca rubra). Within this community are sub-community divisions that can be assigned depending on the relative dominance of other species, such as Buck’s-horn & Sea Plantain, Spring Squill, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Bent-grass.
This survey will help put the island’s habitats into a wider national context and reveal how our unique abiotic influences bring about variations to the traditional NVC categories – the interesting part!
I was also lucky enough to help the BBFO staff in ringing one of the island’s Peregrine Falcon chicks. Unfortunately it seems that this year we only have two pairs of these superb raptors, and the sole breeding pair have managed to hatch out just the one chick too. It was still great to see: looking well-fed in it’s Manx Shearwater corpse-strewn ‘nest’, alongside the bones and legs of Feral Pigeons!
Whilst wandering along the the island’s coast in the morning, it was hard not to stumble across the ‘camouflaged’ nests of Oystercatchers. Whilst their brown eggs speckled with black markings are very hard to spot against some substrates, they stand out far more on others! I always find it intriguing how different pairs chose a specific item to decorate their scrapes with: sometime broken gorse twigs, sometime small rocks; sometime broken limpet shells, and other time even dried sheep droppings!
Whilst we are isolated out here on Bardsey, separated from the restless mainland by a 2-mile stretch of water, you can’t shy away from the occurrences of national and international gravity. It was both infuriating and deeply worrying to hear of Trump’s ongoing determination to try and step back on the 2015 Paris agreement on Global Climate Change. The US is the World’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and so its actions will have huge consequences to making or breaking targets such as the 2’C threshold on warming.
It just serves to remind us that we all need to act if we are to secure the necessary decreases in emissions. There is no point playing the ‘it’s down to you – the next generation’ card in bringing about change. We are here NOW, and change NEEDS to happen. And it starts at an individual level. Driving less, flying less, effective recycling, reducing wastage, petitioning, campaigning.
Do something #Wild this month and give our natural world a helping hand!