– Posted on Friday 23rd April 2021

Manx National Heritage, the charity responsible for the care and promotion of the Isle of Man’s natural and cultural heritage, is pleased to confirm the return of the wardens to the Calf of Man Bird Observatory.

Located off the south coast of the Isle of Man, the Calf has been a bird observatory and nature reserve for over six decades.  Manx Wildlife Trust is contracted to operate the Calf of Man Bird Observatory, with seasonal ornithological and estate wardens resident on the island.

The wardens’ activities on the Calf include monitoring bird populations through bird ringing and breeding counts.   Since 1959, over 275,000 birds, of 184 species have been ringed and this data set has provided valuable information on migration patterns and contributed to our understanding of bird population changes.

Other conservation related activities include seal monitoring, moth trapping, butterfly surveys and the recording of the dragonflies and damselflies, with a total of 11 species of Odonata confirmed as occurring on the island.  Blue-tailed Damselfly and Common Darter are the most regular and numerous of those species observed. Habitat management, infrastructure maintenance and dry stone walling repair work is also undertaken.

During 2021, MNH and Manx Wildlife Trust will be raising awareness of the range of activities undertaken on the Calf and the important contribution of the island to our biodiversity through a series of special events.  These include residential courses, lectures and virtual events including:

  • 7 – 10 May – ‘An Introduction to Birdwatching on the Calf of Man’, join a three night course, led by Tim Earl, a lifelong wildlife-watcher and author, for an introduction to birdwatching, including the potential to see a wide range of resident and migratory birds close up alongside bird ringing demonstrations.
  • 10 – 11 May – ‘Meet the Manxies – An Introduction to the Manx Shearwater’, an overnight, two day course offering the opportunity to join the Calf of Man wardens on a night time survey of the Shearwater colonies, helping to count the birds and see them at close hand as they are caught and ringed as part of our long-term studies of this iconic species.
  • 11th – 14th May – ‘Calf of Man Photography Workshop’, a two night course, led by Isle of Man based photographer Mike Radcliffe, offering the opportunity to learn how to get the best wildlife images. Benefitting from a small group size, the course will be tailored to the requirements of each participant but will include everything from basic photography theory and camera handling techniques to advanced image composition, photographic art, landscapes, astrophotography and wildlife photography.
  • 17 – 22 May and 7 – 12 June – ‘Dry Stone Walling on the Calf of Man’, a four night course, led by David Fisher and Pat Griffiths, experienced drystone wallers who have been responsible for rebuilding many drystone walls on the Calf.  The course will be a hands-on opportunity to gain experience, skills and confidence in developing your drystone walling techniques.
  • 10 July – ‘Wildlife on the Calf of Man’, a public lecture covering bird life, including elusive puffins, through to charismatic seals, in which Manx National Heritage along with Manx Wildlife Trust’s Calf of Man Ornithological warden, Aron Sapsford, and Marine Officer, Dr Lara Howe, explore over 60 years of science shaping the way we explore and record wildlife on the Calf of Man.  The lecture will take place at the Manx Museum (Lecture Theatre tickets here) and online (online tickets here).

Further information, including pricing, tickets and booking information is available on the Manx National Heritage website at

All residential courses on the Calf of Man include; the return boat journey from Port St Mary via the seabird colonies at Sugarloaf, along with self-catering hostel standard accommodation in the 1878 farmhouse on the Calf, where the Bird Observatory is located.  Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.  Accommodation is limited and residential course participants must be aged 18 years and over.

Participants are requested to follow the Health & Safety measures in place for each event, including COVID measures. Accommodation on the Calf is fully booked for the 2021 summer season, with the residential courses offering the only remaining opportunity to stay overnight on the Calf during the 2021 summer season.


Image caption:

The Calf wardens (L to R): Robert Fisher (Volunteer Assistant Ornithological Warden), Christa Worth (Volunteer), Mollie Kirk (Volunteer Assistant Estate Warden), Aron Sapsford (Ornithological Warden) and Daniel Woollard (Estate Warden).

Media Contact:

Lynsey Clague

Communications Manager, Manx National Heritage


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