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.
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.
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.
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!
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!