Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli) lies across the Sound about three kilometres off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd, North Wales. It is 2.5 kilometres in length and, at its widest point, it is one kilometre across. Bardsey is a National Nature Reserve, Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Llyn Environmentally Sensitive Area.
C.A. Norris, one of the West Midland Bird Club's (then the Birmingham Bird Club's) most well known members, visited Bardsey Island, and after conversations with Alan Till, the lighthouse keeper, returned home enthused and wrote
It is remarkable that an island as well situated as Bardsey should be so little known to ornithologists.
The outcome of this enthusiasm, further trips to the island and subsequent reports, occurred the very next year when, with the West Wales Field Society and others, the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory (BBFO) was founded. At a meeting held in Aberdaron on March 1953 a committee was formed to establish a permanent Observatory on the island.
The Lord Lieutenant of Caernarvonshire was elected President, R.M. Lockley and C.A. Norris as Chairmen and W.M. Condry as Hon. Secretary. Talbot Clay (another WMBC member) was also asked to serve on the Council because of his business skills. Anyone contributing five shillings or more was enrolled as a 'Friend of Bardsey Observatory' and would receive a copy of the 'Annual Report'. The Committee made arrangements to acquire tenancy of a Victorian farmhouse on the Island. That house and outbuildings known as 'Cristin' became the Observatory we know today.
When the Island came up for sale from the previous owners, the Newborough Estate, the West Midland Bird Club was to the fore in helping raise monies to purchase Bardsey, and in 1979 the Bardsey Island Trust was formed as a registered charity, to become the new custodians of the island. As part of the constitution of the Trust, the Observatory was recognised by an undertaking of continued support.
Today, more than 50 years later, the Observatory consists of a traditional farmhouse and outbuildings with basic services, offerring self catering hostel type accommodation for up to 12 people. Electricity is provided by diesel generator which also provides power for recently installed central heating.
So far, more than 280 differrent species of bird have been recorded on the island by the Observatory with many notable rarities occurring over the years; and over 230,000 birds have been ringed. Many have been recovered which has added enormously to our knowledge of the movement of birds in Europe and further afield. Bardsey is the breeding home for thousands of Manx Shearwaters which wander south and west to the coasts of South America in our winter. One of them holds the record for the oldest known wild bird — at least 51 years old and still alive in the spring of 2004 when it was caught again in its breeding burrow on Bardsey.
The BBFO employs a full time Warden with an Assistant Warden being employed from March to November each year, to help with visitor support and maintenance of the Observatory, plus assisting the Warden in monitoring and recording the wildlife of the island, with a bias towards birds. Bardsey is the only fully accredited observatory in Wales and is one of a network of 17 bird observatories in the British Isles.
Our association with the island remains strong. The BBFO's constitution allows for three representatives on their Council from the Club, for the purpose of assisting in running the affairs of the Observatory. These are currently (as of April 2006) Nick Barlow, Bob Normand and our former Chairman, Jim Winsper. Other Club stalwarts also occupy positions on the Observatory's Council in their own right.
The BBFO's offers accommodation on a weekly basis from the beginning of March to the end of October, each year. Anyone interested in visiting should contact the Observatory's Bookings Secretary via their website.
This article was compiled from original archived material, an undated appreciation by Bob Normand, and update information from the BBFO Secretary, in August 2004.
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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