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

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