30 Days Wild | Day 12

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June is conventionally a month of blazing sunshine, tranquil seas and gentle sea breezes – not so this year! It feels like we’ve had weeks of incessant wind weather and showery conditions, which isn’t great news for breeding birds, nor for finding what insect life subsists on a remote, windswept island. There is still plenty of wildlife around, and the dramatic light makes for some great images…

It was another breezy day today, although most of the morning was spent in the lee of Bardsey Mountain counting seabird nests and chicks on the East Side. Liam and I zig-zagged our way up and down the slopes to map out this year’s breeding pairs of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls; we then clambered about the cliff ledges to estimate the Razorbill, Guillemot and Puffin populations in some of the bigger island colonies.

We recorded some 1200 Razorbills in the largest breeding area, which should be closer to 2500 based on previous years. Likewise, there were very few chicks to be seen in the gulls colonies, which may be a product of a rather late visit. We’ll have to do some repeat counts before drawing conclusions about this year’s breeding numbers though…

It’s always fantastic to visit the island’s seabird colonies, being immersed in the hubub of activity, the sound, the smell and the superb species that transform this desolate stretch of coast into a bustling city for a few months each year. The slopes were carpeted in Sheep’s Bit Scabious, Thrift, Ranuncunulses and Foxgloves…

I took a little time to appreciate one of the island’s rarer lichen species today too: the dazzling Golden Hair Lichen (Teloschistes flavicans). This intricately-branched, brightly-coloured lichen occurs in a few isolated clumps atop rocky outcrops around the mountain. Ongoing monitoring indicates that it seems to be increasing in abundance here, even though it is a nationally scarce species in Britain and has hugely contracted its range across the country over the last 100 years. Even by lichen standards the golden hair is very sensitive to pollution, particularly sulfur dioxides, which explains it’s disappearance in parts of the UK following the industrial revolution.

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Golden Hair Lichen and a backdrop of Pen Diban
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Close up
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Even closer

Golden Hair Lichen is a shrubby, or fruticose, lichen that resides in the family Teloschistes: translating from latin into ‘split ends’ . You can find out more about these fascinating organisms on the British Lichen Society website

In the afternoon I was very happy to successfully retrieve another GPS logger from one of the shearwaters Steve and I tagged last week. Thankfully this tag had actually worked: the tense moment after plugging the device into my laptop was followed by elation when this GPS track appeared on the screen…

This bird spent at least six days at sea after swapping incubation duties with its partner. It rapidly made the 160km journey to the waters of the Isle of Man in its first night and morning, before spending five days foraging in these waters and then heading home to Bardsey. The tag ran out of battery power on the bird’s return trip just off the Skerries.

Steve and I managed to deploy a further four tags this evening, and so fingers crossed that we’ll be getting plenty more data back to really start getting an insight into the areas our breeding birds are utlising.

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