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Saturday, 21 January 2012

Welcome to the all new Isle of Rum Community Trust Ranger Service blog (IRCT Ranger Service blog for short!).

Probably would have been a good idea to start some sort of blog three years ago, but better late than never eh! Ali and George have done such a great job revamping the Isle of Rum website, it seemed a pity not to start something like this now, as hopefully more people will be looking closely at the island from cyberspace. Anyway, if you’re interested in what I’m up to, general island news, or recent information on what wildlife has been spotted, then this is a good place to start.
Since the end of last summer season I’ve been concentrating on two fairly big projects, the forthcoming Community Wildlife Garden and rhododendron control. Effort on the latter has mostly focused on seeking funding for an eradication course later on in the year and writing a control plan for Kinloch Village, so not much actual removal has taken place!  In all seriousness, work has started in earnest and quite a bit has been taken out from the bluebell woods. I’m using a method called Lever and Mulch which was devised by Donald Kennedy and Gordon French of Morvern Community Woodlands. Although the technique is intensive, it is environmentally friendly and relatively cheap because it doesn’t use herbicides, it uses Zubat saws and some most excellent karate moves. It ultimately relies on manually levering and breaking out the stems at ground level; this removes bud nodes with the potential for regrowth.The up-rooted woody stems with their leathery leaves are then laid over the site to form mulch, which prevent reinvasion by seedlings...that’s the theory anyway. I’ve been hanging some bushes from trees so that they desiccate more rapidly, this actually looks a bit weird as the hanging rhodies look like some sort of  strange deterrent to others. We’ll see how this all pans out over the coming months.
The wildlife garden, or the quagmire to be more precise, is slowly but surely taking shape, and will hopefully be ready for the spring...honest. Due to Neil Stewart’s forestry students, a sturdy fence has been erected on the gardens eastern side to protect the forthcoming pond from dogs (thanks also to Richard for the strainers). At the moment, I’m desperately trying to sort out the last of the fencing whilst planning and writing next year’s exciting ranger programme. If all the fencing is up and ready before my holiday next month, then more time and effort can go towards putting in the pond liner and more rhodie bashing before the start of the season. That’s the plan anyway, and I’m sticking to it.  

No blog is complete without a photo or two, so I’ve bought a camera to bring things to life so to speak. It will also come in handy during the summer, as I want to post photos of recent sightings on the board in the new Ranger Base in the Community Hall, or indeed this blog. I think it would be fun to do ‘plant of the month’, ‘insect of the month’ that sort of thing; it would highlight something interesting that visitors could possibly see on a walk during different seasons. In any case, it will be more interactive than just names on a sightings board.  I’ll also encourage people to snap anything they find interested and bring it back to me for identification if they need help, some of these photos could also end up on the board and the blog. As money is a bit tight, I went for a Panasonic FZ48 which is much cheaper than getting a digital SLR.It bridges the gap between your point and shoot and a SLR.It’s not bad and has a pretty good zoom and macro facility so good for plants and insects too. I may also use it to take ‘poop-proof’ or ‘dog of the month’, i.e. photographic evidence of unwanted dog fowling around Kinloch! Only joking, but the more I think about it....
Great-northern Diver
It’s been a pretty wet and windy beginning to the year, as was the end of last. To be fair, there has been a few good days lately, and on these occasions I readily took up the chance to get out and about. A couple of great- northern divers have been feeding in and around loch Scresort since early November, and it was great to finally catch up with them recently as they dived for crabs.GNDs are much heavier and more cumbersome than our familiar red-throated divers and can be confused with cormorants if viewed from a distance. However, GNDs don’t hold their heads upwards like cormorants (or shags for that matter), and have a distinct half collar at the base of the neck (please see photo!). Their head is also distinct, as there’s an obvious ‘bump’ where the forehead meets the crown. This always reminds me of a rounded small ‘m’.These birds probably originate in Iceland where they breed, and are usually present around the coast of Rum until spring. The last few years have seen one or two fantastic summer plumaged individuals staying until late May. As the new camera is now at the ready, hopefully I’ll be able to record this wonderful moulting event in full digital magnificence in a few months time. If you’ve been up to the Reading Room in Kinloch Castle, you will be aware of the pair of stuffed GNDs that have seen better days. Whether or not they were shot here by Sir George, or one of his many guests is not clear.   
Other usual suspects around Loch Scresort this January have included a few black guillemots, European otter, redwing, mistle thrush, fieldfare, common seal, European shag, common gull, rock pipit, dipper, red-breasted merganser, sea and golden eagles. I had a nice adult male hen harrier at Kilmory on the 7th and a suspected male goshawk on the 15th.The view wasn’t that good so I’m not claiming it 100%.However it was of a size capable of killing a monkey, so in all probability the record is a good one. Watch out island cats!  

Had another frustrating bird related dilemma today (or should I  say another ferry transport/time dilemma).I received a phone call from Sean last night who informed me that not just one, but five glossy ibis were on the nearby island of Eigg, I say were, in fact they’re all probably sitting there right now as I write, preening themselves in all their avian loveliness (I’m trying not to think about it!). What an unexpected mid winter treat and a brilliant record! These birds should be in North Africa! I’ve never seen one before; actually they’re one of my bogey birds and I never seem to have any luck with them, here or overseas. The pain and frustration the Muck veery caused last autumn due to time restrictions and bad weather is still raw, so it was probably a good job the ferry was cancelled and the decision made for me! Going AWOL would definitely have ended in tears!


rock pipit

common seal


common gull

white- tailed sea eagle

wildlife garden



  1. Excellent Blog Mike, keep it up. Always good to hear what (and who) is going wild on Rum.

    Glossy ibis are obviously a very dumb birds indeed, not only lost but to end up on Eigg of all places, don't they realise Rum is much nicer. Obviously didn't check out the new website beforehand.



    1. Cheers George,
      Thanks for the feedback.
      New website looks good eh.Think it will help put Rum on the map a bit more.When you over next?
      Off to NZ on Monday and cant wait,it's been a long time since off the island.
      Regards, Mike.