It has been strangely quiet on the cliffs here at the Mull of Galloway, relatively speaking that is. The kittiwakes have been kicking up a bit of a fuss but their rivals for noisiest cliff edge dwellers have been staying away since their first arrival a few weeks back. I was trying not to fret for my new ‘family’ but I admit to being relieved to see large numbers of the guillemots and razorbills now occupying the cliffs once more. The ledges are again alive with the tell-tale gargling sounds from the guillemots. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it is beginning to pong as the rocks start to look more ‘white-washed’! It seems that the seabirds have been waiting for the weather conditions to settle down before they themselves settle down. The breeding season is starting a few weeks later than last year.
Over the last week we have started to see interesting little migrants, some will stay and some are pausing before they continue on to their breeding sites further inland. Today, Val and Tony, our current fabulous residential volunteers, have been keeping an eye out for interesting visitors. A splendid male black redstart was the first to be seen, followed by a sedge warbler and various willow warblers. I was intrigued to hear from some of our visitors about ‘small black and white birds’ – could this be the return of the pied flycatchers, perhaps on their way to the Wood of Cree? Possibly not, but I can dream.
Spring squill, copyright Tony Vile
It is great to be able to report that Mother Nature has added some additional colour to the palette and the first blooms of spring squill will grow into larger drifts of blue-violet. A real visual treat, can’t wait. We also have scurvy grass and sea campion in flower and the sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed wood sorrel popping up here and there.
Scurvy grass, copyright Tony Vile
A quick plug for tomorrow’s guided walk – 1pm start from the visitor centre. Come and have a look to see what else is sprouting forth or passing through!
A belated hello from me - the new Community Liaison Officer here at the beautiful Mull of Galloway. I am indeed living the dream, having spent the last couple of years working towards a career in conservation with the RSPB. My quest has taken me from Oxfordshire to Scotland, via Rathlin Island, Coombes Valley (Staffordshire) and then finally Leighton Moss in Lancashire. Three absolutely wonderful locations which have all won a corner of my heart but even so I can't get over how stunning Dumfries and Galloway is, why haven't I been here before now? It does seem to be a closely guarded secret, but I shall do my bit to try and spread the word.
Copyright: Sara Spillett
Enough about me - I need to let you know what's been seen at the Mull now that things are warming up slightly. In the few weeks that I have been here I have seen snow and storms as well as occasional bursts of sunshine. In my first couple of weeks at the Mull, it was relatively quiet on the wildlife front, I was happy to become acquainted with the local tysties and with the returning seabirds. I gave an inward cheer each time I spied a new returnee. Hooray for the guillemots and razorbills who started to appear on the cliffs. Good numbers of kittiwakes, such pretty gulls but that raucous shriek of theirs really doesn't match their delicate appearance! The fulmars are enjoying the strong winds more than I am and are gliding and wheeling about on those famous stiff wings. The gannets, they're easily seen flying low over the water and diving in their inimitable style. The shags are nesting now and we are lucky enough to have found a nest in full view of one of our cliff cameras - first egg was seen last Saturday. I haven't spotted any puffins yet but it must happen soon.
Turning the attention now to the precious maritime heath on our reserve, initially meadow pipits were my main neighbours, together with a flock of fieldfare and a couple of roe deer. Gradually other species have started to appear or make themselves more obvious - I could hear linnets in amongst the gorse and heather, then stonechats, wheatears, reed buntings... As of the last few days, we have started to see more migrants: swallows and housemartins, chiff chaff or willow warblers, it's all starting to happen! There's also been a sighting of a short-eared owl last Monday evening, hoping to catch sight of this myself, but I have saved the most dramatic sighting until last.
Some visitors who were staying in the holiday accommodation at the lighthouse came to tell us that they had surprised a peregrine (and themselves!) in the act of making a kill just outside their front door. The peregrine was now sitting on top of their chimney, trying to decide whether it still wanted the pigeon. We watched it for a while but then it took off and as we watched we soon realised that there were now two peregrines - her partner (the new bird was appreciably smaller) had joined her. They treated us to several minutes of aerobatics before finally heading off.
Copyright: Brian Nolan
I hope that the above has whetted your appetite and you'll want to come and see some of this for yourselves. It isn't just about feathered things of course: we have furry and finny creatures too - I forgot to mention earlier the porpoise that were attracting quite an audience yesterday, easily seen from the Visitor Centre.
Don't forget that we run guided walks all through the season, no need to book - just turn up at 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. More details here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-339234
See you soon!
Well it's goodbye from me after a couple of seasons at the Mull. I've had a great time here, and am leaving with rich memories.
Some of the best include early mornings sunrises surveying tysties, exploring New England Bay beach with wild children, imitating seabird colonies with a raucous primary 5 class, watching an amateur rocket blast off into the atmosphere, spotting a Risso's dolphin breaching out to sea, soaking up the rays on hot still mornings outside the visitor centre, and watching pods of porpoises from the foghorn. And those are just the best bits!
I'm sure it won't be long before I'm back up at the Mull - its a special place.
Until then I leave you in the safe hands of Kirsty and Paul.
Thanks for reading!
A peregrine falcon stopped by for brunch in front of one of our cameras this morning. Here are some pics of it feasting on a 3 week old kittiwake chick.
What an incredible bird.
There have been quite a lot of kittiwake chicks this year - and they are just starting to fledge. Unfortunately, we had hardly any guillemot and razorbill chicks this year - probably because of low numbers of sandeels at the start of the season. So our chick-less guillemots, razorbills and puffins have already departed for the open seas.
There are a couple of fluffy fulmar chicks around, but it seems to have been another bad breeding year for them too. Fulmar numbers are dropping dramatically at the Mull, I'm not quite sure why.
The heathland is buzzing with invertebrates of all varieties at the moment, from butterflies to beetles, to caterpillars, moths and snails. The bell heather is blooming, and the ling (common heather) is just coming into flower.
We have a new Education Officer volunteer up at the Mull. She's called Ursula and is fantastic! Starting this week she will be running family events at the Mull exploring wildlife, having tons of fun, and getting creative. Events are on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the rest of July and August. There's no need to book, and more details about workshops and times are on the website.
If you are local to the area, you might particularly like the Monday afternoon Summer Club - a two hour workshop where we will be exploring different aspects of the reserve each week, and then using our discoveries to get creative. The workshops are from 2 until 4 every Monday - and you'll need outdoor clothing (just in case!). Here's some pictures of our workshop making beachcomber mobiles from last year.