Spring walk around Tiroran Forest nature trail

Join me on a little walk around the nature trail set up by Bunessan Primary School’s Class 1 last autumn, to look at the changes now it’s spring.

Can you spot the differences between November and May in the photos below?

 

The fungi we found have all disappeared or dried up, but instead there’s lots of spring flowers.  Can you spot primrose with yellow pimpernel, violet, dandelion, tormentil, bluebell, wood anemone and willow?  Click on the pictures to zoom in.

 

There’s lots of fresh green leaves as well…beech and larch trees, spruce tree buds opening, ferns, young hazel tree, birch tree, rowan tree seedling, bilberry.  Again, click on the pictures to zoom in.

 

It’s been a really dry spring.  The burn beside the path has completely dried up.

 

The sphagnum moss which was so colourful in the autumn has dried out and turned pale, and all the water in the little pond below the fallen tree roots has gone, can you see the pondweed leaves sticking to the mud?

 

The puddles along the track where we saw lots of creatures have dried up, just last year’s cones now lying on the ground.

 

Some things have stayed the same though: our markers with painted numbers, the little bridge and evidence of deer!

Volunteer Assistant Ranger opportunity

We are looking for a volunteer assistant ranger for 3 months full time beginning early June. This is a great opportunity to develop skills and experience in nature conservation and rangering. The role involves assisting with varied tasks over a number of island sites, including delivery of education projects and public events programme, providing information to visitors, wildlife survey work, practical maintenance tasks. 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 outside or inside in all weathers, including some lone working in rugged coastal terrain. Some weekend/evening hours will be required.

Any questions please contact:

Emily Wilkins ewilkins@nts.org.uk   01681 700659   07717581405

A full job description is available below.

Click here for job description

Click here for application form.

 CLOSING DATE

Closing date: 9am on Monday 13th April.  Please return completed application form to: ewilkins@nts.org.uk

Interview date: Thursday 30th April

You can also scroll back through the blog to read about the experiences of previous summer volunteers, Emilie in 2019, Georgia in 2018, Kate in 2017 and Daniel in 2016, for example:

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2016/06/20/a-busy-week/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2016/07/15/past-the-tipping-point/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2016/08/16/all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2017/06/18/fun-filled-fortnight/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2017/07/17/moths-flowers-and-walks/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2017/08/08/summer-holiday-fun/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2018/06/07/breaching-basking-sharks-and-bombing-bonxies/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2018/08/23/what-a-summer/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2019/06/20/start-of-the-summer-season/

https://mullionarangerservice.com/2019/08/16/a-summer-on-mull/

 

Work with us in 2020

We’re excited to tell you about 4 job vacancies related to our ranger service, the first 3 based here on the islands.

First up, there’s still time to get your application in for one of 2 seasonal ranger posts with our award-winning white-tailed sea eagle viewing project, Mull Eagle Watch:

Next, the National Trust for Scotland has an opportunity for a Visitor Services Assistant on the island of Staffa:

Also with the National Trust for Scotland, but based in Inverness, is the new post of Northwest Highlands Operations Manager, overseeing a range of beautiful places across the west coast and islands including some of the work of our ranger service here (on Iona and Burg), details of this should be on the NTS Vacancies page by the end of the week.

Autumnal adventures

Working with our local primary schools has been a real highlight for the ranger service this autumn.  Click here to see Ulva primary’s report of their Woodland Workshop with Jan.

Down on the Ross Emily has been helping Class 1 at Bunessan primary with their topic about designing a nature trail.

First some research on habitats and the wildlife living there:

Followed by a couple of visits to Tiroran Community Forest to test out the route of our new trail with help from Community Forester Philip Yielder who marked the route with posts.

The new trail begins by following the river upstream.

The class produced their own maps, poetry and drawings which went into a leaflet and a beautiful wall display.

Finally it was opening day – the children gave a speech and guided their guests around.  Well done everyone!

Soon you’ll be able to pick up a leaflet from the bridge next time you visit the forest and try the route for yourself – wellies recommended!

Also in the forest, the main Woollen Woods display has been taken down, but a few creatures made of natural wool have been moved to the Giant Heads area, see if you can spot them!

Meanwhile Bunessan’s afterschool nature club have been exploring colour and pattern in nature, playing some eco board games and learning about the night sky.

How many star constellations can you recognise?

We seem to have escaped most of the floods and experienced a lot of dry sunny weather this autumn as these photos from Burg last week demonstrate:

 

Autumn in the air

Bright rowan berries, bracken changing colour…although mixed with a lovely splash of purple from scabious, knapweed and heather flowers, it definitely feels like autumn is approaching, especially with the wild weather we’ve been experiencing lately.  Our recent guided walk to Shiaba discovered the burn (usually easily fordable) to be a raging torrent so we had to be content with viewing most of the buildings in the distance!  Luckily as we stopped for lunch the clouds started to clear allowing views of Carsaig Arches and Colonsay too.

Here on Iona and Staffa we’ve just hosted the National Trust for Scotland’s footpath repair team, and also a hardy group of Thistle Camp workparty volunteers, who’ve been out in all weathers making improvements to our well-used paths.  With tens of thousands of visitors a year our footpaths need constant maintenance to counteract the impact of all those feet.  So enjoy our new stepping stones and a slightly less muddy experience next time you are walking to Columba’s Bay, the Hermit’s Cell or Staffa’s puffin colony!  Thistle Campers also worked on repairs to drystone walls and collected rubbish from a number of Iona’s beaches.  The footpath team will be back next spring when they will also be carrying out repair work to the landslide-affected path at Burg.

In my last blog post I told you about our first Nature Adventure Day along with Headland Explorations, well the programme continued with a group exploring St Martin’s Caves on Iona, foraging for seaweed and cooking it on a beach fire lit using flint and steel and natural tinder (dried bog cotton and grasses).  We had seaweed soup, seaweed-flavoured popcorn, fried seaweed and a carragheen pudding!  Thanks to Miek Zwamborn for sharing her expertise.

The last day involved an adventurous sail on Mark Jardine’s B.Marie, high winds causing us to abandon our original plans to travel around the south coast of the Ross of Mull for climbing and beach cleaning, in favour of heading around the north of Iona to sheltered Port Ban.  Everyone enjoyed having a go at climbing and investigating the plant life of the bay with a game of wildflower name pictionary.  Many thanks to the Dutch family from Erraid who kindly used their own boats to collect the beach rubbish from Traigh Gheal a few days later.

Other successful summer days included Woodland Tribe at Tiroran Community Forest where children and young people got to create their own adventure playground which should last up to 5 years.  Feel free to use it next time you’re there, and if you haven’t already seen the Woollen Woods, most of it is still in place too.  I’m now busy helping Bunessan Class 1 with their nature trail topic, along with Philip Yielder (Community Forester at Tiroran) so look out for a new trail to follow in the forest this autumn!

I also really enjoyed the opening celebrations for the Loch Pottie path, standing in the rain 10 minutes before the agreed time I was wondering whether anyone would turn up, but a last-minute rush saw over 100 people led by the pipe band and children on bikes all walking the path together to declare it open.  It’s since been great to see it well-used and appreciated by everyone from visitors on an evening stroll, to locals walking their dogs and children cycling to the shop.  Look out for new interpretation signage in due course.

The last of our wildlife surveys for the year saw me joined by some volunteers with a head for heights as we checked up on the spread of bracken at Burg and counted our population of the rare Iceland Purslane plant.  Work also continues on the bothy renovations at Burg, and on the Fingal’s Cave walkway on Staffa which is nearing completion.

As some of you will be aware through our displays at the agricultural shows we were covering endangered species, one of which may well be YOUR ranger service. The Ranger Service is a partnership made of National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Forest and Land Scotland (FLS)and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and we are managed by Mull and Iona Community Trust. Unfortunately, FLS cease to fund us totally at the beginning of April next year and SNH have cut their support by 50% so our ranger team may well be under threat unless we find alternative funding. If you have time to drop us a supportive email (to mfinch@mict.co.uk) about an event you have enjoyed, what your children thought about one of the school trips we have organised, the benefits of volunteering or the difference made by our co-ordination of community access projects, beach cleans or any other aspect of our work we’d be glad to hear from you as we can use any positive comments as evidence for potential funders! We will keep you up to date as things develop but any support for our service would be much appreciated.

thanks for reading,

Emily

 

A Summer on Mull

 They say that all good things must come to an end, and my summer volunteering with the Ranger Service is no exception. I can hardly believe it’s already been two months since I arrived on this beautiful island and I’ll soon be heading back to the mainland and home to Yorkshire.

My final week on Mull started at the Tiroran Community Woodland outreach day, where visitors ate delicious cakes while watching eagles and crossbills (so I’m told….) soaring over the trees. We held our own event, planned by yours truly, later in the week. Armed with jumbo pavement chalk, we invited anyone and everyone to come and decorate the newly completed Loch Pottie Path, which joins the villages of Fionnphort and Creich. It was great to see visiting children playing hopscotch just metres away from local poets who had written special pieces for the event.

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A classic game, easier to play when you’re a child (trust me)

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Translation: what a light and a great view. I’m told it rhymes in Dutch!

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A contribution from one of our local poets

We did a lot of survey work this week, too. Since June I’ve regularly been out to monitor a shag colony nesting on the cliffs of Iona and my final visit on Tuesday revealed two chicks I hadn’t seen previously. Good news for a colony that was completely washed away last year!

Towards the end of the week, Emily (Ranger for South Mull, Iona, Burg and Staffa) and I were fortunate enough to spend a morning with the exceptional botanist Lynne Farrell, who has scoured Mull (and various other islands) on a mission to record the plants that live there. What I lack in botanical skill I make up for in powers of observation: we found a total of 110 different species in the small area we surveyed, more than when Lynne surveyed the same plot over twenty years ago.

 

Lynne Farrell Survey.jpg

Lynne and I putting our binoculars to good use to zoom in on the plants over the stream

 

This week is a good representation of my time here; I don’t think many people will have had a summer as varied as mine. Assisting Emily, I’ve been everything from facepainter to wildlife tour guide to researcher to photographer to teaching assistant.

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‘Going Wild’ at Fionnphort beach

Burg survey

Taking a well-earned break while surveying the plants on Burg

I’ve listened for corncrakes under a midnight sun, wild camped with the feral goats of Burg, stood top-deck on a tour boat looking for cliff-side nests and watched a sheepdog herd ducks at my first ever agricultural show.

Bunessan Show 2019

From left: Lizzy, Emily and me at Bunessan Show

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Wild camping on Burg – before the rain came

I’ve surveyed more species than I can count, (including the endemic slender scotch burnet moth and the extremely rare Iceland purslane), and my plant ID repertoire has expanded from daisy or dandelion to include such things as selfheal, butterwort and northern marsh orchid. I’ve watched dolphins playing in the sound of Iona, photographed puffins crash landing on Staffa and laughed at my own naivety for thinking a buzzard could possibly be a sea eagle.

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Can’t visit Staffa without photographing a puffin

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Bottlenose dolphins are regular visitors to the Sound of Iona

Outside of work I’ve explored the white sandy beaches of Ardalanish, Uisken and Kilvickeon, climbed Ben More, Mull’s only Munro, and eaten a life-changingly delicious cheesecake at Dervaig Artisan Bakery (not in the same day, though that would have been the perfect reward). I’ve also seen one or two absolutely stunning sunsets and views to islands I can barely point out on a map.

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Kilvickeon beach, one of my favourites

Sunset

An incredible sunset seen from Bunessan

I’m sure I’ll be back, but for now I’ll bid a fond farewell to the island and its people. I’m particularly grateful to Emily for her patience, guidance and conversation, which has helped make this summer an unforgettable experience.

Emilie

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

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