Bardsey is renowned for its wildlife and is a perfect place to see choughs, grey seals, puffins and manx shearwaters. There have been 310 species of birds recorded on the island.
Bardsey is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a site which is both nationally and internationally important for wildlife. The wide range of special interest includes birds, with Bardsey sitting on a key migratory route for Europe's birds, rare flowering plants, lichens, liverworts and mosses, coastal grassland and heathland, seacliff ledges and marine wildlife.
The Bardsey Island Trust, as owners, and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), as the Welsh government's advisory body on wildlife conservation, ensure that the island's wildlife interest is protected for the future. The important features of the island's natural history are managed through the island farm.
A strong colony of up to 200 Atlantic grey seals can be seen in the rocky bays of the island. A small number breed on Bardsey each year.
The seas around the island, with their forests of strap seaweed, are rich in marine life. In the rock pools you can see anemones, crabs and small fish, and in the deeper waters, filter-feeders such as sponges and sea-squirts cushion the rocks. One offshore species, the yellow star anemone, is more commonly found in the Mediterranean. Risso’s dolphins and harbour porpoises are frequently seen in the waters off the island.
Along the coastal margin, the spring squill makes hazy blue carpets in early spring. It’s followed by dense tufts of thrift and patches of thyme and, later on, the bell heather and ling. The rarer plants include western clover and small adder’s tongue. Amongst the most notable of the plants are the lichens, of which Bardsey has a rich variety of over 350 species.
Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory
The Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory opened in 1953. The island lies in the the spring and autumn migration paths of many birds and is home to the eye-catching choughs and oystercatchers; it is also common to see herons, peregrine falcons, wheatears, warblers and little owls, as well as sea birds such as gannets, razorbills and shags. Recent evidence suggests that puffins may be colonising the island too. The island is mostly associated, however, with the manx shearwater - there is strong breeding colony of 20,000 pairs on the island.
Read more about the work of the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory here.
Farming on Bardsey
After many year’s absence, cattle were reintroduced to the island in 2008 to help graze the heathland and wetland habitats. This grazing regime is part of a holistic farming system that works sensitively within the fragile ecosystem of the island and adds to its biodiversity. One added bonus of the cattle is that the specialised beetles in their dung are a much-needed source of food for young chough to build up their strength for the journey to their wintering grounds on the mainland.
The farmer, Gareth Roberts and Steve and Jo Porter who live on the island work closely with Natural Resources Wales, RSPB and the Bardsey Island Trust to manage the farm for the wildlife that makes the island so special. The Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory also help by monitoring the effect of the farming regime on the island’s resident birds.