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Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Tystie Crevice

If you’ve ever wandered around the ferry terminal in the quiet of the evening or first thing in the morning (or just when the ferry isn’t coming in), you may have noticed a striking black and white bird with blood red legs & feet sitting at the bottom of the slip or just feeding offshore.
This is why most of us didn't want a dirty great fish farm just around the corner!
The rich kelp beds around Rum's incredible coastline provide rich feeding grounds for this vulnerable inshore feeder
These awesome little birds are in fact black guillemots or better known up here in Scotland as tysties (an Old Norse name for the species).They have a circumpolar distribution, with the British Isles having between 5-15% of the estimated world population. They are one of the smaller members of the auk family which prefer to feed in the more sheltered waters around our coasts. As there’s an abundance of butterfish in the kelp beds under the surface of Loch Scresort, you can often see them successfully foraging just off shore.  

Adult black guillemot in summer plumage
As they’re a species of conservation concern which are limited by the number of nesting cavities on the island, one of my priorities of late is to help increase the number of breeding individuals in the village. In a small attempt to increase the number of cavities, I'm experimenting with a specialised nest box that I’ve designed with help from Dr George Divoky, an American scientist who’s been working with the species in the Arctic for the last forty years (check out this excellent short film about his work by following this link

Inside the crevice: tysties like an escape route so note the two ways in.They also like it dark, hence the long pipe entrances.The gravel bottom not only weighs the box down, but will provide a simple scrape for the egg and incubating adult.

A room  with a view

Nest boxes of this type have never really been tried extensively in the UK before, so we can only gain from the experience. I’m trying to entice the pair that usually feed around the slip to take up the challenge, so the nest box (or tystie crevice as its now been nicknamed) has now been installed with help from Sandy in a safe and practical place on the new pier. I must also remember to write some interpretation for it, as a few of the local fishermen from Mallaig have already commented about its function. I was given this great idea by Richard Kilpatrick a while back, so I’m glad it’s finally up. I will definitely keep you posted if we’re successful or not.


  1. Lost you in Sumatra, I looked for you in Fiji, missed you by about a week in Baha but I knew you wouldn't miss the 50 year storm on Rum Bro. Take it easy Roach, Bodie,,,,

    1. Yo Bodie..hows that rubber mask of Ronald Reagan doing and or orange gloves!Sorry havent been in touch lately.Good news on the job, will have to pay you a visit soon!we were in NZ a few weeks ago, couldnt work out if you were seeing Stuart from Rainham in Oz?I take it you were in NZ too, did you get NZ stormie off the Moks?

      Will send you an e-mail soon.Take it easy in the sun.

      Cheers, Mick