30 Days Wild | Day 5

The weather took something of a download (1)turn for the worse for day 5 of 30 Days Wild: a low pressure system moving in from the atlantic brought a deluge of sustained precipitation throughout the day, accompanied by 20-30mph south-westerly winds. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for newly-fledged chicks cowering in the brunt of the storm; and more worryingly the combination of high tides and fierce southerly swell may put many of the nesting seabirds and their eggs/chicks in danger on the island’s cliffy east side.

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The rather brisk southerly airflow currently battering against the house – screenshot taken from an interactive live weather map of wind speeds from https://earth.nullschool.net/

Owing to the grim conditions, today’s activities were mostly centred on the indoors catching up on various admin and inside jobs, although I did manage the odd bracing walk along the coast! It was brilliant to have a chat with staying visitor David Grange mid-morning, who is currently in the midst of an epic journey by kayak and foot from the Shetland Isles south to the far south-west of Cornwall. Titled ‘The Frayed Atlantic Edge’, his route has taken him along Britain’s rugged western coastline since July 2016 and it was fascinating to learn of his encounters both with the people and wildlife.

You can check out his news updates via twitter and browse through a stunningly-illustrated series of blog posts written along his journey from Britain’s far north to Ireland’s south-west. Keep an eye open for his book, which should appear next year.

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Some rather soggy-looking sheep with Goleudy Enlli (Bardsey Lighthouse) in the backdrop 

One job I was particularly keen to catch up with today was inputting some bird sightings onto Birdtrack: a brilliant online site that allows you to submit your bird records and contribute to a valuable database. This hub pools records from observers across the whole of Britain and Ireland, providing incredibly useful data on tracking species’ migrations, range changes, distributions and the monitoring of scarcer species too.

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I have been terrible at keeping up-to-date with my mainland records this year, so have a half-notebook full of sightings to submit right back to January! 

I would thoroughly recommend that anyone with a passing interest in birds tries registering with this exciting project and contribute their records. You can use interactive mapping tools to easily delineate your birding sites, or simply enter casual records whilst out and about by using the useful smartphone app on your phone.

If you are interested, a few useful pointers to maximise the usefulness of your records:

  • use a notebook, and try drawing sketches or noting down interesting behaviour whilst in the field
  • try to count all the species you see, as opposed to just the more interesting ones
  • estimate numbers as best you can, but try and be accurate
  • make sure you note down the times of your observations, and the weather conditions can be a useful addition

The results of Birdtrack provide some very interesting insights into aspects such as the arrival dates of common migrants. Taking a quick look on the site today I pulled up a map for Spotted Flycatchers: it’s been a very poor spring for them on Bardsey, and this appears to be mirrored across the country, with the reporting rate substantially below the historical average…

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This year’s reporting rate for Spotted Flycatchers in the UK – worryingly low compared to previous years

After lunch I headed down to the Narrows at low tide to spend half an hour rooting around the strand line. Why? this weekend was the Great European Nurdle Hunt, coordinated online and getting the general public to head to their nearest beach in search of the insidious little plastic pellets called ‘Nurdles’. TGNH_Logo_European

Nurdles are small bits of plastic that are used in their billions each year to manufacture plastic products. Their small size makes them liable to being spilt and lost during transportation and handling, and so they can end up polluting the natural environment in gastronomic numbers. You can find out much more info about them and their negative impacts here

It was reassuring to ‘only’ find some 40 Nurdles in the space of half an hour’s search, but then on the other hand I’ve never actually seen a nurdle on Bardsey. Discovering them amongst the seaweed and shingle is worrying considering we’re in such a remote corner of Wales, but taking a look at the interactive map shows that nurdle hunters at the nearby Porth Neigwl found between 100-1000 in just 20 minutes! I helped out with the Great Winter Nurdle Hunt in Cornwall a few months ago and found thousands in just a few square metres of beach

Whilst walking along the coast after nurdle hunting, I came across an Oystercatcher nest with three freshly-hatched chicks in, looking pretty miserable in the wind and rain! it was awesome to see thousands of Manx Shearwaters shearing low over the waves as they piled past the coast. Gannets, Puffins, Kittiwakes and auks were all battling into the winds too.

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Oystercatcher chicks hatch out in a state known as ‘precocial’, covered in down and with eyes open. They will soon leave the nest on able legs and rely on their camouflage for protection. 

 

 

 

 

 

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A superb Manx Shearwater, this image taken in calmer times whilst crossing the sound last week

Tomorrow looks just as breezy but somewhat brighter, so more seawatching is on the cards I think!

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