Thursday, 3 December 2009

A cold and crisp seashore safari.

After the wild weather of recent weeks the team at the Arran Wildlife Festival were VERY relieved that the day of our seashore safari for local businesses dawned cold and crisp!
We had a fantastic afternoon poking about in rockpools on the beach. The hands stayed warm enough to find some amazing looking beasties, fish, invertebrates, starfish and a few mysteries too. Thanks to Kate Sampson from the NTS Rangers, Howard Wood from COAST and Graeme Walker from SNH who lent a hand.
Afterwards we enjoyed a drink at Lamlash Golf Club and a chat about the 2009 festival and plans for 2010. A perfect end to a fab day.
Gerard Tattersfield from the Auchrannie Resort gets up close to a starfish.

Some of the diverse life to be found at low tide on a rocky shore, even at the end of November!

Answers on a postcard please? (Clue- it appeared to have an armoured body and was about an inch long...)

The moon rises on a perfect afternoon on the beach.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Whiting Bay Primary School wins a turtle

Remember the Cool Seas Roadshow at last years festival? All of the island's primary school children took part in a fantastic day of marine themed activities including life sized inflateable sea creatures.
The children created wonderful collages of sealife and best composition was judged by Howard Wood of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust. It was pure coincidence that Whiting Bay school won the competition (Howard is a resident in the village!).
In recognition of their fantastic artwork, last week the school won an adopted turtle, under the Marine Conservation Society's "Adopt A Turtle Scheme". Under the scheme, for as little as £3 a month, you can support the work of the MCS and other conservation groups in protecting turtles around the world. Whiting Bay Schools turtle was funded by the Wildlife Festival.
The children were presented with a certificate and information pack, as well as a toy turtle to enjoy.
To adopt your own turtle and to find out more about the scheme visit

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Somethin’ Rottin’ in Sannox

On Saturday 12 September Graeme Walker from Scottish Natural Heritage clearly demonstrated that there was somethin’ rottin’ in Sannox.

During a two hour guided walk starting at the Fallen Rocks car park at North Sannox he shared his passion for the incredible world of fungi with over thirty residents and visitors. Well over thirty species of fungi were found and Graeme displayed his extensive knowledge in a most interesting way. The spontaneous applause of the participants at the end of event was a clear measure of their enjoyment of the experience.

Arran Wildlife Festival Chairman Jim Cassels said “This Fungus Foray was an excellent taster for the 2010 Arran Wildlife Festival which will take place from the 12th to19th May 2010 and involve over 70 guided walks, talks and events.”

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Press Release: Fungus Foray to Launch the Arran Wildlife Festival

The Arran Wildlife Festival will be putting the “fun” in to Fungus with a special Fungus Foray on Saturday 12th September.

Prepare to be amazed when you join Graeme Walker from Scottish Natural Heritage for a free guided walk at North Sannox to find out about incredible fungi and the astonishing hidden world beneath the soil. The two hour woodland stroll will start at North Sannox Carpark (NS015465) at 1pm.

Graeme said “The Arran Wildlife Festival takes place in May each year which is great for most local wildlife but not the ideal time for spotting fungi so we thought we would do something Autumnal to launch the next festival with a Fungus Foray. On this walk we will prove just what a rotten place Arran really is!”

Arran Wildlife Festival Chairman James Cassels is pleased to be launching the dates for next year’s festival. “We are already excited about plans for next year and are keen to get started. The 2010 festival will take place from the 12th-19th May and we will be celebrating our fifth year,” he says, “next Saturday’s Fungus Foray is a taste of what the festival offers so put these dates in your diary now and expect something really special in May.”

Last May the 2009 Wildlife Festival attracted hundreds of visitors to over 70 guided walks, talks and unusual events. Over the coming months the organisers are looking forward to presenting the highlights of the festival to meetings around the island. For more information please see the website or email The festival co-ordinator Lucy Wallace can be contacted on 07825 644161.

Image credit: Amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina) Graeme Walker

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Arran Wildlife Festival Photography Competition: Winners Announced

During the Arran Wildlife Festival there was a photography competition for images of wildlife taken during the festival (13th-20th May). The standard of many entries was high, and in the adult category the competition was intense. However, local photographer Steve Ewart who was judging the competition felt that Leslie Holburn's image of a black guillemot taken at Imachar on the 15th stood out from the crowd. The picture captures the charismatic nature of this species perfectly, and shows off the brilliant red of its feet and inside the beak.
Meanwhile, in the under 18s category, local photgrapher Bailey Robinson aged 10 ran away with the top prize with his photograph of mallard drakes in his grandmothers garden. The judge felt that it was a good effort for a young photographer. Mum Angela said, "I think winning has spurred him on to start taking more photographs and the book he won will help him do that".

Images from the 2009 Festival

View of Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Pladda from Kildonan.

Intrepid seafarers brave the choppy waters for a once in a lifetime trip to RSPB reserve Ailsa Craig, home to 40,00 pairs of gannets, as well as guillemots, puffins and razorbills.

Rob Logan of Forestry Commission Scotland has a license to check barn owl nests and during the festival people were able to watch him do this (from a safe distance). Barn owls are protected by law and it is illegal to disturb them unless like Rob you have a license issued for a specific conservation purpose.

On board the Holy Isle ferry with Howard Wood from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust, finding out about Scotland's first No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay.

On the summit of Holy Isle.

The Seawatchers set up camp at the Southend of Arran. Amongst the many seabirds seen, a rare pomerine skua was spotted.

Terry Southall rings a song song thrush at Kildonan.

Kirk and Gen get help making a bug box from their dad, joiner George Inglis at the Family Fun Day.

Jenny Meade of COAST at the fun day.

Fiona Laing is chair of the Arran Natural History Society and Kate Sampson head ranger at NTS Brodick Castle, Country Park and Goatfell Property.

Graeme Walker of SNH practicing for his Bats and Beer presentation later that evening.

Ross Kerr has a go with the black grouse radio tracking equipment.

Gay and Andy Christie from Hessilhead Wildlfie Rescue Centre.

Tom Vella Boyle of the Community of Arran Seabed Trust at the Fun Day.

The staff at Brodick Co Op volunteered to help with the tea room and ran a raffle.

Liz Maclean, manager of Brodick Co-op gets into the spirit of the Fun Day.

Gemma Totty has her face painted at the Family Fun Day.

Community of Arran Seabed Trust divers demonstrate the marine wildlife of Lamlash Bay on board Arran Power and Sail's RIB.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Family Fun Day

Take Action for Wildlife.

A range of conservation groups were at the Ormidale Sports Pavillion on Sunday 17th May as part of the Arran Wildlife festival.

Lots of visitors came to discover how to help wildlife.

There were plenty of fun activities for children on the day and lots of ideas for adults too, there was something for everyone, from making your garden more wildlife friendly to finding out how to organise a beach clean or record the wildlife in your area.

Making pan pipes and bug boxes.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Arran Wildlife Art Exhibition

A sneak preview of some of the Arran Wildlife Art exhibition in Corrie Arts Shop. Open from 15th - 28th May.

A group of local Artists

Marvin Elliot - Sculptor Carver.

Graham McArthur - Wood Carver and Wood Turner.

Richard LeClerc - Stained Glass.

David Underdown - Poet

Avril Paton - Artist

Jane Milloy - Artist

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Fulmars of Drumadoon Point

Had a quick scout around Drumadoon Point at Blackwaterfoot the other day to see check out the lie of the land for guided walks later in the year that I am doing through the RSPB. It was a wild and windy day so quite hard work for bird watching but there was plenty of wildlife action on the cliff faces and along the shore.
Drumadoon itself is a basalt sill with obvious columnar jointing also seen in this region at Fingals cave and over the water at the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. The cliff is eroding to form a series of overhangs and ivy covered ledges that provide shelter for nesting fulmars and other birds. It is quite interesting from a geological perspective, and on the day I was there the place was also hooching with geology students....

The fulmars that nest on the cliffs choose sheltered ledges where they lay an egg either on bare rock or in a shallow depression lined with plant material. They look superficially like gulls, but closer inspection reveals that they have a tube on the top of their bill, like an albatross. They are in fact closely related to albatrosses, and are members of the petrel family. They are well adapted to a life of foraging on the open ocean, with stiff wings for soaring, and the tube is believed to help them smell out patchy food resources at sea. They are beautiful birds but be warned- if you get too close they will spit an evil smelling oily liquid at you. This is a very effective deterrant for predators, such as bird of prey, as it will damage their flight feathers. The chicks also have this ability and this may explain why the fulmars tolerate a ravens nest at the other end of Drumadoon- which would probably be a threat to less well armed nestlings.

There will be opportunities to watch fulmars and find out more about these charismatic birds during the wildlife festival. Holy Isle Sea Life Special rib trips will be leaving Brodick on the 13th and 14th May, and on the 14th May there will be a survey techniques masterclass along the shore at Blackwaterfoot. See the full programme here.

Monday, 6 April 2009

A Forest Walk

After a morning last week doing a guided walk with a fantastic family from Northern Ireland I decided the rest of the day was too good to waste and walked home from Brodick through Glencloy. The glen has a mixture of open fields, where the gorse is currently in glorious bloom, commercial forestry plantations, and native woodland.
The native woodland runs along the burn at the bottom of the glen, and although the buds on the trees are only just staring to come in to leaf, honeysuckle is rambling through many of the trees with bright green shoots, giving the trees an illusion of full leaf (spring tends to be later here on Arran than further south- for obvious reasons). After crossing the burn, the path climbs up and joins a forest road through a conifer plantation. A significant part of Arran's landscape is managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. This includes areas of commercial forestry, clearfell, and open moorland. In many places these clearfell areas that are left after the trees have been felled are being allowed to regenerate naturally, or native trees are being planted in the place of the imported sitka spruce that has been removed.
Dead trees are left standing in the empty places as calling posts and perches for raptors and other birds. This is not the only thing that the local forestry officers are doing for our birds, in some parts of the forest, curious objects have been appearing in trees. I am often asked by people why plastic barrels have been placed high up in trees. The answer is simple, they have been put up to provide homes for barn owls. The scheme has been very successful, and the evidence points to an increase in the population of barn owls as a result of these innovative owl boxes. During the Wildlife Festival it will be possible to join Forestry Commission Scotland for a special guided walk during which the FCS Rangers will be investigating the breeding success of one of these nest sites. Spaces are limited and disappearing fast so book early to avoid disappointment! Link to barn owl walks page.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

The perils of plastic bags and balloons

A recent kayaking trip on the west coast of Arran revealed that our marine birds are also getting started with their breeding season. Rafts of eiders were spotted off shore, with groups of 8 or so males and females gathering up and down the coast. Pairs of shelduck and mergansers were also spotted. Spring can be an optimistic time and it was great to see these signs of courtship.
However, the trip also reveled a darker side of life as large amounts of plastic and other rubbish was being swept ashore on a rolling swell from the Irish Sea. A line of debris about 50m off shore stretched from Imachar to Lochranza. Amongst the rubbish were some really dangerous items for wildlife, including this balloon. Filled with helium, it once brought a smile to someones face, but released, accidentally or deliberately, it inevitably found its way in to the sea where it could easily have been mistaken for a jellyfish. Leatherback turtles and even whales and dolphins have been known to eat balloons and plastic bags, often with fatal consequences. Marine litter is a serious hazard to wildlife, and it is not just balloons and plastic bags that cause problems. Smaller plastic pieces are ingested by seabirds, such as fulmars, and these can also be fatal. Birds and animals may become entangled in fishing nets and lines and other abandoned debris. Microscopic particles of plastic are ingested by all sorts of creatures. Plastics easily absorb pollutants and these then enter the food chain- our food chain.
Here on Arran, many of the villages organise regular beach cleans to try and minimise the amount of rubbish on our beaches. The Marine Conservation Society, one of the charities involved with the Arran Wildlife Festival, campaigns to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the sea in the first place, through education programmes, encouraging a reduction in plastic bag use, and annual beach cleans. For more information have a look at the MCS website's pollution pages: