The island was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1986, and is part of Glannau Aberdaron ac Ynys Enlli Special Protection Area (Welsh: Ardal Gwarchodaeth Arbennig Glannau Aberdaron ac Ynys Enlli). It is now a favourite bird-watching location, on the migration routes of thousands of birds. Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory (Welsh: Gwylfa Maes ac Adar Ynys Enlli), founded in 1953, nets and rings 8,000 birds each year in order to understand their migration patterns.
The island was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its maritime communities; internationally rare lichens; bryophyte, vascular plant and bird species; and intertidal communities. Nationally important flowering plants include sharp rush, rock sea lavender, small adder's tongue and western clover, and the rare purple loosestrife is found in places. Two nationally rare heathland lichens are found on the slopes of Mynydd Enlli: the ciliate strap lichen and golden hair lichen; and there are over 350 lichen species in total. The leafcutter bee, named after its habit of cutting neat, rounded circles in rose leaves, used to seal the entrance to its nest, is native.
Thousands of birds pass through each year on their way to their breeding or wintering grounds. Chiffchaffs, goldcrests and wheatears are usually the first to pass through, followed by sedge warblers and willow warblers, whitethroats and spotted flycatchers.
About thirty species of bird regularly nest on the island, including ravens, little owls, oystercatchers and the rare chough. Hundreds of sea birds, including razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes, spend the summer nesting on the island's eastern cliffs, the numbers reflecting the fact that there are no land predators such as rats or foxes to worry about. On a dark moonless night an eerie cackling can be heard across the island as 7,000 pairs of Manx shearwaters, 3.5 per cent of the British population, come ashore to lay and incubate their eggs in abandoned rabbit warrens or newly dug burrows.
The island is one of the best places in Gwynedd to see grey seals. In mid summer over two hundred can be seen, sunbathing on the rocks or bobbing in the sea, and about fifteen pups are born each autumn. Their sharp teeth and strong jaws are perfect for breaking the shells of lobsters and crabs which dwell in the waters. It is also possible to spot bottlenose and Risso's dolphins, and porpoises. The currents around the island are responsible for flushing in food-rich waters, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has been carrying out surveys since 1999 to find out which areas are particularly important for feeding and nursing calves.
The seas around the island are rich in marine life. There are forests of strap seaweed; in the rock pools are sea anemones, crabs and small fish; and in deeper waters, the rocks are covered by sponges and sea squirts. The yellow star anemone, found offshore, is more common to the Mediterranean.
Read more about this topic: Bardsey Island
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