A Busy Week!

Good morning from the Ross of Mull! We’re enjoying a day in the office for the first time in a while after a busy week last week.

We kicked things off on Sunday with our Thistle Camp Volunteers who were staying at Burg for the week. In the morning we carried out some habitat management, clearing overgrown bracken which was hiding many of the old farm dwellings from view.

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Before

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After

After lunch, we moved onto beach cleaning and removed over 10 black bin bags full of ropes, plastics and other interesting items including several shotgun cartridges from Burg’s shoreline. For the remainder of the week, the Thistle Campers carried out various other tasks such as moth surveys, path and road repairs and gorse removal. Their effort throughout the week was greatly appreciated and we can’t thank them enough for their help!

On both Tuesday and Friday, Emily and myself carried out seabird surveys of the many islets around the coast of Iona with the help of the Mull Bird Club and aboard the ‘Birthe Marie’.

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The ‘Birthe Marie’ of Alternative Boat Hire

Sea bird colonies around  Scotland have been in decline for a number of years and therefore, it is important that we monitor our populations on an annual basis. During our two days surveying, we recorded numbers of shags, fulmars, gulls, kittiwakes, oyster catchers and puffins and Emily is currently in the process of writing up the results and I’m sure they will be published shortly.

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A ringed fulmar about to be released on Soa.

On Wednesday, we teamed up with tour operator ‘Turus Mara’ and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to organise an evening trip to Staffa. Although the weather wasn’t as pleasant as the previous week, our guests had an extremely enjoyable evening. Staffa’s puffins were in great spirits and were often seen feeding mouthfuls of sand eels to their pufflings!

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A few of Staffa’s puffins

Whilst our guests were on Staffa, I carried out a count of the fulmar population on Staffa with the help of Izzy from the HWDT. We counted 94 pairs of fulmars on the island – a slight decrease in comparison to 2015.

On our way back, ‘Turus Mara’ skipper Colin spotted a Minke whale and we had the pleasure of watching it surface for around 10 minutes before it finally disappeared from view heading south towards the Ross of Mull. If that wasn’t enough, we also had the pleasure of enjoying another fantastic sunset!

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On Thursday, we carried out our annual goat survey on Burg. The goats here are feral and are believed to descend from those left behind during the Highland Clearances. We monitor the goat population so that the grazing on Burg can be managed appropriately. In total, we counted 115 goats, whilst we also had the pleasure of encountering two golden eagles and several red deer!

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Some steep scrambling on Burgs north coast

Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable and productive week and we thank the Thistle Camp volunteers, Mull Bird Club , Turus Mara, HWDT and Mark Jardine of Alternative Boat Hire for their assistance throughout the week.

Next up, we have our Moth and Wildflower walk on Wednesday at Burg. We will be meeting at the NTS Car Park at 10am. Booking is essential and can be made via email (ewilkins@nts.org.uk) or by phone (07717581405 or 01681700659).

I look forward to meeting you in the near future.

Daniel

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Sunshine at last!

Hello from the Ross of Mull!  You haven’t heard much news from me lately, as I’ve been out and about away from the office making the most of the good weather which has arrived at last after a cold, wet windy spring (including some unseasonable snow and hail!).  This is my busiest time of year so here’s a glimpse into some recent activities.

May and early June were busy with nature clubs at both Bunessan and Iona primary schools – finding out about bumblebees and other insects, insectivorous plants, herons and foraging.  Also this morning I took Bunessan early years class on an exploration of their school grounds to investigate how living things depend on other things for survival – with the help of some friendly animal puppets who showed us their favourite places to find food and shelter.

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Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear about more of one of our favourite conservation tasks – beachcleaning!  In late May I led a free guided walk to see the mysterious rock carvings at Scoor Cave, along with Catriona Joss from the Ross of Mull Historical Centre, in return for participants helping to clear the beach while there.  A great effort resulted in a human chain bringing up two pick-up loads full of rubbish, luckily I could deposit this in the skip at Bunessan primary school, hired for their own fantastic beachcleaning efforts a few days later, by the end of the weekend it was full to overflowing!  Then more recently the lovely NTS Conservation Volunteers (Glasgow group) arrived for a weekend visit, they cheerily collected rubbish in the rain, and next day in very welcome sunshine, make short work of adding the final coat of paint to our handrail stanchions on Staffa.  Thanks guys!  Thanks also to the hardy Thistle Campers staying on Iona earlier in May who started the job, alongside ditch clearing, cutting back vegetation at Tireragan nature reserve, and you guessed it, yet more beachcleans!  For information on outdoor volunteering with the NTS, have a look here: http://www.nts.org.uk/Volunteering/Outdoor and of course at Mull and Iona Ranger Service we always welcome local as well as visiting volunteers 🙂

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So environmental education, leading guided walks and practical conservation tasks keep us busy at this time of year, but there’s always a few more unusual things happening just to add to the mix!  Rachel mentioned the NTS cruise in her previous post, well I was lucky enough to get invited to work on the ship as an onboard ranger for a week, spotting wildlife, giving commentaries as we passed seabird colonies and leading a tour to Iona, quite strange to take part in the daytrip that brings so many visitors our way!  Wildlife surveys are in full swing, and for me that could mean wandering Iona with a clipboard at midnight mapping corncrake territories (thanks to the night owls who help with that task and let me sleep on their floors afterwards!), or chasing brightly coloured moths around the hillside at Burg!  I also hosted a visit from Simon Goodall (NTS Wildlife Filming Editor), with the Google Trekker, although it looks like an alien hitching a lift it’s actually the same camera from the Google Car, but mounted on a backpack, so by the end of the year you should be able to take a ‘streetview’ style virtual walk to the fossil tree at Burg, around Staffa or on a circular route around Iona!

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To prove that summer has arrived at last, I’ll leave you with these sunny photos of Iona, taken on my way back from monitoring a seabird colony down at Pigeon Cave yesterday afternoon.  Hope this inspires you to get outdoors and explore your own patch!  You could try the ‘30 days wild‘ challenge as featured on BBC Springwatch, or have a look at our events page on this blog for some walks and activities you could come along to.

Emily

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Marine Education Day

Yesterday I attended a Marine Education Day in Craignure for the school children of Mull organised by the GRAB trust.

I focused on showing the link between white-tailed eagles and the marine environment – how on earth does plankton and seaweed have an impact on our apex predator? We played a great habitat web game to show this, demonstrating how everything links together one way or another. We saw how important the marine habitat is for lots of species, not just the obvious ones like dolphins and whales! I then mixed things up a bit by adding in an oil spill or plastic litter – we found how one human action can impact species right up the food chain. If we continue to damage our marine environment we could definitely see problems with our white-tailed eagles.

White-tailed eagle workshop

White-tailed eagle workshop

We also had Q&A time and kids always manage to amaze me with their questions and insight plus we had our lifesize eagle silohette and foot for everyone to enjoy. 

We ran four of these workshops throughout the day for the groups of children, Tobermory, Bunessan, Dervaig and Salen schools were all present and so it was a great way to meet some children I hadn’t managed to see this year – they’re already looking forward to a visit next season.

Life size white-tailed eagle

Life size white-tailed eagle

Also this week I led a guided walk for the Windsurf cruise ship whilst it was anchored in Tobermory. We headed off along the coastal path to Aros Park, enjoying the views of Tobermory bay and the waterfalls. We chatted about the history of Aros Park and then headed off to view the standing stones at Baliscate before heading back down toward the main street. Lovely morning and we were lucky with the weather.

Thanks for reading – Rachel 🙂

What a load of rubbish!!

Very satisfying day today, the time was finally right to collect all that rubbish piled up on the beaches of Burg and Iona!  Earlier in the year hardworking Thistle Campers (www.nts.org.uk/thistlecamps) had cleared the coastline, taking out what they could carry and leaving behind the heavy stuff, including 2 lorry tyres and lots of broken creels.  I’ve been waiting for the right weather to take it all away and thanks to some very cheery helpers and sunny calm conditions, today was the day!  We did give the beautiful B.Marie a temporary alternative makeover as a rubbish barge, but she’s none the worse for the ordeal, and our haul is now piled as neatly as possible on Fionnphort pier ready for the bin lorry to take it away.  Many thanks to Mark, Stuart, David and Sophie for all their efforts and our contribution to making some of our coastline and seas a little bit cleaner.

You’ve probably seen some of the shocking photos of the effects of marine litter on wildlife, and even entire islands made up of floating plastic…but this week I came across a hopeful twist, a company which is processing plastic taken from the sea into threads to weave fabric, and make it into clothes to sell – how’s that for creative recycling?!

If this has inspired you, more beachcleaning opportunities after our Scoor Cave walk on 3rd September.

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Erraid & Kids Beach Day

Coming up this week we’ve got two lovely events!

Tuesday 12th – Erraid guided walk with Emily

A walk exploring the natural and cultural history of this tidal island (setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’), stopping off at the seal colony, lighthouse observatory and a beautiful sandy beach. You may wish to linger and explore the many lovely beaches around Knockvologan after the walk.

10.30am-2.30pm, £7.50/£5, meeting at Knockvologan Farm, bring along waterproofs, sturdy walking footwear, lunch and a drink, call  07717581405 to book or for more info!

 

Thursday 14th – Kids Beach Activity Day

Spend the day on the beach. We’ll do lots of activities, including a beach clean up & rock pooling. Take the plastic challenge – how many “one-use” plastic items do you use in a day? Try and count before you come along. Use an ID sheet to find local shoreline creatures. We’ll have a great day whatever the weather and get our feet wet!

10am-2pm, £7.50/£5, meeting Calgary Bay car park, wear suitable, weather appropriate clothing, good footwear and bring along lunch and a drink. Booking not required, but helpful. You can call Rachel on 07540792650 for more info.

 

Next week… 21st August – Froglife comes to Mull

Dragons on the move – a unique opportunity to learn more about pond life from wildlife charity Froglife! Join the Ranger Service and Froglife to study and learn about the local pond life in the area with:

– fun pond dipping sessions

– activites

– craft sessions

– use of lab facilities to study what you find

– join a guided walk to look for reptiles in the area

1-3pm, £5/£3 at Corry Meadows, Fisnish (PA65 6BA), please wear appropriate clothing and footwear, for more info please contact Jan on 01680 300640 or 07765898600

 

We had a great time over the last two weeks with Bunessan Show and Salen Show, both great days! The was windy and then very muddy respectively for each, I think my van only just made it out of the field. Things are just about back to normal with Scottish children back to school this week already. We will be at Tobermory Lifeboat Day this weekend though (Sunday 17th), so come and support our much appreciated emergency service!