At 170 pages, the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory Report 2010
is an incredibly detailed and impeccably produced title for such a small expanse of land: occupying just 440 acres off the Lleyn Peninsula, the island is no more than a mile in length. Compare this to the Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report
for the same year, which weighs in at 240 pages and covers the entirety of one of Britain's most dynamic and 'birdy' counties! Any fears that 170 pages could equate to low quality and extensive waffle were quickly swept aside on the first flick-through: the content looked fascinating and well presented, and there were plenty of gripping photos to boot. I couldn't wait to get started.
Following the introductory warden's report, a 23-page seasonal summary takes us on a journey from March through to December, discussing the arrival and occurrence of birds on the island, as well as giving an overall summary of breeding success in the summer section. Essentially, this is a condensed annual review that allows the reader to apply chronological order to the following, more detailed, species accounts. Unsurprisingly, September and October are the most detailed months, and give an almost daily breakdown of ornithological events and occurrences on Bardsey, while accompanying photos and extracts from finders' accounts make the entire section a fascinating read.
If the summary was impressive, the main body of the publication — the species accounts — are simply excellent. Concise (yet complete) text is illustrated by a plethora of graphs, tables and images that portray each species recorded with an intricate level of detail. The statuses of many of the commoner species are expressed in tables containing maximum counts and 'bird-days', while migrant counts are often represented by graphs illustrating the fluctuation of maximum counts throughout the migration season. Many of the more notable migrants (e.g. Grey Phalarope, Black Redstart) are illustrated with photographs taken on the island during the year. Following this is a section detailing Bardsey's breeding birds, providing information on the number of pairs and young produced, productivity, and trends in comparison to recent years. Towards the end of the report, a similar section is dedicated to the butterflies and moths of the island, successfully fulfilling the wider 'Field Observatory' status given in the report's title. While it is easy to marvel at the depth and quality of content, it must be remembered that such data has to be obtained via fieldwork in the first place and, for that, full credit must go to the Bardsey crew — what an observant, enthusiastic and patient bunch they must be!
For me, one of the highlights was the appealing collection of colour photo-collages following the species accounts, which depict some of the many highlights of Bardsey's birding year over seven pages. In contrast to many bird reports that simply list images in a taxonomic order, the report's collages are produced with both thought and taste: themes such as "Rarities", "Ringing" and "Autumn Sea Passage" are each given a one-page spread, and help to give a feel for birding on the island. For completeness, an eighth collage is dedicated to some of the non-avian highlights of the year.
Next up are several features; these are more extensive articles which discuss the Manx Shearwater breeding census, migrant dates, ringing totals and recoveries, and accounts of some of the rarest birds seen during the year among other topics. Once again, these provide a fascinating insight into the birds of the island as well as the day-to-day efforts of the observatory to monitor migration. I found the ringing total table of significant interest: it was amazing to learn that almost 38,000 Manxies have been ringed on the island in the observatory's history. I also particularly enjoyed the finder's account of the White-throated Sparrow, which occurred on the island the same day as a Greenish Warbler — a true definition of east meets west!
To summarise, this really is a fantastic piece of work, which has evidently had a great deal of focus and effort poured into its production; let that be a lesson to those annual reports that are assembled half-heartedly and lack any sort of attention to detail! It conveys the quality of bird and wildlife-watching on Bardsey throughout the seasons in colourful and enthusiastic manner, while also proving informative and educational. When combining a read of this report with a quick look at the bird news from the fantastically productive spring that Bardsey has just enjoyed, the temptation to book a visit the island becomes almost irresistible, particularly during the peak migration seasons. Priced at a very reasonable £10 (iPad version available for £5), this is a great publication from a great team on a great little island — congratulations all round!
The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.