Tag Archives: connections

One Day Wild Summer Event

OneWildDay Poster

Join us for a great day of wild activities at Duart Castle. See more information on the event page or contact Rachel on either 07540792650 or rachelannfrench92@gmail.com

Booking is essential and spaces will be limited so don’t leave it too late.

Day 23: Den building 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 23

On Thursday the Ulva Primary School children vacated the premises for the polling station and visited Lochdonhead Primary School for the day. These primary schools are under a joint head teacher and have great links, giving the children chances to make friends outside of their own small number.

At Lochdon school, the children have access to a brilliant patch of woodland within easy walking distance which gives amazing outdoor learning opportunities (at Ulva Primary we use a local beach as an outdoor learning area). We made the most of the schools being together and spent the morning working on teamwork skills in the woodland school.

The walk into the forest area is great for wildlife too, with flower-filled road verges boasting orchids, daisies, dandelions and birds-foot trefoil. The kids also spotted a slow-worm on the track and knowing it posed no threat they were excited to see the reptile. We talked about why it was a lizard and not a snake, nor even a worm and chatted about the differences between male and female before leaving it in peace to find cover.

P1010998
A slow-worm – I took this a wee while back! 

The children were split into mixed school teams and were tasked to build a den. Outdoor education like this really gives the kids a chance to develop life skills and highlights areas that need more support. Confidence, communication, risk management and compromising were all required and some fared better than others, but on reflection all the children could discuss areas to improve and what worked well. This outdoor activity also encourages creativity and free thinking – brilliant skills which lead to creative futures in the real world. Plus, being out in nature has numerous health benefits!

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

 

Day 19: Terrific toads 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 19 

The weather was due to turn this afternoon, so we decided to head out to a local patch this morning. Loch Torr is a local Forestry Commission site with a diverse range of habitats, including a small freshwater loch, we often cover the tracks within the forest and have had a great variety of sightings. Today though, we chose to walk along the lower shore of the loch on nearby farmland to check some good spots for reptiles and amphibians – did pretty well.

We had common lizard and slowworm on the reptile side of things. No adders today, although we’ve had some great sightings this year so far. We also noticed plenty of wildflowers on the walk, including the first bog asphodel of the year, fragrant and heath spotted orchid, heath bedstraw, birds-foot trefoil, heath milkwort and slender St John’s wort.

We then found three individual common toads hidden away in cool, quiet places. Toads are great – always had a soft spot for them, their pupil is fascinating! Incredibly they are known to live for a very long time, captive toads have even reached the age of 50! We also spotted a common frog, showing their behavioural differences clearly – the toads were relatively calm and reluctant to move (maybe they know they taste bad), whilst the frog was off in a very large hop to find better shelter. We submit all our reptile and amphibian sightings to Record Pool, even the “common” species!

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 18: Lunga 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 18

Yesterday we were lucky enough to head out to the Treshnish Isles aboard the Lady Jayne of Mull Charters to celebrate Zara’s birthday with some wildlife and “puffin therapy”. The weather was brilliant and the islands looked beautiful, surrounded by clear waters, grey seals and seabirds. We heard the rasping call of a corncrake on a smaller, nearby island and found the camouflaged egg of an oystercatcher as we landed among the pebbles and boulders.

P1030053
Oystercatcher nest

Puffins are always a favourite and it’s hard not too love them with their comical behaviours and colourful bills. The island of Lunga, along with other small islands and islets, boasts large numbers of breeding puffins, along with a whole host of seabirds and is of national importance for many of these declining species. Often there are between 2,500 and 3,000 occupied puffin burrows, with yearly fluctuations. The puffins are extremely tolerant of humans, maybe benefitting as we deter predatory species like raven and skua. Unfortunately some humans take this tolerance too far and offer the puffins food or encroach too far by peering down nest burrows – encouraged by a well known “wildlife cameraman” on TV recently.

If you manage to get past the initial puffin burrows without becoming engrossed you’ll navigate the coastal pathway to Harp Rock – the main seabird breeding colony, with vast numbers of guillemot, razorbill, kittiwake and fulmar. You’ll also pass some angry shags, repelling you from their nest sites which are tucked into tiny rocky crevices.

Great black-backed gulls are herring gulls are also in the area, with a handful of territories. Yesterday we spotted three large great black-backed chicks, with adults nearby. Debris of prey items littered the ground and included puffin and rabbit. Further on a little more and you’d enter a great skua territory and risk being pummelled by these irate birds! The islands are well worth the visit, it’s a brilliant day out, but please remember they’re wild species, avoid taking dogs and have some respect!

P1030134
Great black-backed gull chicks

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 17: Butterfly afternoon 30DaysWild

30DaysWild

Day 17 

Today I fancied stopping on the route home to enjoy the view and sunshine, as I pulled into an old quarry parking space above Loch na Keal a bright blue butterfly caught my eye and I was engrossed for an hour, metres from the road, but completely enthralled by the busy array of insect life on the verge and hillside. Two male common blue butterflies were regularly disputing their patches and only occasionally settling down among the wildflowers. Wild thyme, fragrant orchids and birds-foot trefoil meant the land was a riot of colour, the latter is an important food plant for the common blue.

P1030021

In the same area, but higher up the hill larger orange and black butterflies were rampaging above the bracken, rarely landing. They were large though and I guessed at dark-green fritillary. I stalked the butterflies as best I could to catch a few ID shots and confirm my thoughts, but they never settled for long.

P1030039
Dark-green fritillary

Meadow brown was also spotted, along with another smaller fritillary – this one didn’t settle once in my view so I can’t say for sure, but it’s most likely to be small-pearl bordered fritillary. Dragonflies were also on the wing and I enjoyed my first golden-ringed of the year. Grasshoppers were in full flow, the ground almost vibrated with their sounds and bees were enjoying the nearby foxgloves.

I’ll submit all of my butterfly records to my local recorder, as I do for my moth trapping records and this all helps inform conservation of the species. Surprisingly Mull is extremely under-recorded for many species, excepting eagles and otters, so do send in records to the appropriate conservation body.

 

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 16: Wild Child flower ID 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 16 

Today at school we spent the afternoon completing another Wildlife Action Award activity. We went out in the rain to snap photos of the wildflowers in the school garden to later ID. We found lots around the edges of the garden (the areas the council aren’t so against) and checked some flowers out up close with hand lenses. We found foxgloves, self-heal, red campion, tutsan, cuckoo flower, stickyjacks, daisies, bramble, flag iris and more. The children looked up information and the gaelic names for the species before drawing and labelling some of their favourites. We chatted about Charles Darwin and ensured our curiosity was up to his standards whilst enjoying the sound of lapwing and skylark overhead. It’s important that children appreciate our native wildflowers and learn some of their names, after many common species names were removed from the English dictionary!

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

 

 

Day 15: Awesome adder 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild

Day 15

We’re privileged to live in an area of Mull that boasts some great adder habitat. Back in April we surveyed a local area for “Make the adder count 2016” and submitted our records to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. We found four individual snakes that day which was amazing, but it’s clear that their habitat is fragmented and due to no regular or historic data for this area they could be declining quite severely. The same area is pretty good for slow worms and common lizards too – amazingly I’ve seen all three reptile species within inches of one another!

Yesterday, we got to enjoy another adder. This time a lovely, small female snake, with stunning brown markings. If you’re lucky enough to spot any reptiles or amphibians, do submit your records to Record Pool – this really helps with their conservation!

DSC_3532ps
Yesterdays’s adder – thanks to Nature Scotland for the image (www.naturescotland.com)

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 13: Foxglove fantastic 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 13 

On Monday I stopped to take a snap of these amazing foxgloves on my drive home from work. The road verges are looking brilliant at the moment although Argyll and Bute council are doing their best to keep the wildlife to a minimum by strimming and clearing huge areas, with no apparent relation to road visibility. Not to mention some locals who mow “their”road verge as well as their garden.

Despite this though, many of the roadsides are thriving and you can clearly see the abundance of wildlife making the most of it. Yesterday I saw fledgling goldfinch feeding on flower heads and the foxgloves were vibrating with insect life.

P1020994
Foxgloves – overlooking Gribun cliffs, Eorsa and Loch na Keal

P1020996
Plentiful road verges – wildlife haven

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

 

Day 11: Oil beetle & eagles 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 11

Eagle encounter

Today we went to a local golden eagle territory to see how things were going. The site is wild and rugged, away from the busy roadside viewing sites on Mull; it really shows the adaptability of the species, and hints at their secretive nature. We hunkered down in the bracken at a safe distance so as not to disturb the pair. The wind was very much in our favour and the male raptor was soon mere metres above us, using the easterly breeze to his advantage. We had multiple fly overs, admiring the silhouette of an amazing 6ft wingspan.

The eagle covered a large expanse of his territory in seconds and disappeared over a forestry plantation, to reappear soon after and power in our direction. When they choose to really flap, these raptors can fly with great power and speed; it may have been a white-tailed eagle from a nearby territory to encourage this burst of energy in defence and dominance. Whatever the cause, we had breathtaking views, almost at eye level. I could see the beautiful golden nape and the dark eye with clarity. What a privilege to share space with these birds of prey.

+++
Today’s golden eagle (thanks to Ewan of http://www.naturescotland.com)

Eyeballing an Oil Beetle 

After our eagle encounter we continued on for a walk and spotted an oil beetle on the footpath. These creatures are fascinating, with an extremely interesting life cycle. They are also declining fast, becoming rare and some species have already gone extinct in the UK. If you do spot an oil beetle, the charity Buglife would love to know and you can submit your sightings online. The beetles rely on solitary mining bees to complete their life cycle, and so their fate is intricately connected to the fate of bees and wild flowers. Oil beetle larvae hitch a ride with a bee to its nest, where the larvae then munch their way through the bee’s eggs, pollen and nectar, before emerging as an adult beetle. Our land management and loss of meadows, rich grasslands and open woodlands mean solitary bees and oil beetles are struggling, so what a treat to get up close with a stunning specimen! Interestingly, the beetle was being made a meal of too. Numerous midges were covering the back of the beetle, presumably for food. I’m fairly sure this individual is a violet oil beetle.

Buglife – oil beetles

P1020889
Violet oil beetle with midges
P1020898
Violet oil beetle

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)

Day 9: Feeling the wild 30DaysWild

30 Days Wild 

Day 9 

We have a patch of garden that isn’t managed or mown and the flowers are looking great right now. The daisies and buttercups are everywhere, proving brilliant food for insects and birds. They also look stunning – much nicer than a tightly mown green lawn! It feels great under bare feet too, bringing back lovely childhood memories of barefoot days.

 

WildChild Scotland (@WildChild_Sco)