Sunday, 23 May 2010

Before dinosaurs roamed Arran

On the Monday evening Sliddery was the venue for the tracking of pre-dinosaur reptiles that roamed Arran about 230 million years ago. Several trackways have been discovered there by local enthusiasts, Jean and John Fitzpatrick. The animal that made the footprints were described as the 'Hand Beast of Arran', or scientifically as Isochirotherium. But what was the animal like that made these footprints? There was one animal that may have fitted the bill, but it is known form a single skeleton on Ticino in Switzerland; Ticinosaurus. A large komodo dragon-sized lizard that lived at about the same time as these footprints were made.

It was not until about 2000 that the first footprint came to light near to Blackwaterfoot. Since then, several hundred footprints of this elusive animal with the hand-shaped footprint have turned up from Kildonan to the King's Caves. On the Tuesday morning another group made there way across the hill past Drumadoon to the raised beaches before the King's Caves. Here, the first footprint was seen in a secluded stream in the hillside above the rocky beach. It was on the beach that the next discoveries were made, as several dozen footprints were discovered below high-water on the rocky platform. Both days were perfect for sighting these footprints and we were not disappointed!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Wildlife festival 2010!

Wow! It has been a fantastic week of wildlife and feet are only just coming back to earth. With over 70 events we have been very busy. Thankyou to everyone who led a walk, hosted and event or took part. The Festival's success depends on you- and of course the wonderful wildlife of Arran which was the real star of the show.Here are some photos from the week to whet your appetite. If you have some that you would like to share, why not email them to me at Feel free to add some words and if there is space we will include these too.

Yeshi and Tenzin get creative at the Family Funday.

The boys in blue!
Claire Youdale from COAST (right) and a member of the public with a tank of marine beasties at the Family Funday.
Members of the hard working tea room team!

Angela Cassels from Arran Natural History Society at the Family Funday.The boys from Arran Mountain Rescue flippin' burgers


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Flying Dustbin- A Portrait of the Fulmar

My second post today includes a missive from Raymond Besant, the film maker behind Saturday's special film night at the High School. I asked Raymond to send us a bit of information about his work and what drew him to film Fulmars:
"I grew up in the Orkney Islands where I developed an interest in the natural world and photography, particularly birds and the marine environment. On graduating from Aberdeen in Bioscience I became a freelance photographer before working for the Press & Journal newspaper as a press photographer. But my passion is wildlife and in 2005 I embarked on a project to make my first wildlife film with a view to becoming a wildlife cameraman. Practicing filming on the cliffs coincided with the failures of a subject familiar to me, seabird colonies. Shot over two years on days off and holidays I called it 'The Flying Dustbin' and it tells the story of the Fulmar and the challenges it faces from marine pollution and climate change. Because of monetary constraints I shot, edited, narrated and produced the film. Filmed in Aberdeenshire and the Orkney Islands the story also took me to St Kilda and the Netherlands. My previous photojournalism projects have included a strong environmental message and this theme continues in The Flying Dustbin."

The Flying Dustbin Premiered at Orkney International Science Festival and since then it has screened at the Scottish Wildlife photography fair and aired on tv in the US last year as well as touring local RSPB groups in Scotland. The RSPB use it as an educational tool for schools in Orkney. Clips have also appeared on a BBC Panorama documentary in 2008 and a Dutch tv programme this year.

The film went on to win Best of Category - Amateur, and a Merit Award for Scientific Content at the 31st International Wildlife Film Festival in the US in 2008 and was shortlisted in the Best Film on a Limited Budget category at the Durban Wild Talk Africa festival in 2009.

You may have seen other work from Raymond- On the back of the IWFF awards he worked on the BBC Natural World film 'A Highland Haven' filming Black Throated Divers on Loch Maree which aired on BBC2 last November. His latest project is as a cameraman for the 2020Vision wildlife project. (Interestingly, Fergus Gill- the young photographer whose work is on display at the Auchrannie Spa this week, is also involved with the 2020Vision project!)

Raymond will present his film "The Flying Dustbin-A Portrait of the Fulmar" at Lamlash Highschool at 7pm. Entry is free, but donations to the Arran Wildlife Festival and RSPB Scotland are very welcome!

Image credit: Fulmar by Andy Hay (

Sea Kayaking in Lamlash Bay

This week there are some very special sea kayaking trips as part of the wildllife festival, taking place in Lamlash Bay. Come along and join us on a trip to or around Holy Isle and explore the wildlife that can be seen around Scotlands first No Take Zone.

Holy Isle lies in the Firth of Clyde, which is the most southerly fjord in the Northern Hemisphere. The Scottish seas are home to over 8000 species of spectacular underwater life and have a rich biological diversity.

The Isle is home to 3 wild and rare species including the last remaining native Eriskay ponies, the ancient species of Soay sheep and remnant of the Vikings, and a herd of beautiful white goats.

A half-day journey will take you alongside the Holy Isle and allow you to see the many birds inhabit the Bay such as eider ducks, divers cormorants, fulmars and guillemots. Other species seen in the bay include ringed plovers, oyster catchers and gannets. Curious common seals can usually be seen around the shoreline.

A full day journey also includes a circuit around Hamilton Island where grey seals and common seals are frequently seen basking and lucky paddlers may catch a sighting of the elusive otter.

But you don’t have to go far to see a world of wildlife beneath you. Look down into the clear water and watch the busy hermit crabs and brightly coloured starfish including the incredible sun star.

For more information about sea kayaking during the wildlife festival- visit Arran Adventure's website.

You can also give them a call on 01770 302244.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ailsa Craig

With just a few days before the festival itself gets underway there are just a few opportunities left to let you know what a wonderful place Arran is and what you might be missing out on if you haven't come to see us for this years festival! On wednesday there will be a special visit to Ailsa Craig with Arran Power and Sail and RSPB Scotland. My crystal ball will not be able to bring you images from this RIB trip yet- but last week I was able to get out to the island (this time with Ocean Breeze Ribtours)and what an amazing day it was!

Ailsa Craig, is also known as "Paddy's Milestone" is situated in the southern part of the Firth of Clyde. On a clear day it is visible from the Scottish Mainland and from Northern Ireland. The island itself is a spectacular volcanic plug, formed of basalt columns and a special micro-granite, prized for years as a material for winning curling stones.
Today, Ailsa Craig is an RSPB reserve. It is not one that you can visit easily, due to it's isolated position several miles offshore. You won't find all of the usual creature comforts of other RSPB reserves, in fact landing is not guaranteed by any commercial boat trips heading out there- but if you visit during the breeding season, from your vantage point at sea you will be able to view almost 70,000 gannets as well as black guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, and even puffins. Ailsa is the 3rd largest gannet colony in the uk, and when we visited, the cliffs and sky were white with these graceful birds.

Puffins were wiped out on Ailsa many years ago due to an invasion of rats that came with he miners who settled the island in the 19th and early 20th century. When the RSPB took over, they began the tricky task of eradicating the rats. It wasn't easy, but the benefit to puffins was clear- they returned to the island as soon as the rats were gone. Now up to 100 pairs breed there- and the number is rising.

For more information about Ailsa Craig why not visit the RSPB's webpage on the island. If you can't make it next week, don't worry, Arran Power and Sail and Ocean Breeze Ribtours also run trips throughout the season, many in collaboration with RSPB Scotland.
You will find details of all the fantastic RIB trips and other journeys by sea taking place during the Arran Wildlife Festival on this page: