BBFO: The Internship

From July 27th through to September 2nd, I found myself situated on the island of Bardsey ready to spend 5 weeks there as part of my Autumn Internship, kindly offered to me by the Bardsey Bird & Field Observatory Warden Steve Stansfield, having been impressed with my work at the observatory earlier in the year for my college work experience.

Bardsey Dunlin 2_edited-1

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) – One of the first migrant waders to start passing through Bardsey and this individual proved it self a cooperative photography subject.

I first experienced life on Bardsey back in August 2016 whilst on a Next Generation Birders (NGB) trip to the island where I simply fell head over heels for the place: birds were coming in both quantity as well as quality, coating every bit of vegetation in sight, the scenery was utterly breath-taking and a good half hour after scaling the mountain you’d be rewarded with a transfixing view across not only Enlli its self, but also across the Irish sea into the heart of Co. Wexford. But that’s not all that Bardsey has to offer, as just as important as the birdlife is the botanical side of the island with nationally scarce Sharp Rush (Juncus acutus), Small Adders Tounge (Ophioglossum azoricum) and Western Clover (Trifolium occidentale) along with the fantastic Golden-haired Lichen (Teloschistes flavicans) all being scattered across the island.


As at every site it’s the wildlife that makes you remember it and gives it the reputation etc. Yet, on this delightful spot of land in the middle of the Irish Sea you have to remember one thing and it’s that you’re on an island and with that comes a limited social mix. Given the fact I’ve got Asperger’s Syndrome I wasn’t expecting to immediately fit in, get along with people or feel accepted as part of the Bardsey family during my time on the island. Yet I was proven totally wrong as within a matter of few days in to my 5 week stay I felt accepted and created life-long bonds with people I never thought I would, with in times when things hit me hard, there was always a shoulder to cry on with Steve & Emma being there when I needed someone


Assisting the BBFO in their Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), studying was certainly an experience I’ll never forget. Perhaps one day might be able to come back and ring a few myself!

A question you may be asking is why Bardsey? There’s 19 registered Bird Observatories scattered across the UK, any of which I could have visited: Fair Isle, Spurn, Skokholm, Isle of May, Cape Clear and the observatory that’s right on my door step, Hilbre Island; are all places I could have spent my summer hols at if I wished. Why I chose Bardsey was not only because of the aforementioned reasons, but also because not all bird observatories actually offer volunteering opportunities such as an internship, and given the fact I was offered work experience, it’s easily accessible and I already had a connection with island, it was an obvious choice!

Red-throated Diver_edited-1

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellate) – First of the autumn, was a nice find in Solfach Bay quickly followed by an August adult male Ring Ouzel!

Long-eared Owl @Bardsey_edited-1

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) – One of the star birds from the stay, a cracking bird flushed by Ben Porter and I on an evenings walk round the mountain.

The next question is then what do you do when working at one of the UK’s best bird observatories? Well, to answer that question then is quite simply a lot, and from my experience it helps to have common sense combined with a practical/imaginative way of thinking. One thing that I enjoy is that you’re never short of work, weather it’s completing your designated census route in the morning, assisting with writing up a report, going through transects to finish off a bee/butterfly survey, digitising data, repairing damaged areas of infrastructure or just simply maintaining the cleanliness of the observatory and forming a bond with the guests staying so that their enjoying the experience just as much as you are; such jobs and more are why I enjoy the lifestyle of an observatory, because you never get into that zone of boredom.

Risso's @ Bardsey_edited-1

Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) – his features 6 out of a pod of an estimated 23 individuals that passed close in for a rare photographic opportunity along the west coast one morning.

The whole idea of an internship is so that you can gain an extended insight into the working lifestyle at an observatory and that is why I jumped at the chance of an internship at the BBFO. An experience that will look outstanding on a university application as well as a CV. As I sit now typing away in the BBFO Office, taking into account my times coming to a close, I find myself loving life at an bird observatory to such a degree that I actually wouldn’t mind taking things further and maybe work at an observatory one day.

I mean, I like the work load, its varied nature, and, that a reasonable amount of it is based outdoors, it also involves writing and doing research which again is something I enjoy stuck into as well as working around the greatest love of my life, nature.

Purple Sandpiper_edited-1

Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) – My first encounter with a summer plumaged bird and a species eluded me besides this one occasion.

Meet the Manxies Manx_edited-1

Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) – The star species of Bardsey and one I was lucky enough to work with at the observatory during my internship.

Now, at the end of my internship, I find myself not only developing a deeper connection with the island of Bardsey and the people that are fortunate enough to call it home. But I now have a seed planted in my mind of a potential carrier path for the future. On that note I now have to say thank you to the people who helped make all this happen and made my internship such an enjoyable and memorable experience: Steve, Emma & Connor Stansfield, Liam Curson, Ephraim Perfect, Ben, Steve & Jo Porter, Josie Hewitt, Harry King, Luke Anderson, Kate Fox, Lizzie Forest and of course Colin Evans, the unsung hero of Bardsey for ferrying all island visitors from the mainland to this Welsh retreat.

Thanks for reading,



Trip list: 115

Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Northern Fulmar, Cory’s Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, European Storm Petrel, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Western Osprey, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, European Golden Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Atlantic Puffin, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Common Guillemot, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Sabine’s Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, European Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Little Owl, Long-eared Owl, Common Swift, Eurasian Wryneck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Eurasian Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Red-billed Chough, Carrion Crow, Northern Raven, Goldcrest, Common Firecrest, European Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Eurasian Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Common Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, European Wren, Common Starling, Ring Ouzel, Common Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, European Robin, European Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Dunnock, Western Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Eurasian Rock Pipit, Common Chaffinch, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, European Goldfinch and Eurasian Siskin.



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