We've had fantastic weather up at the Mull all week, and Rob and I made the most of it on Thursday by making a full count of our seabirds. At the moment, the best place to see the birds is just off the reserve along the cliff path from the cafe. Here, the birds are very close, and with a pair of binoculars you can watch tiny penguin-like guillemot chicks wobbling precariously on edges surrounded by big groups of over-protective gargling adult birds. We have very very few guillemot chicks this year because of the May winds which blew almost all of the eggs away, so it is a relief to spot the few that made it.
Kittiwakes haven't been doing at all well over the last few years, which is why we are all really glad to see lots of their chicks around this year. Kittiwakes seem to suffer more than most from the declines in sand-eels, and as such most chicks have been starving to death in previous years. This year we will watch them closely (and keep all our fingers and toes crossed) to see how many chicks make it.
On the 27th August we will be running a sponsored walk for the kittiwakes ('10k for kittiwakes'), so if anyone would like to support our kittiwakes and other seabirds up here at the Mull, please contact me at the centre and I can get you registered and send you out a sponsorship form. Anyone of any age or fitness welcome - you can take it at your own pace, and we even have a shorter trail for shorter (or tireder) legs.
Hope so see you there!
Here is my attempt to lift the mood after that last blog!
So - here's the good news - we are starting up a summer club for families up at the Mull, running on Monday afternoons from 1 until 4 during the holidays (starting this Monday, 18th July! Booking required). Kirsty, our Galloway field teacher, will be leading it, and she'll be helping all you lot to go wild with the butterflies, bugs and birds of the Mull, as well as taking trips to go rock-pooling down on the beautiful Galloway beaches. It sounds fantastic, and I'll be helping out and getting my hands mucky as much as I can - nothing like a bit of rock-pooling in the summer... I'll keep you updated about what we'll be doing each week.
In other news, I led my first Beachcomber walk down at New England Bay last week and LOVED it! I hope my caravanners and campers loved it as much as I did! So, if you want to learn about slippery seaweed, deadly dog whelks and curious crabs (or just fancy a walk on the beach in good company...) get down to my next Beachcomber walk on 20th July.
See you soon!
Shocking evidence of the damage done by fishing line in seabird colonies - from Andrew's visit to Scare Rocks:
Photos: Andrew Bielinski
A wet and windy day at the Mull... and sad news - the kittiwake chicks that we had such high hopes for (yes the same one as I blogged about 5 days ago, plus younger sibling), dissappeared half way through the day. The parent kittiwake seemed as baffled as us, all afternoon she/he kept looking around her empty nest for the missing ones. No sign of the mate either this afternoon. It's a bit of a mystery, and Eleanor and I feel a bit guilty for taking our eyes off the camera to do some essential painting of the visitor centre - although of course we couldn't really have done anything to prevent the dissappearance.
On a happier note, the kittiwake directly to the right of the former family is now sitting on a chick! Hopefully this one will fare better than the others.
Mixed news too from the Scare Rocks (our seabird island, 6 miles offshore) - Andrew, our Galloway Reserves Manager, sailed out there yesterday, and came back reporting a healthy chock-a-block gannet population, with hundreds of chicks ranging from egg-stage to giant-fluffy-monster-stage. Hooray! But he also reported fishing nets and lines covering the island, trailing in long loops off ledges, and clogging up nests. The gannets bring in beakfuls to build their nests, and then gannet and guillemot chicks get caught up and tangled in them. Andrew had to cut chicks out of the mess, some dead, some alive, some missing limbs. Fishers take note, and please do all you can to prevent your nets and lines ending up in the sea.