Summer holiday fun

Last month I spent a day with Meryl at the Tiroran forest eagle hide. With the remaining chick on the nest, all age groups got a good view of it through the telescope as it was stretching its wings and moving around the nest. There was lots of great information told by Meryl to keep everyone entertained and learning new things about White tailed eagles. Thanks for letting me help for the day again Meryl.
As part of the Ross of Mull Historical Centre’s project to survey old townships, I went along to help with the walk over survey at Ardchiavaig with Argyll Archaeology. The day involved walking over a mapped area of the township identifying the buildings and wall structures and measuring each one to start getting an overall view of the site. On the day we were also joined by Alasdair Satchel who is a local documentary maker who was making a short documentary about the project and doing film making and editing with young people throughout the week. BBC Alba also came out on site to get some footage for a news segment on An Là.
We took a group of young people who were over on Mull as part of The Stevenson Way, to Shiaba for a walk to look at the local nature. We firstly had a look at the Mariota Stone at Kilvickeon Church then the group navigated their way to Shiaba township. On the way, we saw the sheep fank, sundew plants in the bog and my first golden eagle on Mull just above our heads.

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This year’s Practical plants day was a bit windy and wet but we managed to compress it all into the hall and everything ran smoothly. It was a fun filled day of a variety of plant based workshops such as wool dyeing and herbal remedies, talks and locally sourced/cooked food was on the menu for lunch. We also had our children’s table with activities such as seed bombs, insect homes, paper making and rainsticks. In the afternoon I got the chance to do the cooking workshop where we made dandelion shortbread, elderflower marshmallows and egg muffins with different herbs. Thank you to everyone who made the day such a success.


Uisken games started off a bit cool and cloudy but as the day went on the clouds cleared and everyone had fun. There was stalls of burgers, RNLI, first responders and ourselves with scavenger hunt and badge making. The games for all ages got underway and there was the raft race at the end.
The next day, as well as being World Rangers Day it was also our ‘Survivor Camp’ event at Tiroran Forest for 9-15 year olds. With my forest school experience, I felt very at home and the afternoon was enjoyed by all. The three hours went by so fast and all the young survivors got a chance at making their own den structures, tracking for animal prints and making a cast of the ones they found as well as collecting and filtering water to use for hot chocolate. They all managed to make their own bows and arrows for target practice, light their own fires in the Kelly kettles with flint and steel and enjoyed an energetic game being hunters! The day went so well even getting a 10/10 review from one of the participants who would like to book onto next year’s event!


Last Wednesday was the biodiversity drop-in at the historical centre. We set up a moth trap the night before and by the morning there was loads of moths hiding inside. I didn’t think we could get so much and it took us 2-3 hours to look at them all, identify, show the visitors and release them. I had never heard of so many kinds of moths including the Clouded Border, Garden Tiger, Burnished Brass and Smokey Wainscot. The visitors also went out to explore our wildflower meadow with Sue to see the different species that are growing.


On Thursday Emily, myself and three more volunteers walked up Burg to find and survey Iceland purslane and hairy stonecrop. It involved choosing squares in a set area of the gravel terrace habitat and counting how many purslane, stonecrop flowers and rosettes we found. The cloud came over but cleared in time for lunch where we had a fantastic view of the Ross.


The end of Gala fortnight was marked with the Bunessan show. Although a bit showery, it was a great day with lots of visitors. Rachel joined us at our stall where she explored the effects of rubbish on the environment and alternatives we can all use. We also had badge making, a quiz and pipe cleaner insects on offer for the children which were all popular.

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Yesterday we ran our Love Our Planet event over on Iona for 6-10 year olds. It was a lovely day where we explored the effects of climate change on our planet and what we can do to help. We looked at the clouds, explored greenhouse gases, pretended to be puffins and corncrakes on migration as well as looked for pollinators and made seed bombs to take home. We also wrote on a shell a pledge that we could do at home to help protect our planet.

Kate

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Moths, flowers and walks

Lots of things happening down the Ross this month, including our children’s events that are part of the Gala fortnight. Teddy Bear’s Picnic for 3-6 year olds at Ardalanish and Survivor Camp at our community forest for 9-15 year olds. To find our more and how to book visit our events page and get in touch, hope to see you soon!
In June we did the annual moth count on Burg which is important in managing their population and monitoring the habitat they depend on. With help from NTS colleagues we counted Transparent, Six Spot and most importantly the rare Slender Scotch Burnet. They only fly in June and require a warm, sunny and calm day to count them flying or sunbathing on the steep slopes. It was a lovely day to walk over this gorgeous landscape and we counted a good number of each species.

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We ran a wildflower walk on Iona, looking at the species found there. It was a lovely gentle walk identifying the very varied species of flowers, plants and grasses found in the fields and sides of paths. In total, we counted 86 different species including Crested dog’s tail, Red Bartsia and this stunning Northern Marsh Orchid. Thank you to Peter for helping to identify the more difficult ones and everyone who attended on the day.

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We attended Iona Abbey to run a session with their guests where we looked at what makes Iona special and our underlying motivations for environmental care. The guests enjoyed exploring the Abbey’s grounds looking at the different species found under their feet, sticking them to these strips. It was lovely seeing each person’s interpretation and creative colour boards.

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Into July, and this week we have had visiting botanists to the area, who have been ticking off islands they hadn’t been to around Mull and the Treshnish islands. On Tuesday, myself and Emily had the pleasure of being able to join them and learn from the experts about the different flowers and plants that we found. A useful days training for both of us. We went out on Mark’s ‘Birthe Marie’ to the island of Inch Kenneth in Loch Na Keal. It is a fascinating island composed of limestone and has a rich variety of wildflowers. It was fascinating for both myself and Emily to see just how many different species grew there and surprised myself of how many plants I have already learnt from my time here on Mull.

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We had a stunning day of weather on Wednesday morning for our walk at Carsaig Bay. It was calm, sunny and very warm and enjoyed a 3 hour walk along the coast line. We saw lots of wildlife including a Garden Tiger moth, baby frogs and a White-Tailed Sea Eagle! There was also a chance to cool down behind this amazing waterfall and at low tide we went searching for fossils, finding part of this ammonite.

Kate

Magnificent moths

Our moth morning event went well. Thankfully the weather the night before was suitable for moths, high winds or heavy rain aren’t the best for trapping – either for the moths or the trap itself! But we had a cloudy night with fairly low winds, ideal for catching lots of moths. Great to have some children join us for the event too, as moth trapping is a great interest and can be a hobby for life. Thanks to the huge number of species you’ll always be learning, plus as the climate changes the range of moth species will change, so this will present new challenges! It made a nice change to sort through moths with interested people rather than alone!

All of our records will be given to the county recorder and contribute to country wide data and help target conservation. We’ll also send our records to the National Moth Week team.

Tobermory Moth Trap

Purple Bar x1
Buff tip x1
Beautiful golden Y x6
White ermine x7
Broom moth x1
Antler moth x2
Purple clay x5
Nutmeg x1
Smoky wave x1
Gold spangle x1
Lesser swallow prominent x2
Ingrailed clay x3
Clouded-bordered brindle x5
Bright-line brown-eye x1
Dotted clay x2
Green arches x1
Knot grass x1
Six-striped rustic x2
Light emerald x1
Smoky wainscot x7
Flame shoulder x1

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Buff-tip

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Gold spangle

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One of the children enjoying a lesser swallow prominent, what a connection with nature!

Another child, Henry, had brought along his emperor moth caterpillars to show everyone.  They were feeding on heather and will become large, spectacular moths!

Bunessan moth trap

Dark arches x1
White ermine x3
Purple clay x2
Clouded-bordered brindle x1
Common rustic x1
True lover’s knot x1
Magpie moth x1
Cinnabar x1
Clouded border x2
Green carpet x1
Common marbled carpet x1
Flame shoulder x2

We’ve highlighted the moth species found in both traps, but you can see quite a variation with species, one main reason will be the variety of habitats at the two trap locations. Different bulbs were also used which may be one reason the Tobermory trap had higher numbers.

We hope we’ve inspired you to try moth trapping, it can be great fun and a really great hobby to have. Look up your nearest butterfly conservation group, they often run events or can lend out moth traps.

Thanks – Rachel & Emily 🙂

Moth Morning – 22nd July

Night Time Nature

National Moth Week begins on 18th July, a global citizen science project focusing on the fascinating world of moths. This week long event celebrates the insects belonging to the same group as butterflies, but because many emerge at night we often overlook them. Moths are most known to us for their clothes munching larvae, and most people think they’re all brown and boring, and they’re wrong! Only a handful of moth larvae actually eat clothes and these are often the tiny micro moths, not the macro moths that most moth-ers focus on. In the UK we have around 60 species of butterfly and for those of us that live in the North of the country many of these species are out of reach, much preferring the warmer climate down South. Moths on the other hand are in abundance with around 2500 moth species found in the UK, in Scotland we probably have around 500 species of large, macro moths – plenty to keep us interested! You can join in with National Moth Week if you have your own trap but if not look out for events being held around the country, this is a great way to get an introduction to the underestimated world of moths. You can join myself and Emily on Wednesday 22nd July for a morning of moths.

Moth trapping

Moth trapping is a growing nature based hobby in the UK and I started moth trapping this year after first trying whilst volunteering for two weeks on an RSPB reserve. My trap is homemade and was much more affordable than some traps you can buy online, so don’t be put off by the price if you’re thinking of starting out. My trap cost around £60, you just need someone who is handy with a hammer and nails! Because of work commitments I only trap on weekends at the moment, and even then we’re very dependent on weather conditions, but beware, it can become addictive. The trap works by using a light bulb to attract moths which are then caught in the bottom of the trap (harmless and they’re released), and so the following morning you can investigate what you’ve caught. This can be daunting when you first set out because of so many species, but having a good book will help enormously. Plus, there are many facebook groups and twitter users to ask for help and your county recorder will always be happy to assist, just take photos of any you aren’t sure on.

Recent records

I’ve been using my trap whenever weather and time allows, so to get you excited for moth week I thought I’d share some of the moths I’ve caught. At the beginning of July I caught around 35 different species in one night, this was my largest catch so far and took me a while to sort, but it was brilliant all the same. Here are some images I’ve taken whilst I’ve been trapping throughout the season so far:

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Poplar hawkmoth

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Clouded border

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Early thorn

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White ermine

 

Emily adds…

I’ve been trapping in my garden in Bunessan this week too.  It’s amazing the beautiful colours and details out there to be discovered, of which we’re often unaware unless they come to our windows at night, like this Riband Wave did.IMG_1436

This is the rather lovely Burnished Brass, and my photographic skills don’t do justice to its green iridescence…let’s hope we catch another one to show you on Wednesday!

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The pictures below show the unmistakable Garden Tiger, which displays its surprisingly bright orange underwings if disturbed.

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Bright colours in nature are often a warning, for example ‘Don’t eat me I’m poisonous’!  Day-flying burnet moths can produce their own cyanide from the plants they eat as caterpillars.  Here’s a newly hatched 6-spot burnet I found during a walk at Burg last week, which has just emerged from its pupal case and cocoon, and is letting its new wings dry before flying off.

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As Rachel mentioned there are lots of ways to get help with identification, another useful website is iSpot where you can upload photos and descriptions of any wildlife you find and experts will give you their opinions on what it might be!  Give it a try here: http://www.ispotnature.org/communities/uk-and-ireland

 

Wildlife Walks

Wolf Island

I’m now extremely jealous of the amazing weather everyone else in the UK is enjoying; Wimbledon looks more like America than London! We’ve still been busy with plenty of events going on and I’m now busy most days at Mull Eagle Watch (read about our eaglet here). It’s a great time of year to appreciate the smaller wildlife, including butterflies and wildflowers. Jan and I led a guided walk for a group of American visitors on the Isle of Ulva on Sunday 21st June and it actually turned out to be a nice day!

Marsh management

Ulva is a great place for wildlife, with lots of deciduous woodland remnants and areas of land managed particularly for rare butterfly species. The marsh fritillary butterfly is one of Europe’s rarest butterflies and relies upon devils-bit scabious as the food plant for its caterpillars. Grazing and cutting of fields at the wrong time can be catastrophic for these butterflies and so support and good management are important. The island is also known as wolf island, giving another indication of the part fauna here, it is thought that this name comes from the Viking/Norse people who took Ulva as their home for a time. Obviously we’ve lost our large mammalian predators like the wolf and the lynx but thankfully we do at least have the white-tailed and golden eagles.

Luscious lichens

We enjoyed lots of wildflowers and trees in bloom – particularly the hawthorn. We spotted lousewort, foxgloves, birds-foot trefoil, bluebells, flag iris, tormentil, bugle, water avens, common bistort and more. We also enjoyed the amazing diversity of lichens covering the trees and walls including dogtooth lichen and beard lichen; this gives us an indication of ancient woodland and demonstrates the cleanliness of our air.

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Mull lichen diversity

Loch Torr guided walk

On Wednesday 1st I ran a guided walk in the Quinish Forest surrounding Loch Torr. We had a brilliant afternoon in the warm weather with a huge array of wildlife to be seen. We were also joined by Ewan Miles of Inspire Wild, great to have him and his wealth of knowledge for the afternoon. Ewan spotted some great species for us including some common lizards, one of reptile species that were enjoying the heat of the day.

Common lizard

Common lizard (Ewan Miles)

Insect life

Much of the area is commercial plantation with Sitka spruce and larch trees making up the bulk but despite this the area is brilliant for insect life. The rides along the forest tracks are wide and sunny, with large open areas full of heather and cotton grass. We enjoyed a multitude of butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies throughout the afternoon making for a very slow walking pace! We recorded species like dark-green fritillary, small heath, speckled wood and green-veined white butterflies. Dragonflies are on the wing now and we watched golden-ringed and four spotted chasers hawking along the waterways. Damselflies were in abundance; we spotted large red damselflies and the stunning beautiful demoiselle. Day flying moths were also visible, speckled yellow was the most notable. I also noted a very odd looking parasitic wasp species, which I think is called the black slip wasp, very mean looking black and red individual!

Beautiful damoiselle

Beautiful damoiselle (Ewan Miles)

Northern Eggar

Northern eggar moth (Ewan Miles)

Coming up 

I’m already getting lots of bookings for the butterfly/wildflower morning at Treshnish (Wed 15th July), so if you’re interested it would be great  if you could let me know on 07540792650. Straight after lunch on the same day you join myself and Dr Conor Ryan from HWDT to do some sea watching to look for marine mammals and seabirds, so you could spend the whole day with the ranger service!

Speckled wood on water avens

Speckled wood butterfly on water avens flower (Ewan Miles)

Harriers & hawk moths

Blimey, almost another four weeks have disappeared since I last managed to write a post. Of course this is a busy time of year for the Ranger Service and Mull Eagle Watch, with our daily trips at the viewing hide a large part of my working week. We’re still struggling with nice weather though and this is showing with our wildlife.

Harrier hunting – with binoculars 

Since my woodland walk in May I’ve ran a few more events. On a crisp, clear afternoon we set out on a “Skydancer Spotting” guided walk, to try and see some hen harriers. This was at the north of Loch Frisa and we wandered down the forestry commission track stopping to scan regularly. Probably due to the weather during May hen harriers proved to be elusive in this area but we still had a great afternoon with plenty of wildlife. We’re very lucky to have good numbers of hen harriers on the island, we don’t have any problems with illegal raptor persecution here, but elsewhere in the UK they’re on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird, wholly due to illegal killings, such a shame for a wonderful raptor. An adult white-tailed eagle from a nearby territory flew right over head and we all got fantastic views of the broad, 8ft wingspan. We also caught sight of golden eagle pair. Countless buzzards were seen throughout the walk, all enjoying the blue skies and strong breeze. We tend to take buzzards for granted now that they’re our most common raptor, but it wasn’t that long ago they were missing from the majority of the country. We also spotted a pair of my favourite bird, the kestrel. These raptors are in short supply on the island and are undergoing rapid declines across the country, up to 40% of our kestrels have gone. Wildflowers were varied along the edge of the track and included birds foot trefoil, bugle, wild strawberry, bitter vetch and tormentil.

Tormentil

Tormentil

Loch Buie Wander 

Despite the weather on Wednesday 17th we had an enjoyable walk at the head of Loch Buie, covering Laggan Sands and the restored Mausoleum. We enjoyed the view of three fallow deer and one red deer stag with only one velvety antler, sure he won’t be the top boy during the autumn rut. We noticed the first flowering foxgloves, along with flag iris, birds foot trefoil and tormentil. We then had brilliant views of a white-tailed eagle pair, both of which disappeared along the inaccessible coastline.

Flag iris

Flag iris

Drop-in Ranger Service 

In addition to the varied events I run, every other week I also provide a drop-in ranger service in the Fishnish wildlife hide. This hide is community based and open at all times, so do pop in. Sightings here are varied and include white-tailed eagles, heron, oystercatcher, greylag geese, gull species, otter and marine mammals like harbour porpoise. I’m next in the hide on Wednesday 24th June, so call in between 10am and 12pm to say hello.

Coming up 

We have so many events to look forward to toward the end of the month and throughout July. On Wednesday 24th along with the Fishnish hide drop in you can join a geology based guided walk at Carsaig, a fantastic area. Our yearly fishing competition is coming up next weekend, so head down to Lettermore for that one. In July we have plenty things to chose from, kicking off with a guided walk at Loch Tor, a brilliant area of mixed habitat. You can join a wildflower and butterfly walk at Treshnish Farm in the morning, followed by coastal sea watching in the afternoon, both on Wednesday 15th. Look out for the moth morning in July too, we’ll have a few hours to appreciate some of the night time wonders we don’t often see. I’ve been trapping in my own time when the weather allows and caught my first ever hawkmoth, an incredible poplar hawkmoth, definitely better than butterflies! We’re also running the nature club in Aros park for children again, where we’ll focus on moths!

Poplar hawkmoth

Poplar hawkmoth

Head over to our events page for more information on all of these.

Thanks for reading again, back soon with more!

Rachel

Mighty moths

Moth Morning

With the fantastic help from Sian and Chris we ran a lovely moth morning today, and what a catch! Moth trapping is a fantastic way to see some native wildlife that would otherwise go unnoticed, largely due to moth’s nocturnal habits. You can start out by simply using a white sheet hung on a washing line with a torch, or strings dipped in something sweet and sickly – hang these on a tree and see what you attract. Or go a little further by either constructing your own moth trap or spend some money to invest in one. Moth trapping is brilliant for everyone and is very exciting for children, it’s a little like a present when you have your first look in the morning.

Mothing

Mothing

Sian and Chris set up a trap last night and left it running, ready for this morning. Inside among old egg cartons we had lots of moths (egg cartons are great to give shelter and hiding places). Sometimes you also get some other critters, I’ve had burying beetles before which are amazing, but beware, these smell strongly of rotting flesh so having them inside your home is definitely not recommended! All you need to ID your catch is some storage containers; these can be specifically for bugs or even something like a urine sample bottle. Collect up you moths so they’re safe before they start to become active and you lose them. You can them ID them one by one. The best way to do this is with an ID guide or book, there are lots to choose from. I’d also have a notebook and a pen handy to record your findings.

 

Here is our list of findings

Macro moths:

July highflyer (Hydriomena furcata) x5

Antler moth (Cerapteryx graminis) x6

Gold spot (Plusia festucae) x2

Bordered beauty (Epione repandaria) x1

Common wainscot (Common wainscot) x3

Small fan-footed wave (Idaea biselata) x1

Beautiful goldenY (Autographa pulchrina) x2

Mottled beauty (Alcis repandata) x1?

Scalloped oak (Crocallis elinguaria) x1

Lesser swallow prominent (Pheosia gnoma) x1

Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing (Noctua janthe) x3

Dark arches (Apamea monoglypha) x3

Dun-bar (Cosmia trapezina) x1?

Lesser yellow underwing – Hebridean specimen (Noctua comes) x1

Lesser swallow prominent

Lesser swallow prominent

Gold Spot

Gold Spot

 

Micro moths:

Honeysuckle moth (Ypsolopha dentella) x1

Bird cherry ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella) x2

Eudemia species

Depending on where you are in the UK your species list could be really different and of course it will depend on the time of year too and what food plant species you have nearby. If you trap regularly over a period of months you’ll see things change. The more you trap the better you’ll get at recognising the common moths, anything unusual will jump out at you. A lot of them are quite docile to handle and photograph but if not a safe way to slow them down is to pop them in the fridge for a while.

So, why not get outside and enjoy the UK’s 2500 species of moth? They beat our 70 species of butterfly hands down and a lot of them are just as stunning. My favourites from today were the Lesser swallow prominent and the Gold spot.

 

Moth madness

What a week!

We’re definitely lucky to be in the ranger service with weather like this, who wouldn’t want to work outside? Unfortunately the guided walk on Ulva earlier this week didn’t go ahead but we’ve still been busy! 

We’re preparing for the Uisken Beach Games which is this Sunday from 2pm, come along to see us there. We’ve got lots of fun activities for kids to enjoy and to keep them busy from fishing and beach bingo, to the “rotten game” and wee beach critters to explore. The weather is forecast to stay pretty good too so pop down and say hello.

It’s also not long till both Bunessan and Salen shows, again with lots of fun outdoor activities for the children. Rachel, our eagle ranger will be there too with eagle activities, and interesting things for adults to have a look at too.

Moth Madness  

Next Monday morning we’re running an interesting event, join Rachel and Sian Scott for a morning of moth madness. We’ll run a moth trap over night to catch lots of lovely moths, we can then investigate, ID and enjoy the contents in the morning whilst enjoying a brew too. We have about 500 moths in Scotland, most of which you’ve probably never seen before, some are absolutely stunning. Come along to Craignure Village Hall at 10am – 12pm on Monday morning.

Everyone welcome and hot drinks are on hand.

£5 per adult

£3 per child

(Costs go towards the use of the hall and to the ranger service)

Call 07540792650 for more info!

Moth Trapping