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.
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!
Yesterday at school I worked with the children on their Wildlife Action Awards through the RSPB. We’re now aiming for our gold level award, having already received our bronze and silver for completing a 12 different wildlife related activities including making bird boxes, beach cleaning, creating a bug hotel and pond dipping. One of our chosen activities for the gold level was writing to our local MP about an issue in our local area.
We brainstormed and the children came up with some brilliant, insightful ideas with regard to improving things for local wildlife on the island. They were angry that people drove so fast, killing lots of our wildlife and were unhappy about the levels of litter on and around the island. On a national scale, they also mentioned the continued persecution of beavers in Perthshire, they couldn’t understand why we’d bring them back to allow them to be shot on a regular basis. Despite not having any squirrel species native on Mull, the children are well aware of the threat grey squirrels pose to our British reds and mentioned this too. This level of awareness, despite living on an isolated island is amazing.
We finally decided to write about the litter in our local seas and suggest ways to improve the situation. The children did an amazing beach clean in May this year, collecting well over 50 bags of litter, but this doesn’t fix the real problem. The children want to install signage advising people to “Bag it, bin it and keep our oceans clean”. These would be in busy areas around pontoons and ferry terminals, or busy beaches. They also suggest more recycling bins onsite and they’d love reverse vending machines, to encourage people to recycle plastic bottles and pick up other people’s litter. They have sent the letter to Mr Brendan O’Hara (SNP) and Mr John Finnie (Green party).
Plus, yesterday for my birthday I received some lovely wild gifts including ammonite fossil earrings and a book on ravens which I’m very excited to read – “Mind of the Raven, investigations and adventures with wolf birds” by Bernd Heinrich. This year I was privilege to watch a raven nest site, situated on a secluded sea cliff. The pair raised four youngsters and they all fledged successfully. They are incredibly interesting birds and I’m sure this book will make them all the more interesting.