I: Of worms and men
Since it's the summer season (or was), the programme of events have taken over proceedings and this years slightly different approach to the programme is starting to pay off (or was!). Encouraging visiting experts to talk about their research on the island has been cited as an area for potential improvement, and of course this was fine with me becasue I do get very sick of my own voice as the season gets under way (the Essex in me does slip off the tongue on occasion), and its also nice to sit back and listen for a change.
Approaching the specialists hasn't really been that difficult, as most reseachers love to talk and enthuse others about their work on the island.This is especially true of Dr Kevin Butt from the University of Central Lancashire who has been investigating Rum earthworms since 1995 and I really do think he loves them! One of the main findings from Kevin's work is that earthworm communities have significantly incresesed in number where woodland had been re-established on the island.He has bags of enthusiasm for our little slippery friends and all who attended our organised field excursion around the village and evening lecture on the 21st May got heaps from it.These events were part of the much bigger Highland Soil Biodiversity Festival (part of Scottish Biodiversity week) which aimed at getting folk understanding the importance of soil.
|Due to the bulk addition of mainland soil at Kinloch, the area supports 12 species of earhworms including this one, Lumbricus terrestris|
And soil is pretty fundamental, so just a quick recap if you don't know why eathworms are so good for that muddy stuff under our feet; that very stuff we humans depend upon for our own continued survival I might add. So here are some facts we should all remember about earthworms as they are an integral part of that soil.
Earthworms have been termed 'ecosytem engineers', because they change the structute of their environment by making both horizontal and vertical burrows.These create pores through which oxygen and water can enter and by which carbon dioxide can leave.Worms are also responsible for mixing soil layers and incorporating organic matter into it which becomes available to bacteria, fungi and plants, so assist greatly with decomposition.In fact, they're so important that the man himself Charles Darwin concluded [that], ''It may be doubted if there are other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures.''
Dr Kevin Butt and Dr Chris Lowe from the University of Central Lancashire stunning worms at the soil surface.Please note that no worms were harmed during the making of this science.
|A worm in the hand is worth two in the bush|
|Lochaber Geopark's Jim Blair|
II: The crazy summer of cetaceans
As you would expect from the height of summer, Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and seabirds have been much in evidence around the waters off the island from about the end of May onwards. Consequently, there's been much interest in the weekly two hour boat trip to the Isle of Soay aboard the MV Sheerwater this season (especially when it was free for a while).
I have also been trying out our larger supply vessel (the MV Loch Nevis) for its suitability for wildlife watching (as if I hadn't already), as a near perfect opportunity arose after contacting the organisers of the first Wild Locharber Festival.They are aiming to promote wildlife and eco-tourism in this under valued area of the Highlands.All in all, it was a good first taste and a great way to scope out something special for next year when the whole event is expected to gather momentum.2012 events were all organised very quickly, as the funding package was only finalised a month before! The day was a bit of a marathon however, as I was on board for an epic ten hours seawatch and irradiated to a cinder.On the cetacean front only a few harbour porpoise were seen all day, but heaps of manx shearwaters and other seabirds were on hand to connect folk with our fantastic marine environment, so job done.Here are some of the better photos.
|The approaching MV Loch Nevis on the morning of the marathon seawatch.|
|Rafting manxies off Cave's Bay.|
|Punters on the look out..|
|Harbour seals, Eigg.|
|Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus|
|Grey seal, Malliag Harbour.|
|Common seal with pup off Eigg|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Enthusing the young about Rum's marine environment..this is what it's all about.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: waiting and watching for the blow?|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: The Welsh spoil another potentially good photo opportunity!|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Red-throated diver Gavia stellata.A typical flight silhouette with the neck and head lowered.The feet projection beyond the tail is less obvious than on other divers and are perceived to be an extension of the tail.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Common guilemots|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Ronnie Dyer, skipper of MV Sheerwater|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Rafting manxies, off Rum, July 2012.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Adult manx shearwater, off Rum, July 2012.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: A very close minke whale, off Soay, July 2012 (photo Ian Bolas)|
It has to be said that the gems of the summer have been the Short-beaked common dolphins which are found throughout the northern Atlantic and most of the Pacific region.The best way to identify the species is by their behaviour, as they are usullay in large boisterous schools and can be aerially acrobatic, with flipper slapping, bow riding, breaching and sometimes somersaulting, and we've certainly been privy to most of this during the summer!Another distinguishing characteristic is the hourglass pattern on their sides.
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Swimming almost as one organism, short-beaked common dolphins Delphinus delphis, off Eigg, June 2012.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Short-beaked common dolphins|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Small pod of short-beaked common dolphins and distant manxie raft, off Eigg, June 2012.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Short-beaked common dolphin, off Eigg, June 2012.|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Single short-beaked common dolphin (photo Daniel Campbell).|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Short-beaked common dolphins (photo Daniel Campbell)|
|A Aboard MV Sheerwater: The bonxies favourite victim is the gannet.It seizes any unwary bird by the wingtip, so making it stall and fall into the sea.The gannet then disgorges its food and the spoils are snapped up (photo: Ian Sargent).|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: Safe as long as you're not carrying fish, an adult gannet|
|Aboard MV Sheerwater: a mean as bonxie!|
|Aboard the Isle of Sanday: Great skua or bonxie on Sanday..even meaner when you're walking through their terrestrial territory.|
Not really that recent, but still recent enough anyway....
A good late spring record of a long-eared owl at the Harris tree plot on May 22nd was a welcome change for some.2 adult orcas off Muck on the 25th June, with 5 seen again off Muck on the July 4th, also 4 bottle-nosed dolphins off Eigg that day. Basking sharks have been a wee bit more numerous this season, but still only a handful of records for Rum including singles in Loch Scresort on the 13th and 14th July,and a whopping 5 off Kilmory on July 21st. Our sea eagles failed this season, but 2 pairs of goldies were successful fledging a chick a piece.Other breeding successes include 1 pair of greenshanks, short-eared owl, hen harrier, merlin and at least 10 pairs of red-throated divers.Arctic terns did well too, with over 10 pairs nesting at Kilmory. Other notables include a possible breeding spotted flycatcher, which was seen on numerous occasions around the village in May, June and early July (perhaps breeding due to the warmer dryer conditions and abundant large insect life, which is perhaps due to the new wild flower meadow around the castle!?).Autumn migration is now underway, with a flock of 50+ twite at Harris on the 5th August and two juvenile dotterels on Barkeval on the 18th August.
|Adult spotted flycatcher, Kinloch, June 2012.|
As usual, some of the weather in pictures......
Oh, and I will be more regular from now on I promise (with the ranger blogs that is), so see you soon with some more Rum news and ting soon!
|Big moon over Scresort|