Wildlife on the ‘Island of 20,000 Saints’ and 20,000 shearwaters, by Ben Porter

Growing up on Bardsey, a small remote island off the coast of North Wales, has inspired a love for the natural world in Ben Porter, an award-winning young wildlife photographer.

Come late summer, the 170-foot high mountain is covered in the purple-pink colour of ling heather. In some areas of the island this species makes up an important coastal habitat known as maritime heath. © Ben Porter

Lying some two miles off the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, Bardsey Island is a small island home to a plethora of interesting birds, plants and other wildlife.

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The strategic position of the isle in the Irish Sea lends it well to witnessing large arrivals of migrating birds in spring and autumn, whilst its rocky coast becomes a bustle of thousands of breeding seabirds during the summer. The Welsh name, Ynys Enlli, means ‘island in the tides’, which certainly goes some way to describing the ferocious sea conditions often experienced during the year!’

About the photographer

Ben Porter has grown up on this remote island with his family from the age of 11. His upbringing on Bardsey inspired a love of the natural world and his development into an award-winning photographer. Ben recently graduated from a degree in Conservation Biology with the University of Exeter, and is currently working on a landscape-scale restoration project in mid Wales.

“The natural world is in need of our help live never before,” he says, “and as a photographer I hope my images of the natural world inspire people to take action and save this precious green oasis we call Earth.”

View more of Ben’s photos on his website.

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To view the images as a slideshow, click on the arrows in the top right hand corner of the photos below.

The low tide haul-outs of grey seals can exceed 200 in number during the year. This bull seal chose an interesting spot to see out a particularly stormy day: amongst a growing mound of sea foam! © Ben Porter
The low tide haul-outs of grey seals can exceed 200 in number during the year. This bull seal chose an interesting spot to see out a particularly stormy day: amongst a growing mound of sea foam! © Ben Porter 
SnakelocksAnemone
In the crystal-clear waters that often predominate during summertime, snorkelling can reveal a myriad of creatures to marvel at, such as the snakelocks anemone. © Ben Porter
Canary-shoulderedThorn
Three heath moth traps are used between spring and autumn by Bardsey Bird Observatory to monitor the island’s moth populations. The canary-shouldered thorn is amongst the brightest of visitors to the autumn traps. © Ben Porter
SmallTortoiseshell
During spring and early summer, a proliferation of wildflowers emerge around the coast – including sea thrift, wild thyme and bird’s-foot trefoil, providing nectar for both resident and passing butterflies. © Ben Porter
Firecrest
Being sited at a strategic point to intercept migrating birds, Bardsey receives its fair share of scarce and rare visitors too. Firecrests are a regular occurrence, particularly during autumn migration. © Ben Porter
Gannet-2
The seas surrounding the island are infamous for their treacherous nature. The wild seascapes can be spectacular, even more so when seabirds such as this gannet glide effortlessly over the wave-tops. © Ben Porter
ManxShearwater
The island is home to the UK’s fourth largest breeding colony of manx shearwaters. With over 20,000 pairs, their bizarre calls fill the night sky from March through to August when they return to land under the cover of darkness. © Ben Porter
Puffin
The comical puffin is amongst a selection of seabirds that nest on Bardsey’s eastern slope, and the population is slowly increasing on the island, from an estimated ten pairs in 2005 to more than 60 in the last few years. © Ben Porter
Oystercatcher
Oystercatchers nest all around the coast of Bardsey, although some chose the rocky shoreline whilst others nest amongst the gorse further inland. This pair happened to decide on the island’s only sandy beach. © Ben Porter
Chough
Eight pairs of charismatic red-billed chough breed on the island. In winter, a feeding flock can sometimes number 50 individuals! © Ben Porter
SealPup-2
The island’s pebble beaches and coves become the pupping grounds for some 30 grey seals in the autumn. The cows rear their pups on rich milk for just over a month before their progeny venture seaward. © Ben Porter
Starling-2
Whilst Bardsey does not have its own spectacular starling roost, one of the beaches does attract hundreds of them over the winter. The piles of rotting seaweed become a centre-point of feeding activity. © Ben Porter
Herring Gull
The low light of winter makes for some brilliant photographic opportunities, especially when coupled with wild, stormy conditions. Here, a Herring Gull battles into a particularly strong southerly gale through such a scene. © Ben Porter
SealCave
There are several sea caves around the coast, and one in particular has been chosen as a secret haul-out spot for some of the island’s grey seals. A landward entrance allows you to very quietly look on. © Ben Porter
ScarletTiger-2
Bardsey is ideally situated to receiving some good passage of migrant moths during calm conditions in the spring and autumn. This scarlet tiger, though common on the mainland, has only made it to the island once! © Ben Porter
Shags
The island’s steep East Side is where countless thousands of seabirds nest amongst boulders and on cliff ledges each year. Shags such as this pair arrive in mid-February to begin constructing their twiggy nest. © Ben Porter
SpottedFlycatcher-2
The island’s gardens and handful of willow beds provide valuable shelter and feeding areas for migrating birds such as this spotted flycatcher. This particular bird managed to catch a red admiral butterfly! © Ben Porter