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.

IMG_20190814_144050522

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

IMG_20190814_135028630

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

IMG_20190814_142653751

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.

IMG_20190731_124637939

‘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

DSC_0080

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.

Compressed 4

Can’t visit Staffa without photographing a puffin

Dolphin

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.

Kilvickeon

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

Advertisements

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

IMG_0467

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

Take Shelter

With all the wet and windy weather it’s about time you had a tour of our lovely new building on Iona which opened earlier this year, so…

Welcome to Shelter!

external view

Let’s take a look around…

20160115_123112

This new building sits on the footprint of an older shed which has played a key part in island life over the last 100 years – a venue for dances, a cargo store, boatshed, and even the firestation – until it fell into disrepair.

img_1889

It’s now revitalised, with a similar look to the original building outside (in keeping with the village’s status as a building conservation area). If you are here on a quick daytrip we hope it will inspire you to visit again and spend more time exploring.  If you need a dry place to wait for the ferry, be our guest, and maybe learn something interesting while you’re waiting – there’s a handy vending machine for snacks too!  If you are unable to walk far, our audio-visual film, large-scale map and colourful banners will bring the sights and sounds of the island to you.  If you’re ready to explore off the beaten track you’ll find the map and leaflets useful – don’t forget to come back and record your wildlife sightings afterwards and find out how the conservation work of the National Trust for Scotland provides ‘shelter’ for the island’s wildlife and landscapes too.

img_1888

Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our generous donors, many thanks to all who contributed and to those who help to keep the building clean and open for business.

img_1645

10th June saw our official opening ceremony at which young people from Oban High School who’d been involved in our Changing Landscapes project entertained us with their music and poetry.  A short documentary film about this project features in the Shelter’s audio-visual display and can be viewed online here: www.nts.org.uk/Site/Iona-changing-landscapes/Changing-Landscapes

The wildlife film created by Simon Goodall can also be viewed online here:                     www.nts.org.uk/Nature-Channel/View/Iona-Time-And-Tide

NTS Iona

Pic: Tom Finnie (10.6.2016) Official opening of new National Trust for Scotland visitor shelter on Iona:

 

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.

20160612_111726

Before

20160612_115820

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’.

20160614_123108

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.

20160617_141721

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!

20160615_200813

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!

20160615_220922

 

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!

20160616_122739

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

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.

Iona young nats walk June 2015 2butterwort Iona Iona YNs May 2015 2Bunessan YNs May 2015 2 Iona YNs May 2015 3animal puppets

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 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScoor cave beachclean human chain4 Scoor cave beachclean rubbish 2015

kilvickeon beachclean with glasgow cvsstaffa painting

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!

google trekker sara google trekker simon emily

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

IMG_2146IMG_2147IMG_2149

One thing is for sure

Completing start-of-season checks and the first bird count of the year on Staffa over Easter weekend, the light was stunning in the early morning as the mist rolled back.  Here’s some photos and a wee guest blog from one of our ranger service volunteers:

Easter Sunday morning Staffa Josef photo Black guillemot count Staffa Josef photo Misty Treshnish Isles from Staffa Josef photo Inside Clamshell cave Josef photo

One thing is for sure. There is a big difference between going on a trip to Staffa with a boat and having one hour ashore before immediately traveling back again, or waving goodbye to the boat that would take you back and spend 24 hours on the island to yourself. For one, you get Fingals cave all to yourself as the light is starting to fade and there is no one else in sight that could look at you in a strange way when you decide to test the cave acoustics by shouting out a medieval chant from that children’s program you watched on telly twenty years ago when you were a kid in Sweden (any likeness to real people in the previous sentence is purely accidental). Just in case you were wondering.

Of course, I wasn’t alone.

The whole reason I was there was because it was somewhere decided that spending 24 hours alone on a tiny island in the Atlantic isn’t something you can require from your employee. So I tagged along. And so did round about 122 Black Guillemots as it turns out when we did the bird count at dawn the following morning which was one of the main reasons for the trip.

I promised Emily I would include a Haiku in this blogpost.

Eight or twelve or ten?
Maybe there was seventeen?
I’ve lost my count again…

So There.

Josef
NTS Volunteer
(And proud owner of a get-into-nts-things-for-free-card)

Changing Landscapes

Time to feature a guest blog from Janna Greenhalgh, editor of ‘Round and About – Mull and Iona’ magazine: http://www.roundandaboutmull.co.uk/  Look out for R&A in local shops every month, with loads of useful information and events, including ranger news.

“The audience in Iona Abbey on Monday 23rd June was delighted by the performance of ‘Changing Landscapes’ by Oban High School pupils – a carefully blended mix of traditional music, song and poetry. This was the result of a project instigated by the National Trust for Scotland, which has education as part of its remit.

The youngsters came over to Iona for two days and learned something of its history and experienced present day Iona, concentrating on the changing landscape and the conservation of wildlife, with the aim of expressing their thoughts and feelings about this in their music and writing. ‘The whole project has been a wonderful experience’ said Emily Wilkins, National Trust Ranger for the Ross of Mull, Iona, Burg and Staffa: ‘especially as most of the pupils had never been to Iona before’

Members of the High School’s Traditional School of Music worked with Donald Shaw of Capercaillie, and Advanced Higher English pupils worked with local poet Jan Sutch Pickard. Both mentors took part in the performance along with the pupils, and the level of expertise and professionalism was astonishing after such a short preparation time. Credit must also go to Sileas Sinclair and MorvenMcKerrell, who work on a regular basis with the pupils of the Traditional School of Music.

The music was played with feeling as well as accuracy, and the songs and poems at times very moving.

Donald Shaw summed it up ‘Being creative with these young artists in such a magical environment on the edge of the world re-affirmed my belief that we are in a great moment for our culture’. ”                                            JCG

Fiona and Donald  IMG_6326 IMG_6386 Changing Landscapes perf days 2014_0458 IMG_6269 IMG_6302 Iona Day 1 of the Visit 054 IMG_6383IMG_6241

Have a look at the Changing Landscapes Flickr page for lots more photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/80087340@N06/sets/72157645160034325/

News from the south!

Hello, I’m Emily the ranger for Iona, Staffa, Burg and the Ross of Mull.  What have I been up to recently?

Well, wildflowers and seashore safaris have featured in many of my events this year.  Here’s a lovely scarlet pimpernel found growing near Sandeels Bay on Iona, and some rockpool friends:

ranger pics july 001Rockpool friends

I have been working alongside Mary Ireson and Scott Douglas, youthworkers in Tobermory and Oban respectively, to bring together young people from all over Mull, and from Oban, for fun outdoor activities.  This week’s challenge was a camping trip to Ulva (thanks to Fran and Isaac from Camas outdoor centre – http://www.iona.org.uk/island-centres/camas) as part of the John Muir Award, discovering, exploring, conserving and sharing the experience of wild places: http://www.johnmuiraward.org

The group worked as a team to help carry all the equipment, stopping for games and butterfly spotting along the way, and set up camp near the coast.  A highlight of the evening’s beach exploration was observing the fascinating world of the hermit crab as we found a large colony in a nearby rockpool and spent time offering them empty shells as potential new homes or watching them delicately scavenging the eyes from some nearby dead sandeels to eat!  Some of our group made an in-depth study of the creatures living inside a cowpat!!  I think John Muir would have approved 🙂

Ulva Ferrycamping triparriving at last!