Lighthouses Attract Birds!

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Bardsey Island lighthouse, UK

It sounds impossible, but the very bright light emanating from a lighthouse at night attracts  birds. This happens on the most remote of lighthouses, some far out at sea.

What interest would birds have in a lighthouse?

Well sometimes it is because the light beacon attracts numerous insects which the birds feed upon. In other cases birds fly to the lighthouse lamp because it is the only attraction in their universe, just like a boat will navigate towards the safety of a lighthouse.

Migratory birds are highly susceptible to disaster as they are tired and hungry and the light blinds them.

Whatever the reason, birds of all kinds are attracted to lighthouse lamps. As mentioned above, some feed on the insects and come to no harm, but a lot of the birds hit the lantern glass and fall to the ground, later to recover, or die. Many are killed by indigenous mammals such as mink, or the lighthkeeper’s cat. Some are preyed upon by owls as they fly blindly in circles.

This post was brought to mind by this recent news article: 

Bardsey Island lighthouse beam to turn from white to red May 13, 2014

For decades, the island’s lighthouse in Gwynedd has swept its 89,900-candela beam 22 miles out to sea. By November, its traditional white light will have been replaced by an intermittent red light from energy-saving LEDs.

Wildlife experts believe the change will prevent thousands of migrating birds being drawn to their deaths by Bardsey’s powerful beam. . . . more

 

Lighthouses also attract ships as is the case here of this one off Gibralter!10421527_10202222221058261_1784764863910717825_n

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Bardsey Island lighthouse beam to turn from white to red
May 13, 2014 09:25 By Andrew Forgrave
Six-month project could stop thousands of birds from crashing to their deaths as they migrate across the Irish Sea
How many men does it take to change a light bulb?

Quite a few, if the bulb happens to belong to Bardsey Island’s iconic lighthouse.

For the next six months, eight Trinity House staff will work on the new lighting array, which is set to change the ambience of Bardsey forever.

For decades, the island’s lighthouse in Gwynedd has swept its 89,900-candela beam 22 miles out to sea. By November, its traditional white light will have been replaced by an intermittent red light from energy-saving LEDs.

Wildlife experts believe the change will prevent thousands of migrating birds being drawn to their deaths by Bardsey’s powerful beam.

But there are also fears the island will no longer lure birds in the same vast quantities that makes it one of the wonders of the birding world.

lighthouse2-webTrinity House – Bardsey lighthouse
Steven Stansfield, warden at Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory for 16 years, said: “Since the old light was switched off last week, it’s made quite a difference to Bardsey as the lighthouse beam no longer sweeps across the island at night. The place now has a very different feel to it – but I imagine we’ll get used to it.”

In the 1960s, studies were commissioned on Bardsey lighthouse to examine ways of cutting bird mortality rates.

As the structure provides the only light source for miles around – unlike on the mainland – birds crossing the Irish Sea instinctively head for it when conditions are bad.

On one single night in 2003, a staggering 40,000 birds landed on the island.

Many, however, collide with the lighthouse. Over the years, thousands have been killed this way.

By installing a red light, which birds tend to ignore, it is hoped that mortality rates will be reduced to zero.

Mr Stansfield said: “If it’s dark and foggy, birds may lose their natural navigation aids such as the stars and the moon as they cross the Irish Sea.

“As there’s no light pollution on Bardsey other than the lighthouse, they will be attracted to the island. On some days, the place is literally covered in birds.

“With a red light, they might not come here in the same numbers. Bardsey’s great bird landings might become a thing of the past.”

Bardsey has had a lighthouse since 1821. The tower was erected by Trinity House at a cost of £5,470 12s 6d, plus a further £2,950 16s 7d for the lantern.

In 1965, the light was electrified and 22 years later, it was automated.

Now the old diesel generators, which powered a 400W lamp, are being stripped out. So too are a two-tonne catadioptric lens along with two tonnes of mercury.

Until the new array is in place, a tiny LED lamp has been installed atop the tower as a temporary warning light to ships.

Materials are being ferried to and from the island by helicopter to THV Galatea, a multi-functional vessel currently moored off Bardsey.

A Trinity House spokesman said the rest of the lighthouse is also being re-equipped at the same time.

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