How time (and Eagles) fly!

Well almost. We are half way through the season here at Mull Eagle Watch. Our chick is now 10 weeks old, which means in two very short weeks it will be starting to spread its wings and taking to the sky. Its magnificent 8 foot wind span will be a sight to see, after watching the nest so closely since the beginning of April. It hasn’t all been plain sailing (Or Soaring), with a persistent juvenile causing worry. However Scalla, our male rose to the occasion and saw off the youngster, with some very impressive ariel displays.

Mark Morris

Back in the nest Anna patiently brooded the tiny egg for 37 days, and then A Chick! One fluffy head, the most amazing sight we could wish for. We tagged the chick when it was five weeks old. Two ringers under SNH Licence came to Craignure Golf Club, they climbed the tree with the nest in it, and put three little rings around its fully-grown feet. These rings allow us to track this chick when it leaves the nest and heads off on its adventures.  They were in and out of the nest in around 40 minutes, and gave us these pictures of our chick. Both Scalla and Anna, stayed in the area while the ringers were in the nest, giving us incredible views of them both soaring in the sky together. Not something we have seen as one parent is usually with or near the chick. An amazing experience I felt so privileged to witness (I was rather excited! ).  Then 10 weeks after hatching here we are, a fully grown White Tailed Sea Eagle chick, starting to stretch its wings getting ready to leave the comfort of its home for the last few months and start to discover new pastures!

Ringers Pic of our Chick

(A picture of our chick when it was being fitted with its rings, it is now twice this size!)

The other amazing wildlife here at Craignure has also kept us busy! I was lucky enough to spot a pair of Garganey. The second ever time they have been recorded on Mull!

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The Arctic (and Common) terns are also keeping us well entertained, with their swooping swallow like flight and their absolutely adorable young. It is amazing to think they have the longest migration of any bird in the world! The elusive Otter occasionally graces us with its presence, I am afraid I am yet to spot one here at the gold club, I have got very good at spotting seaweed lumps that look like Otters though.

My other ranger duties are also going well, The World Otter Day event was well attended by everyone but the Otter! The nature walk at Loch Torr, held Buzzards, a distance glimpse of a White Tailed Eagle and lots of LBJ’s. Garden Warblers, White Throats, Sand Martins and Reed Warblers amongst others.

Close up Seal pup

Amongst the more amazing unexpected things I have done since I moved to Mull was to coordinate and rescue a seal pup at Pennygown Campsite. I wasn’t expecting the knock on the door at half ten at night, from my landlord saying there was a pup on the beach, could I put on my uniform and be all official to help reassure people that it would be okay. Unfortunately by the time we got down there, there was people standing right by the side of the poor wee pup taking pictures. Not what the pup needed. We managed to get everyone away from the pup, and left it for the night hoping the mother would come back. Next morning there was no sign of the mother and the pup was very underweight, so I coordinated for the pup to the picked up in Oban by a Inspector of the SSPCA. Now we just had to get it to Oban! Chris, a Marine Mammal Medic and myself then managed to get the pup into a box with a towel over the top and drove it to the ferry terminal, I have never driven to carefully in my life! Then we put the pup in the luggage van on the ferry (Yes, really!) and waved it off. The pup was collected safely and taken to a temporary holding pen and given fluids and triage and is now at the SSPCA’s National Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at Fishcross. I’m very happy to confirm that so far the pup is doing very well, he was little underweight and dehydrated, but is now much brighter, alert and very noisy! However, it’s important to note that if you see a seal pup alone you must NEVER approach or touch them, mothers will often leave their pups to feed, but will stay within sight and disturbing the pup can cause the mother to abandon it, furthermore there are risks from passing zoonotic diseases or being bitten and infection from the bacteria found in the seals mouths. It is always advised to keep your distance from seals and keep your dogs on a lead if you are concerned about a seal or a pup being on its own the best thing you can do is keep your distance and contact either your local wildlife rescue centre, the RSPCA or SSPCA or BDMLR who have marine mammal medics and volunteers spread across the UK’s coastline.

Seal Pup

Well, that’s it for now. Events coming up include the Wild Flower Walk and Moveable Feast, at Treshnish Cottages and Staffa Sea Watch, both Tomorrow, 17th July, and there is lots more. Keep an eye on the events page for more throughout the season. Keep you eye in the sky for Eagles, especially young in the next few weeks!

Many thanks for reading,

Lizzy 🙂

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My favourite time of year

With the long hours of daylight, many sunny days and plenty of wildlife action, May and June have to be my favourite time of year, so lots of highlights to tell you about this time.

Our Woollen Woods launched at the end of May and is still on display so do pop in and visit next time you are passing Tiroran Community Forest: https://www.facebook.com/pg/mullionarangerservice/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1941534295893873

It provided the perfect backdrop for Bunessan nursery’s visit with their topic of Fairytales (particularly the giant mushrooms and the knitted Gruffalo).  The other classes from Bunessan primary also visited the forest that week to help with tree planting, investigate the ruined buildings, think about plans for a visitor centre and learn about the parts of a plant.

forest school trip may 2019

Meanwhile on Iona we enjoyed Outdoor Classroom Day on the beach, and a series of afterschool nature club sessions where the children set us a challenge by choosing the themes they would like to cover – culminating in a finale of studying grasshoppers combined with making a fire for hot chocolate and marshmallows!

Another hardworking Thistle Camp got to grips with some drainage work and beachcleaning, among other tasks, during a hot sunny week on Iona, and were rewarded for their efforts by taking part in several days of kayaking.  Meanwhile Emilie and I completed the 3rd and final midnight corncrake count of the season, witnessing a spectacular red sunset and a lovely display of noctilucent (night-shining) clouds.

We’re all looking forward to adventure playground building with Woodland Tribe on the 7th, 8th and 9th July (no need to book, just turn up at Tiroran Community Forest between 11am and 6pm, or contact pyielder@swmid.co.uk for community transport information) and in advance of that Emilie led a beachcombing session for items to add to the construction.

Now that the school holidays have started, we are running several Nature Adventure Days with our local teenagers, and the first day saw us taking an old path through the Mull hills from Teanga Bridge over to Knock via Loch Ba, stopping to admire views, take hundreds of photos, climb trees and cool our feet in the clear streams.  Next up it’s exploring St Martin’s caves and seaweed cooking on the beaches of Iona!

Today we had our first Magnificent Meadows event, thanks to those who kindly let us visit to admire their beautiful flowery fields, provided refreshments or drove the community bus – a dull day weather wise but thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless!

Lots more exciting events coming up so hope to see you soon!

Emily

Start of the Summer Season

Another Summer, another Volunteer Ranger! I’m Emilie, working down on the Ross of Mull with Emily W until mid-August. I’ve only been here a few weeks but already have plenty to report. 

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Bunessan, my home for the next 3 months.

My first day started quite relaxed, meeting Emily and sorting my paperwork, until about 4pm when we decided the weather was good enough for a midnight corncrake survey. We rushed home, grabbed our camping kit and caught the last ferry to Iona where the birds, declining across Western Europe, have a stronghold.

Exploring the island and eating a delicious pub dinner was a great way to spend the evening, made all the better by views of dolphins just off the coast! When the time came, the survey involved walking up and down the island listening to the birds’ calls and trying to figure out if you heard two individuals or one plus its echo. I’m glad Emily was there; the echoes fooled me more than once. With the survey done my first day was over and we headed to bed, slightly disappointed with the number of birds we’d heard.

The next day was just as hectic as the previous evening. We stomped across the island to find the shag nests I’ll be monitoring for the rest of the summer, then went all the way back to run an after school “nature club” at the island school. In the middle of that I managed to survey the fields to see whether they were being grazed or left to meadow – important information for conserving the corncrakes.

The next few days were slightly easier going. We took a group down to Carsaig, spotting seals and seabirds as well as the fossils the area is known for, then visited Lizzie and Caoimhe, the incredibly knowledgeable Mull Eagle Watch Rangers. Thanks to them I saw my first White Tailed Sea Eagle adult AND watched it feeding its precious chick in the nest.

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My first sea eagle, shame about the photographer!

My second week of work was just as extraordinary as the first. Starting on Sunday, Emily and I joined a Thistle Camp – a National Trust for Scotland working holiday group – that had boldly decided to wild camp on the beautiful Burg peninsula. None of us had banked on that day’s  feral goat count being a 9 hour hike, but I’m starting to think that no one gets an easy first day on Mull!

The next day we rejoined the campers to count Slender Scotch Burnet Moths and survey their food plants. These moths are endemic to (only found on) Mull and Ulva, so it’s important that we keep an eye on their numbers. After some initial confusion with six-spot Burnets and cinnabar moths, the group got their eyes in and found hundreds of  individuals across the sites we checked.  The future looks good for these pretty insects.

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Slender Scotch Burnet Moths

 

The camp wasn’t only about survey work. The team pulled bracken, cleared debris from the beach and helped repair the Burg bothy, a structure that will soon be restored its former glory. It was wonderful to join the campers for their final night in the wilderness, sharing their homemade mac and cheese and listening to the stories of the fun they’d had throughout the week. Thistle Camps are a great way to contribute to the maintenance of National Trust properties throughout Scotland – you can find out more here

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Not a bad place for a campsite…..

I’m not sure how I squeezed everything in, but week two also saw me head to Tiroran Community Forest with the RSPB and other conservation organisations to watch the ringing of a sea eagle chick, and revisit the shag nests on Iona to find that at least 3 chicks have hatched!

Week three has barely begun but is already off to a good start – I visited Staffa yesterday with Peter, the first dedicated Staffa Ranger, seeing bottlenose dolphins as well as the booming puffin population. It was a shame about the rain, but I suppose that’s to be expected in Scotland. We’re returning to the island later in the week to finish the seabird surveys that we couldn’t manage. A Ranger’s work is never done; there just aren’t enough hours in a day!

Spring is the season of new life…

…and there’s lots of new and exciting things to tell you about!

Lizzy Grieve has started as our seasonal ranger at the eagle hide, and you can read more about what’s happening over on the Mull Eagle Watch blog.

Next week Peter Upton takes up the role of Visitor Services Assistant for the island of Staffa for four months so look out for him if you’re over there this year.  I’ve been getting the island ready for the season with some beachcleaning, infrastructure checks and our first seabird count of the year, black guillemots.  Thanks to Miek Zwamborn and Rutger Emmelkamp for their help and for the photos below.  Please note that there is still no access to Fingal’s cave while we continue to repair storm damage to the walkway.

Over at Burg, there is still a landslide blocking the path to the fossil tree.  It’s a lovely walk, even if you turn back at this point you’ll still get a flavour of the coastline with its flowery slopes, and chance to spot eagles and otters.  If planning to venture onto the beach and around below the landslide to rejoin the path, please take extreme care and judge for yourself the risk of more material falling from above.

Most exciting for the Fionnphort area as work has started on our new path to Creich hall after years of hard work and fundraising by the steering group.  It will make a safe off-road walking and cycling option for local journeys, and form part of several long-distance routes.  Very well done everyone, can’t wait to start using it for ranger events!

I’ve been busy with sessions for both Bunessan and Iona primary schools recently.  The older class from Iona carried out a study of the River Coladoir on a misty March day.  Bunessan nursery children visited Tiroran Community Forest to explore and learn about baby animals including eagle chicks.

We are looking forward to our Woollen Woods event at the forest, come along to celebrate the launch on Sunday 19th May or drop in for a walk anytime over the summer to spot the creatures on display.  This project has really caught people’s imaginations and we’ve loved receiving everyone’s creations, thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!

Traffic is building up again on our island roads, so if you’re not used to single track roads with passing places, please make sure you take time to watch this video before you visit and ensure stress-free driving for everyone!

Likewise please take care if visiting with your dog, especially at this time of year when lambs and ground-nesting birds are everywhere.  Make sure you keep your dog under close control and follow any local signage.

It’s also time for our events programme to get going again.  While a day of sudden bad weather cancelled my attempt at an Iona birdsong walk, Jan had better luck the following week and a lovely day with the Glengorm ranger at their Easter event.

Coming up we have a free guided walk to the mysterious Scoor Cave on 8th May in return for helping out with a beachclean as the gully there really funnels in debris off the sea.  You can join Jan on the lovely island of Ulva on the 15th May or come to Iona to learn about wildflowers on the 22nd.  Keep an eye on the events page for the full programme coming soon and we look forward to seeing you all at some point this summer!

Emily

Spring is on the way

Snowdrops, daffodils and singing song thrushes, it must be true!  Time to think about the season ahead.  We’re recruiting for 2 more summer posts, one paid and one voluntary, see below for details.

One day at the end of January, we woke up to proper snow, unusual for here.IMG_3628

It doesn’t hang around for long though, here’s the same view later in the day.IMG_3656

There was even snow on the beach!IMG_3650IMG_3633IMG_3639

Can you spot who’s been out and about here?IMG_3632

A few days later it had mostly disappeared, and we had a perfect sunny day for a little gathering to say thank you to a few of the lovely volunteers who’ve helped us out over the last year.volunteer party 2019 cropped

If you think you might like to join them, we are recruiting for a full-time Volunteer Assistant Ranger for 3 months this summer.

This is a great opportunity to develop skills and experience in nature conservation and rangering. The role is based in Bunessan and involves assisting with varied tasks over a number of island sites including Iona and Staffa.  Tasks will include wildlife survey work, delivery of education projects and public events programme, providing information to visitors, practical maintenance. Accommodation and some travel costs will be covered.

You must show enthusiasm for wildlife and the great outdoors.  Some knowledge/ experience in the relevant field would be useful but more important is flexibility, good communication skills, an ability to work under your own initiative, and a desire to learn.  You will need to be willing and able to work inside or outside in all weathers, including some lone working in rugged coastal terrain.  Some weekend/evening hours will be required.

Closing date: 9am Monday 8th April                             Interview date: week of 29th April

For more details and an application form, email me: ewilkins@nts.org.uk (no CVs please)

 

We are also recruiting for a (paid) Visitor Services Assistant for the island of Staffa, again feel free to contact me if you’d like more details.  Application form and job description can now be downloaded directly from the NTS Vacancies page here: https://www.nts.org.uk/charity/Vacancies/  Closing date is 22nd March.

Visitor Services Assistant ad

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Staffa in early February with the snow-covered hills of Rum behind

Finally, check out our Facebook page to see some of the creatures being sent to us for Tiroran Woollen Woods!  There’s still plenty of time to join in as deadline for receiving your creations is the end of April.

 

 

You are invited to get involved with our woollen woods event. We can accept any woolly woodland creature (bird, plant,…

Posted by Mull and Iona Ranger Service on Monday, December 17, 2018

 

Thanks for reading!

Emily

Out and about this autumn

As autumn turns to winter, time for a look back at what the ranger service has been up to.  While Jan has been busy on Tobermory lighthouse path and at Calgary bay, and Mull Eagle Watch won another award, here’s what’s been happening in the south of the island:

Specialist path workers have stabilised the slope below the ladder at Burg, reducing erosion and improving access to the beach.  Unfortunately the day after they left heavy rain caused a spectacular landslide further back along the coast which completely buried the path (at grid reference NM 411 263), so if you’re planning to go the fossil tree any time soon you will need to be prepared to scramble around the bouldery beach below it, and judge for yourself the risk of falling rocks from above.

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Upper figure shows where the path used to cross the slope!

Depending on weather conditions it may be better to turn back at this point, but it’s still a lovely walk giving a taste of our dramatic coastal scenery and wildlife.  On my visit this week we were bathed in lovely winter light and enjoyed watching an otter fishing just offshore.

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November sunlight at Burg showing the iron age site of Dun Bhuirg

I’ve been helping out with beach school sessions with the younger children from Iona primary school and nursery.  Investigating rockpool life, trying out seaweed recipes and playing wildlife-related games on the sand doesn’t have to be a summer-only activity!

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How many tracks can you spot in the sand?

At Bunessan primary, afterschool nature clubs have been investigating seed dispersal and making hedgehog hibernation homes for our gardens.  Argyll and Bute council also featured our Lost Words project as a good example of raising educational attainment.

Back at the end of August, a group of Thistle Camp working holiday volunteers on Iona not only did a great job painting bridges and noticeboards, digging ditches, making stepping stones, pulling bracken and beachcleaning, but also inadvertently caused a bomb scare with this mystery object, which turned out to be the propellant canister used to launch a missile from a WWII US Navy ship!  Never a dull moment!

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Photo by Graham Arnold

I’m very grateful for everyone who gives their time and skills to volunteer throughout the year, in particular some of our younger volunteers during this Year of Young People.

Finally, here’s a sneak peek at a new project for next year.  We are going to be hosting Woollen Woods at Tiroran Community Forest.  We’ll be asking everyone to get involved by creating woolly woodland creatures (animals, plants or fungi and knitted, felted, crocheted, pom-poms, any technique you like!) to go on display at the forest next year.  Look out for more information coming soon, or if you can’t wait to get started, you can post any contributions to: Mull and Iona Ranger Service, c/o Tigh na Rois, Millbrae Cottage, Bunessan, Isle of Mull, PA67 6DA.  We won’t be able to return any of your creatures but we can promise them a starring role in our outdoor exhibition next summer!  Some mice have already got in on the act!

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These two mice have been busy nibbling hazelnuts from their stash

Emily

 

What a summer!

Another update from us here on the Ross, but also a fond farewell from me as my time on the island volunteering with the Ranger Service draws to a close – what a summer it’s been! Some fantastic wildlife encounters and successful events along with unbelievable weather for the first few weeks of my stay have definitely made this a summer to remember.

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Iona sunsets are just something else…

It’s been great to experience such a wide range of wildlife survey techniques in some amazing locations – from monitoring Storm Petrel chicks on Staffa to surveying plants under the dramatic cliffs of Burg, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is an actual day job! A couple of times this summer Emily and I have been helping Lynne Farrell, the county recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles, update her plant records – most recently on Burg coinciding with our own plant survey, and earlier in the season we were lucky enough to go out to Little Colonsay on Mark Jardine’s boat. Here we saw (and learnt) loads of interesting wildflower species, including the vibrant Bloody Cranesbill.

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B. Marie moored at Little Colonsay

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Bloody Cranesbill

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Beneath the cliffs of Burg

We’ve also had a couple of successful events recently – Abbie, who was doing summer work experience with us, held a survival skills event at Tiroran forest which included building a rather impressive den and then foraging for plants to make tea out of at the end. A great day had by all, even if the fire took a few valiant attempts to get going! The next week I was back at Tiroran leading an Eagle Hide walk, where we had nice views of a white-tailed eagle soaring over the treetops in the distance. I also organised and lead my own event recently – a drizzly yet interesting morning on Uisken beach exploring the rockpools and the beach, finding lots of cool species including breadcrumb sponge and by-the-wind sailors.

 

In mid-July I went to work with the NTS ranger team at Ben Lawers NNR for a couple of weeks, a very different landscape to what I’m used to on Mull. Here I got to experience some of the more land management perspectives of rangering including bracken bashing, tree planting with an NTS Trailblazer camp and path maintenance. The weekend that I arrived coincided with the launch of Chris Packham’s Bioblitz campaign – the team at Ben Lawers took on the challenge of 24 hours of biological recording, and we were the first site for Chris Packham and his team to visit, resulting in a very long but enjoyable day out recording on the hill. Being at Ben Lawers was great to experience working in a team of rangers, and my thanks go out to team for making me feel so welcome there.

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Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers behind

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Looking down the glen

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Chris Packham chatting to dragonfly expert Ruary Mackenzie

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The truck on it’s holidays

And finally, how can I not talk about some wildlife encounters whilst I’ve been here on Mull? You will have read my previous blog post about the evening trip to Staffa and the multitude of basking sharks, which still is a massive highlight for me, but it’s been a great few months overall for wildlife. Recently Emily and I were out on top of the cliffs at Burg, just walking to our National Plant Monitoring Scheme plots, when a family of golden eagles casually cruised by at eye-level. What a treat! By far the best Goldie sightings I’ve ever had. Along with that, I just can’t tire of seeing white-tailed eagles – looking up to the sky and seeing this unmistakeable ‘flying barn door’ is such a fantastic privilege.

Somehow, I managed to go the whole of June and July without seeing an otter, on the coastline that is supposedly so famous for otters, and I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about. However, when my boyfriend and parents were over visiting a couple of weeks ago, an otter conveniently showed it’s face and allowed us to watch roll about preening in the seaweed. And typically, I continued to see another 2 otters in that same week!

Along with the west-coast signature eagles and otters, this summer has been great for hen harrier sightings and lots of interesting moths and butterflies. I’ve also learnt loads of wildflowers – Emily has put up with my consistent pointing and saying “ooh what’s that?” for the last few months, so for that I’m very grateful for her patience!

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Making friends on Staffa

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View from the back of Fingal’s Cave during site tour with repair contractor – cave access is still out of bounds but walkway repairs are well underway!

Overall, volunteering with the ranger service has been such a valuable experience, and I’m so thankful for being given this opportunity. I’ve learned a countless number of new skills, met some great people and seen some fantastic wildlife.

I’m going to miss this place far too much, so I’m sure Mull will see me again soon!

Cheers

Georgia

We’re still here!

Could be what our wildlife is thinking after a very mixed-up season.  Late spring, hot dry weather with the occasional sudden stormy wet day to contend with and now autumn colour seems to be creeping in early.  The Ross of Mull rangers are still here too – not much news from us lately I know, so let’s catch up!

In early June we had a group of enthusiastic volunteers on a working holiday, the National Trust for Scotland’s Thistle Camp scheme, visiting Burg.  A great chance for us to get all sorts of maintenance tasks tackled with many willing pairs of hands.  We had scheduled the camp earlier than usual hoping to survey our rare Slender Scotch Burnet Moths and much to our relief, numbers were the highest for several years.  These small but beautiful insects are only on the wing for a few weeks each June and it seems they have shifted their flight period to earlier in the year.  Most of the feral goats however were nowhere to be seen on our walk around the Ardmeanach peninsula, perhaps they had travelled elsewhere in search of water during this unusual dry spell?  However it wasn’t a wasted day as we were able to make good use of the walk by splitting into groups and one group set up some new plots for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme which will now be checked twice each summer.  The Thistle Campers also tackled repointing work on Burg’s bothy which is undergoing restoration, cleared out ditches and pulled bracken to improve moth habitat and reduce damage to our archaeology.  Many thanks everyone!

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Slender Scotch Burnet Moth

The same week Georgia and I led a walk to the fascinating St Martin’s caves on Iona.  A great place to visit as it’s quite hidden away and only accessible at low tide.  Sadly the rain poured down but the few hardy souls who joined us had an interesting time learning about crofting, geology and seaweed!

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St Martin’s Caves

Georgia has been working on a productivity survey of one of Iona’s shag colonies.  Unfortunately a day of heavy rain amongst weeks of sunshine caught them off guard and lots of nests have been washed away.  Shags do stagger their breeding times so we’ll keep an eye on things to see whether they can rebuild and lay more eggs or whether they’ll give up and wait until next year.

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Shags nesting at Pigeon’s Cave.  Photo credit Alan Foulkes.

In late June we had another lovely walk along the coast at Carsaig, plenty to see including ringed plover chicks like little balls of fluff on stilts running amongst the rocks, and interesting fossils on the beach at low tide.  It was almost too hot though so some of the group enjoyed going behind a waterfall into the coolness of the cave beyond.

It’s been great having local girl Abbie Cato on work experience with us during the summer holidays.  Living at Knockvologan she was the ideal person to help us out with her knowledge of Erraid on a guided walk around the tidal island.  She’s also lent a hand with several other events including our stand at Bunessan Show and our summer nature club on Iona, for which we had 18 children busy with a treasure hunt learning about what nature does for us, and an afternoon of art and games on the beach thinking about what we can do for nature.  Both Georgia and Abbie are working on their John Muir Awards and have contributed an article to Young Scot’s My Story 365 as part of the Year of Young People.

 

Photo credits: Tim Sparks

With the warm weather it’s been a good year for butterfly sightings – some of our highlights have been a rare Marsh Fritillary in the office garden, the lovely Scotch Argus and the Grayling with its camouflage pattern on the underside of the wings – and we have been promoting the Big Butterfly Count at our events including our stand at Uisken Games where we were kept busy with sea creature facepainting and making seed bombs and badges.

Our Biodiversity Day in the garden at the Ross of Mull Historical Centre turned up some great moths from our (harmless) trap set overnight, including the stunning Garden Tiger and the less common Old Lady, last recorded on Mull back in 2009!

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Gold spot moth

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Cockscomb Prominent moth

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Old Lady moth

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Moth trap in action

Add to the mix helping out with a Keats-themed historical walk at Derrynaculen…

 

Photo credits: Abbie Cato

…looking at history in the landscape around Iona with a lovely American family, plant surveys at Burg, more bird surveys and visiting archaeologists on Staffa (where repair work has commenced on the cave walkway) and leading eagle walks at Tiroran forest and it’s been a very full and interesting summer so far.

Until next time…

Emily

It’s show time……

Another month goes by and it is my turn to write the Ranger Blog, not quite sure where the time goes but it is certainly disappearing fast.

We have been very lucky with the weather this summer so far, and according to the weather forecasters, with global warming we should expect more of these hots summers, sadly it also goes with wet winters.

 

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Ben More in the sun from Ulva

So what has been going on?

The flowers continue to bloom on the Machair at Calgary and we have a pretty good species list, and the height of the grassland (the sward) is also higher, both a good sign that we are heading in the right direction.

Bird’s foot trefoil,
Biting stonecrop
Black medick
Buttercup
Common centaury
Common knapweed
Common mouse ear
Common ragwort
Common sorrel
Common spotted orchid
Common stalk’s bill
Common valerian
Creeping thistle
Daisy
Eyebright
Fairy flax
Flag iris
Harebell
Hawkbit/cat’s ear
Hedge woundwort
Horseshoe vetch
Kidney vetch
Lady’s bedstraw
Meadow rue (common?)
Meadowsweet
Milkwort
Mossy saxifrage
Mouse-ear hawkweed
Nettle
Oxe-eye daisy
Pyramidal orchid
Red clover
Ribwort plantain
Selfheal
Silverweed
Spear thistle
Thyme
White clover
Yarrow

 

Calgary Flowers

Calgary Flowers by Carolyne Charrington

We have changed our ‘Fun in the sun’ children’s fun mornings to ‘Going Wild’ (as it always rained) and those that attended did just that, with a selection of bug hunts and environmental games and activities. It was great to have such an enthusiastic bunch and the sun did shine this year.

We held our annual fishing competition up on Loch Frisa, and Connor won the special junior cup again this year presented in honour of his Great Grandpa, Lachie McDowall. He seems hard competition to beat but Struan and Theresa gave him a run for his money. Jim MacFadden won the senior prize.DSCN2252Although off duty I had a lovely afternoon at the Uisken Games yesterday catching up with lots of acquantainces that I had not seen for a while and managing a toss of the haggis as part of the beach games. Great fun was had by all.

 

The Iona Ferry

We are preparing for the Salen and Bunessan show and hope to attract lots to our stand to try out our educational and fun activities.

By Jan Dunlop.

 

Scorcher at Scallastle!

So if you hadn’t noticed, it has been boiling hot on Mull…

*wipes sweat from forehead*

… and our events have been hotting up too!

Our event this week ‘Hike up Scallastle’ was tough and the scorching sun didn’t make it any easier. We had a small group of four, starting in the car park we checked our water supplies and insect repellent (boy was it needed!) then set off up the gravel track.

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As we made our way up the track there were dozens of cinnibar moth catterpillars munching their way through the ragwort. Our first species of the day and an interesting one at that.
We continued be drawn in by the caterpillar covered ragworts until our attention was caught be a real island star, a MALE HEN HARRIER!

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We watched the harrier dancing above trees until it was out of sight. What a captivating first 10 minutes we’d had.
As we proceeded on I was talking (or maybe boasting…) about a garden tiger moth caterpillar I had found at Tiroran forest and then as if by magic Nick found a dead one right on the track!

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Seeing as so far any animal we had talked about had appeared in some shape or form I tried my luck with giraffe and mammoth, but unfortunately neither beast made an appearance. As the biting insects homed in on us we quickened the pace and had almost got to the bridge but something caught my eye… CARNIVOROUS PLANTS!

There were both round-leaved sundew and butterwort on the moist boggish ground by the bridge. Some of them even had unlucky midges caught in their traps.  As we started the steep part of the walk, sundews filled the side of the track much to the amazement of Nancy who walks at Scallastle regularly but had never noticed them before. As we got closer to the next bridge I noticed what I thought was a fritillary flying just ahead. So I marched forward to get a closer look and sure thing it was a small pearl-bordered fritillary! We then found a couple more floating above the water and even managed to get the scope on them for a closer look.

I then went to look for some smooth newts I had seen up there a week ago but the pool they were in had dried up. Nothing left but a toadlet hiding in the flakey mud. The final incline was ahead of us and it was a real scramble, but the bench at the top plus our packed lunches were calling. With the sun still beating down on us, the rest at the top was needed.

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While we tucked into our lunches, or an apple in my case, there was a tree pipit perched and calling right in front of us. Suddenly it flew off and we could hear a couple more pipits calling too, although this call was slightly higher and more frequent. SPARROWHAWK! A male and it flew right past us and perched on a tree towards the ridge. I quickly positioned the scope but sods law just as it was in the frame it flew off. As we rested and scanned the mountains a grey wagtail flew over calling in its usual manner. We were almost ready to start heading back down to the carpark when Nancy spotted a bird near the summit. I got the scope on it and it was another island star, a GOLDEN EAGLE!

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We watched the eagle soaring around for a few minutes before it flew out of sight, this felt a natural time for us to descend back to the carpark.
We had almost made it back to the carpark when we found this…

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A Dark giant horsefly, they are almost 3cm long and can give one heck of a bite. Hence why I crushed it with my heal… sorry if that offends you.

Before I sign off here I just want to thank Nancy, Yvonne, Jenny and Nick for making the walk a real pleasure!

Cian