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Monday, 23 April 2012

Easter seabirds stories and songs

The return of Our Ocean Wanderers (SNH’s Manx shearwater promotional event) went very well on Saturday 7th April and everyone I spoke to gave very favourable reviews, and visitors went away with a lasting impression of these remarkable birds. It was really great to see that our island’s most important biological feature were at the forefront for once, pushing into the light past our walking venison, and it would be fantastic to see more of the same. Although BBC Radio Scotland (the Out Of Doors programme) were here recording the days shearwater events as they unfolded, it was rather predictable that the BBC and red deer should hook up yet again, a classic recipe I suppose, but isn't there supposed to be always something new to discover these days, or should this just be taken with a pinch of salt?


Rum's most important biological feature doing what it does best (photo Ian Sargent) 

The shearwaters were obviously the stars of the day (and night), but I was very impressed by ‘Shearwater’, a collection of stories and songs about seabirds by Malcolm Green and Tim Dalling which was performed in the Community Hall in the afternoon before the BBQ and night time colony expedition.



Malcolm Green (left) and Tim Dalling 



Malcolm's passionate description of the Leach's petrel
What a unique way of communicating the natural splendour and the conservation of seabirds.Very entertaining and fascinating.These stories should really be heard by everyone, especially the young. If you didn’t care two hoots about shearwaters or knew very little about them at the outset, then you certainly walked away with a lasting impression. You could feel it hitting a chord with everyone in the room, and I couldn’t help thinking all the way through how well this would lend itself to being performed out of doors, maybe next time!





In 1969, storyteller Malcolm Green (far right) spent three months on a small uninhabited island off the coast of Iceland studying huge colonies of seabirds, and it was these experiences that formed the frame into the world and folk law of the seabirds of this story. Malcolm and Tim created Shearwater not only as a piece of entertainment, but to help raise awareness of the very real threats to the survival of seabirds in these dark days of marine stewardship, and this it certainly does..great work guys and keep up the good work.





Recent sightings

Like the rest of the country, Rum has been dominated by northerly winds during the first half of April which has definitely slowed things up a tad for our returning migrant birds.Manx shearwaters have been present around the Small Isles since early April and are now regularly observed from the ferries. The lone redshank continues its loch-side residence, and the greenshanks also continue to feed for the time being on Loch Scresort (did see them mating on the 17th). Common gull and oystercatchers have also been observed mating recently and our red-throated divers, eiders and mergansers continue with their noisy loch-side loving.

Here’s the best of the last two weeks or so....

3 black headed gulls were present on Loch Scresort on the 6th, but Sat 7th was quite productive with the first bonxie (great skua) of the year, 3 Iceland gulls, 2 great northern divers around the east side of the island, and a single linnet was observed on top of Stable Bothy.


A linnet.. (a species of finch).Definitely on the house list now...7th April
The wind swung around SW during the latter half of Easter Monday (9th) producing the first willow warbler of the year. Good numbers (25+) of returning/passage meadow pipits have been around the castle fields and Glen Park from the 10th.The first small tortoiseshell was noted in the village on the 10th also. A scattering of redwings have been noted around the island since the beginning of the month, and one was singing from the top of a beech in the Dairy Woods on the 11th. Greenfinches are also zzreeeing from every tree around the old dairy it seems, and you cant help admiring the understated (but fine nonetheless) breeding plumage of the males at this time of year.On the NNR there is confirmation that 2 out of our 3 pairs of golden eagles are now sitting on eggs (11th)..more on this as the season progresses.The weather took a brighter turn on the 12th -13th and the wind turned slightly to the east.This produced good numbers of returning willow warblers with a least 6 males singing in Kinloch


A willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus caught and ringed.These amazing little leaf warblers are still an abundant breeder in this part of northern Europe.Like all its brethren, this individual has just completed a 4,000 km journey from its wintering grounds in tropical Africa.   

Things were obviously moving during those easterly days as a high skein of 145 unidentified geese were observed moving north over the Monadh Dubh area. Presumably these were either Greenland white-fronted, barnacle or brents moving to the arctic to breed (Greenland and eastern Canada), and a male hen harrier was also seen at Kilmory on the 12th. I keep hearing the subtle call of the bullfinch (particularly around the Visitor Centre) over the last week or so, but can’t seem to pin the birds down.They’re pretty shy and don’t hang around long once discovered, keep your eyes peeled they’re pretty smart! Friday the 13th wasn’t unlucky for Ronnie from Dundee on my usual eagle walk. As it was just the two of us, we diverted off the usual route along the North Side Trail and surprised an adult goldie plucking a goose...the close views were much appreciated (just a thought, but probably should go back to ID the goose if there's anything left).The first peacock (butterfly) also on the North Side Trail on the 13th. A single short-eared owl was observed hunting in Kilmory Glen at dusk on the 13th (a lingering bird?) and three redwings huddled for cover around the old laundry. The wind was still bitter on 14th and the 15th, but was more to the north west, this produced a 2nd winter Iceland gull, 2 white wagtail, 2 starling, a single goldfinch and a male hen harrier (a lingering bird?).

The single male hen harrier at Kilmory, 15th April.A passage migrant or scarce breeder?

Thrift and scurvy grass is now in evidence around much of the coast, as are common louseworts, butterworts and dog violets inland.

Check out these photos of some of our early spring plant life...


Feed me Seymour! Common butterwort or bog violet Pinguicula vulgaris, is an attractive insectivorous plant which likes a tasty insect of two. Note the leaves, they're sticky...once caught there is no escape!  


Common dog violet Viola riviniana



Common scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis.High in vitamin C 



Thrift Armeria maritima, thrives in poor soil

Over the last month or so, this very attractive little fruiting body of the bog beacon Mitrula paludosa (pictured below) can be seen in most of the woodland plantations on the island.The species really likes boggy areas under tree cover.It is one of the Ascomycetes fungus which are particularly efficient at shooting their spores over large areas, so are usually found in good sized patches.Check out the Kilmory tree plots until about June when it disappears.


The bog beacon (4-5 cm tall).Termed a recycler fungus because it breaks down dead plant material and plays a vital role as it releases nutrients back into the soil. 

On Monday 16th it was time to really flog the patch to see what was lurking in Kinloch’s quiet places, as the winds had finally turned to the east with moderate force.The first major fall of thrushes was apparent straight away with at least 18 redwings and the first swallow of the year over the Byre building and Tattie House fields. On the 17th the weather was more typical with westerlies with rain. The redwings remain however (24) and the lingering male mallard popped up again on Loch Scresort.

The first barn swallow of the year

One of last weeks migrant redwings

As usual, here is some more recent wildlife,weather and fantastic skies in pictures...

Clear skies over the village hub...
Evening sun towards Canna and the Outer Hebrides
Kilmory

Ringed plover

Still very much alert..a roosting oystercatcher

...you're never more then a few feet away from one at Kilmory

Rum ponies, Kilmory

All clear on Hallival

1 comment:

  1. Mike - It's great to see you followed your childhood dreams and became a 'Ranger'. I always thought you had the passion and drive to suceed in working within the area of conservation in some form or another.

    Reading your blog - you are obviously doing a 'grand' job and I wish you well, I may even vist the Isle of Rum one day - if I do ever I get the opportunity I will let you know!

    Tony Brown

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