Category Archives: Tiree Ranger Service

Tiree Ranger Service Update

One aspect of my job that I find particularly rewarding is meeting people.

Offering opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy being active in nature is core to our remit as a Ranger Service. I’m delighted to tell you that, since the beginning of our events and guided walk programme in mid-April, almost three hundred guests and community members have joined in. This is an incredible show of support for Tiree Ranger Service, and I am extremely grateful to each and every person that has taken part. As the summer jollies approach and Tiree girds itself for the height of the visitor season, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the activities and experiences that we have shared so far:

The first event to take place was our Great Easter Eggcase Hunt on April 14th. This event was jointly led by myself and Willie Mackinnon – Tiree’s Youth Worker. Though I produced a written summary at the time, I hadn’t fully appreciated the long term positive impact that this session would have. The event was enormous fun and I had a great time leading it. However, what has struck me since is the number of families that now actively look for (and hopefully record) eggcases as they spend time on the beach. Young people often approach me in the Co-op to tell me about their most recent finds! Genuinely, I couldn’t have asked for a better result. On the day, the weather was rather changeable: Instead of collating our finds at the end of the activity, some families took them home to record, while others left the fruits of their labour with me to be processed in one large batch. I must say, well done to those families that went ahead and submitted their findings (presumably after a cup of something hot!) – it was great to see the new records popping up online. When I finally completed this task for the pooled Gott Bay samples, I was left with 137 records. These are currently being added to the Shark Trust website:

•120 Smallsoptted Catshark eggcases •6 Thornback Ray eggcases •9 Spotted Ray eggcases •2 Cukoo Ray eggcases

I was also given one Blond Ray eggcase and three Flapper Skate eggcases from unknown locations around Tiree – these were recorded separately. The enthusiasm engendered by this event is almost worth the perma-layer of sand that has ingrained itself into my carpet, and the hours of trying to untangle and measure the sodden eggcase mountain… If you’re interested, there are eggcase ID leaflets (with information on how to submit your findings) available from my office at the Tiree Rural Centre.

Our next session was Beach Bingo – a family scavenger hunt to spot and identify different items on the seashore. In essence, this was an excuse to dole out a few sweeties (!) but the children did practice identifying different colours and textures – or different types of seaweed, seashell and gull for the older participants. This event caught the tail end of the Easter break and attendance by visiting children and younger residents was good.

The third event of the year, Seòid a’ Machair, was a guided walk jointly led by myself and Donna MacLean – Tiree’s Music, Culture and Communications Coordinator. We explored the formation of Machair; learning how traditional crofting practice supports Tiree’s impressive biodiversity. Janet Bowler gave us an introduction to the rare bee species that she monitors here, and spoke about her ongoing project to encourage the planting of native wildflowers.

With Donna’s expertly prepared handouts and pronunciation guides, we learned the Gaelic names for many species that we encountered on the way – in addition to hearing about the language’s history and modern use on the island.

On May 12th, I led a short but terrifically enjoyable Wellness Walk down to Lag naCleite. Though the walk wasn’t intentionally aimed at viewing wildlife, there was simply too much to ignore! Highlights included lovely views of Great Northern Diver, Common Eider, Arctic Tern, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin and a tiny Lapwing chick.

The following week, I was joined at Loch a’ Phuill by an enthusiastic group of Learner Birders.We got to grips with the basics of bird identification using our ID books and the new Tiree Ranger Service telescope; looking at a number of different wading and water species. A particular highlight was a small party of distant waders –which turned out to be a late passing group of female Black-tailed Godwits (thanks to John Bowler for following this up).

One of these birds was wearing leg rings, which indicated that she had originally been captured by French ringers. The same group had been spotted in Ireland just days before. Building on the enthusiasm of Learner Birders, our next session took us to the windy tops of Ceann a’Mhara for some Super Seabirds. Though the focus of this walk was primarily cliff-nesters, we experienced a diverse array of plant life and some very interesting natural history finds – such as the brightly coloured shells of predated seabird eggs. There was quite a bit of rain; but the walk was still one of my season highlights so far. In addition to learning about our environment, Tiree Ranger Service is here to encourage people to look after it.

On June 3rd, around 40 community members from across the island joined a Tiree Community Development Trust Big Tiree Tidy session to clear Crossapol Beach of debris. There is a lot of enthusiasm, and there are lots of great ideas, within our community. Watching people and their children come together and take time out of their day to help was extremely rewarding. A special mention needs to go tour local Argyll & Bute Council Workers, who very kindly offered to come and collect the material from the roadside. This made a difficult job much easier and was greatly appreciated by everyone.

June 8th saw me out and about early, placing riddles and clues along an 8km cycle trail for the children of Tiree High School. The Tiree Treasure Trail activity was part of a two-day programme to help P7 students through their transition to S1 after the summer break. The questions and clues had a broadly environmental and healthy living theme, and the students did a brilliant job of both finding and solving them – in fact, I think I rather underestimated their abilities?! I’d like to thank the children for being so sporting, and for their good behaviour and friendly manner throughout. To quote one student it was “slightly better than doing maths” – be still, my ballooning ego.

I’d also like to thank Will Wright of Tiree Fitness for his contribution of spare bikes, helmets and equipment checks; plus the other staff leaders (includingWillie, our island Youth Worker) for helping me to guide the group around Tiree’s roads safely. (…only one bike disintegrated, so I consider that to be a resounding success.)

Our Guided Walk Programme is now available to download from www.isleoftiree.com, in addition to being on display around the island in printed form. These walks will be running weekly on Thursday afternoons, weather and circumstances permitting.

Events, such as those featured above, normally run on Fridays. Currently, they are advertised locally and through our social media accounts. The first Guided Walk around Salum and Vaul produced amazing behaviour from the Salum Common Seal colony – with animals play fighting and leaping out of the water in the shallows.

Three routes will run on rotation until further notice – but please note that advance booking is essential! I’ll look forward to welcoming you and your guests along,

NÀDAIR THIRIODH – TIREE RANGER SERVICE

Dear Readers,

This is my first bulletin as the new Tiree Ranger.

As a community, you have made me feel very welcome and at home on your island. The kind smiles and jolly waves have been much appreciated – especially in the face of a rather daunting move. I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make the last four weeks so enjoyable.

By the time this article reaches you, you will doubtless have seen the post on Facebay and/or the new temporary signage regarding the carpark closure at Tràigh Bhàigh. Regrettably, there are several sites where erosion has made parking areas difficult to use. These are also under review and I will update you accordingly.

I would like to assure each of you that the Access Steering Group is on-task. As you know, balancing the needs of different users is challenging on Tiree. The delicate structure of dune and machair systems, plus an overarching desire to preserve the “natural look” of coastal locations, makes management a bit of a juggling act. Currently, the discussions of the access group favour measures that have minimum visual impact and which can be implemented with the generous assistance of local residents. An example of this approach is the Balevullin site – which we will be working to restore over the coming weeks.

Crossapol has presented a rather more serious problem. Initially, the idea was to run three parking areas on rotation; allowing recovery time between each period of use. However, the popularity and exposed nature of this location are acting against us.

As many of you have noticed, the condition of these parking areas tends to deteriorate rapidly once the surface vegetation is worn away. Further, previously used areas are not recovering fast enough to allow rotation back into the system. Whilst it is highly desirable to have parking areas on the dune head, in practice, this has proved unsustainable at Tràigh Bhàigh.

Maintaining good access for all users that doesn’t conflict with on-going landmanagement is at the heart of what the steering group does. We understand the desire to get vehicles close to the beach, and we are working towards a solution that still allows this but reduces damage to valuable habitats and grazings. I will keep you informed of our progress. In the meantime please feel free to use the parking area in the middle of Tràigh Bhàigh at the end of the track to the wartime buildings.

With my thanks and kind wishes to you all,

Stephanie Cope

Tiree’s New Ranger

rangerTiree Trust are delighted to introduce Tiree’s new ranger, Stephanie Cope. Stephanie took up the position at the beginning of this week and will be using the coming weeks to get up to speed with the project and familiarise herself with the island.

Stephanie has spent the last 4 year’s working as a ranger on the neighbouring island of Mull and is looking forward to her latest challenge on Tiree! The management of the Ranger project was transferred to Tiree Trust from Tiree Rural Development at the end of 2016 and match funding has been secured from SNH for a further 3 years.

There will be very little change to the way the project is managed, although Steph brings a wealth of experience from her time with the Glengorm Estate on Mull so we look forward to seeing how the project develops. The Ranger will still be mainly located in the office at the Rural centre, along with being out and about in the community.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve Nagy for all of his hard work and effort he put into the Ranger post and wish him well in his new post with Cal Mac.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in Tiree

Despite the fact that many part of the Hebrides are remote and tricky to get to, the Trust does its best to visit as many places as frequently as possible. This past weekend we got the opportunity to visit the isle of Tiree and be a part of their Regatta celebrations.

We organised two days of events for locals and visitors to attend if they were interested, focused around raising awareness of whales and dolphins in the Hebrides and how the Trust was working to study and protect them. Straight off the ferry the team was keen to get started. Friday had a full line-up of talks and workshops including our popular “Bones Box” and finishing up with a headland watch. Over the course of the day attendees learnt how to ID the most common species of cetacean found in the Hebrides and why exactly it was such an important ecosystem for these animals. Finally, participants got to put their newly acquired ID skills into practice in a survey simulator and headland watch.

Although our headland watch didn’t reveal any cetaceans, we did spot 15 basking sharks in Gunna Sound. An amazing sight for everyone involved, especially when reports of basking sharks have only been coming in for about a week before hand. With the arrival of the sharks, many feel summer has well and truly arrived. The next day we set up a stall on Gott Bay, where the Regatta itself was happening. The wind was perfect for the sailing races, although not so helpful at keeping the ID guides on our table! Despite the challenges of a few strong gusts of wind the stall was busy the whole day. Young children (and their parents) were curious about the bones we had on display and many people who visited us let us know about cetaceans or sharks they had seen recently. We talked to as many people as possible about our Community Sightings Network and hopefully the next time they see something of interest in the ocean around Tiree or the Hebrides, they’ll remember to report it to us online.

Friday finished up with an open boat at the ferry pier. Silurian, HWDT’s research vessel, was on her last night of a survey and managed to appear at the agreed time. We were kept busy transporting keen visitors to and from the boat for nearly two hours. Our poor skipper didn’t even have a chance to drink his traditional after dinner cup of tea! It was great to welcome so many people on board Silurian and show them exactly what she did when she was out on surveys. Some people were so inspired by the visit that they decided to start saving for a berth during next year’s survey season!

The next day was as sunny as the previous two, with a slight covering of cloud; perfect spotting conditions. The HWDT were at the front of the ferry as they left Tiree, scanning the sea for anything they might be able to see. Just before Coll their dedication was rewarded with a minke whale off the port bow. Like most minke whales, it was there for an instant and then gone, but some passengers managed to catch a glimpse of it, thanks to the teams excited (but professional) squeals of delight. It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend on Tiree. Many thanks to the Tiree Ranger Service for inviting us over and being so hospitable.

For more info please visit www.whaledolphintrust.co.uk

Nàdair Thiriodh – Tiree Ranger Service

My Ranger news article hasn’t appeared for quite a while but this is somewhat due to others reporting what the Ranger Service has been up to in their own articles (Beaver Scouts, Ian Sharp, Tiree SWI, etc.).

Officially the three year project “Conserving Tiree’s Natural Heritage” for which the Ranger Service was established comes to a conclusion at the end of July, however we have been fortunate enough to gain additional funds to keep going until the end of October which will see out this year’s tourist season and there is the potential for further funding for next year.

Several ventures we have been working on are now coming to fruition:

• The campers’ new chemical waste disposal facility has just been installed at Scarinish. This has taken four years of negotiations with SEPA, to get planning permission and another year to get all the funding in place. Funding has come from the Windfall Fund and donations via sales of the Tiree Sticker. Needless to say we are “Flushed with Success”.

• With the help of Discover Tiree and John Bowler we have a new book “Tiree Walks” in final draft which should be going to the printers in the next few weeks. The book features twelve walks with wildlife and flora information and a fantastic selection of photos. I must also thank Malcolm Steel who has stepped in a short notice and provided a number of photos for the book.

• The Natural Heritage brochure has been re-vamped and is about to go to the printers. Thanks again to all Discover Tiree, John Bowler and Malcolm Steel for all their help on this. Tiree 2016 stickers are now available and selling fast. Get yours now. The new design courtesy of Peter Ling features a basking shark. Due to the success of the Tiree Ultra, half marathon and 10K running seems to have become more popular and a lot of people are out training for the next event. Unfortunately this has brought a few complaints of livestock and ground nesting birds being disturbed. A plea therefore to all runners to take care where you are running. Avoid running through flocks of birds on beaches, be aware that some areas of beach and machair will have areas of nesting birds, so avoid these and try not to disturb cattle and sheep.

I have also had reports of a reoccurrence of a past problem. That is children digging caves into the dune front at Balevullin and unfortunately disturbing the nesting sand martins. If you see anybody doing this please politely ask them to stop. The wear and tear on car parks and tracks to them is taking its toll. We are now investigating how this can be halted and sensitive repairs made. The Tiree Trust, Argyll Estates and Ranger Service are all involved in this and will be meeting to progress how this can be solved.

On a more positive note our weekly guided walks have been ongoing since Easter and continue to be popular. They take place on Tuesday mornings starting at 10.00 a.m. and we have a three week rotation covering Ceann a’Mhara, The Ringing Stone and Ben Hough/The Maze. The programme of walks is posted on the isleoftiree.com website and on posters at various locations. If you would like to come along just turn up and enjoy a few hours relaxing walk.

NÀDAIR THIRIODH – TIREE RANGER SERVICE

Brochures

We now have a range of brochures available at the Rural Centre. If you require any please call in and collect some. Brochures available are:

New Visitors Map

Tiree “An Afternoon in Scarinish” – ideal for Thursdays day visitors

Guide Walks with the Tiree Ranger

Tiree’s Chapels

Finding Birds on Tiree

Tiree “Advice for Everyone Using The Island’s Roads”

We also have a variety of other brochures supplied by other organisations including The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB.

If you are registered with Discover Tiree, updated information packs are now available to download from the members area of the island website.

Information Panels

The new information panels have now been installed. Please take the opportunity if passing one of the parking areas to take a look. All carry a common theme about protecting the machair and our natural heritage but each also has specific information relevant to its site.

Guided Walks

I am now doing a weekly guided walk on a Tuesday mornings. They start at 10.00 a.m. and we have a three week rotation covering Ceann a’Mhara, The Ringing Stone and Ben Hough/The Maze. You can pick up a programme of walks from The Rural Centre. If you would like to come along just turn up and enjoy a few hours relaxing walk.

Thanks

Steve Nagy, Tiree Ranger Tiree Ranger Service 07765449487 or email accesstrd@tireebroadband.com

NÀDAIR THIRIODH – TIREE RANGER SERVICE

Whilst the Ranger Service has been silent in terms of reporting progress over the winter that doesn’t mean it has been quiet in getting things done.

Brochures and Interpretation Panels

Working closely with Discover Tiree and the RSPB we have been revamping and producing new brochures. The updated Tiree Visitor Map will be out soon along with a new “out and about” day visitor’s brochure for those making use of Thursday afternoon ferry sailings and not taking the “Tiree Tour”.

We are part way through preparing a further four tourist walk maps and a full schedule of weekly guided walks is also due out soon. Some of you may have noticed that frames have appeared at the various parking areas. These will contain information panel’s specific to each location and cover items such as machair, flora and fauna, water sports, island identification montages and identification of whales, dolphins and basking sharks. The boards should be in place during May.

Erosion

Despite a wet and windy winter we do not seem to have suffered the same degree of coastal erosion as last winter.

The works undertaken at Balephetrish and Crossapol have so far helped stem the onslaught of tide and winds and the general consensus has been that if the remedial works undertaken last year had not been done then further substantial damage would have occurred.

I have also been asked about the posts with yellow markings on at Gott Bay. These have not been installed by the Ranger Service but by Argyll and Bute Council as datum points to measure the effects of erosion. Similar smaller pegs have also been installed along Balephetrish Bay.

Dogs

The lambing season has barely started along with many young calves also being born and yet the first report of dogs not being kept under control has already reached me. This is a problem that occurs time and again so can I please implore both local and visiting dog owners to keep their dogs under control (preferably on a lead when near livestock) especially at this time of year.

1. Don’t take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals.

2. Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals

3. If you go into a field of farm animals, keep as far as possible from the animals and keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.

4. If cattle act aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.

5. During the bird breeding season (usually April to July) keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in areas such as moorland, machair, grassland, loch shores and the seashore.

6. Pick up and remove your dog’s faeces if it fouls in a public open place or where there is a risk to farming interests.

7. In recreation areas and other public places, avoid causing concern to others by keeping your dog under close control.

Tiree 2015 Stickers

Looking for something to replace that spot on your windscreen where the tax disc used to go?

The latest Tiree 2015 stickers are now in stock and available from the Ranger, Blue Beyond Gallery, Wild Diamond, Ceabhar Restaurant and Rockvale Guest House. Stickers are priced £5 and all proceeds go back into environmental improvements.

Thanks

Steve Nagy, Tiree Ranger Tiree Ranger Service

07765449487 or email accesstrd@tireebroadband.com

NÀDAIR THIRIODH – TIREE RANGER SERVICE

Driving on Machair

One of the top priorities I am always asked to promote is preserving our natural environment especially the machair.

One way to do this is to minimise traffic driving off road which is why we now have designated parking areas.

This is probably one of the most emotive and contentious issues I have to deal with and I often get approached by visitors quoting one rule for visitors another for locals. Put simply The Scottish Outdoor Access Code does not permit off road driving for recreational purposes (although a person with a disability using a motorised vehicle adapted for use by that person can have access).

I know most of you will adhere to the above but can I ask all local residents to adhere to the same rules as everybody else and stick to the car parks and not drive off road un-necessarily. If we want visitors to stop driving off-road we need to set a good example ourselves at a local level. Unless you are a land owner or on crofting business (checking livestock, fencing, etc.) there should be no reason to drive off-road.

Dogs

Dog not under control continues to be a problem. I myself caught a dog chasing cattle at Sandaig causing them to stampede. Unfortunately there was a young family in the midst of the chaos and only luck prevented any injury. Needless to say the family were exceedingly frightened but I was fortunate to be able to take control of the dog and put it out of the way in the back of my van and the herd settled.

The issue of keeping dogs under control seems to have been worse this year than in the past so can I please implore all visitors and local residents to keep their dogs under control (preferably on a lead when near livestock).

1. Don’t take your dog into fields where there are lambs, calves or other young animals.

2. Never let your dog worry or attack farm animals

3. If you go into a field of farm animals, keep as far as possible from the animals and keep your dog on a short lead or under close control.

4. If cattle act aggressively and move towards you, keep calm, let the dog go and take the shortest, safest route out of the field.

5. During the bird breeding season (usually April to July) keep your dog under close control or on a short lead in areas such as moorland, forests, grassland, loch shores and the seashore.

6. Pick up and remove your dog’s faeces if it fouls in a public open place or where there is a risk to farming interests.

7. In recreation areas and other public places, avoid causing concern to others by keeping your dog under close control.

Guided Walks

The next batch of walks are:

Ceann a’Mhara 12th and 26th August (meet at Bird Hide car park Loch a’Phuil)

Ringing Stone from Vaul 19th August and 2nd September (meet at Upper Vaul)

Walks start at 10.00 a.m.

We now have a series of printed walks/maps available for free in hard copy at various locations around the island of you can print them off from the “out and about” section on www.isleoftiree.com Thanks

Steve Nagy, Tiree Ranger Tiree Ranger Service 07765449487 or email: accesstrd{@}tireebroadband.com

Nàdair Thiriodh – Tiree Ranger Service

Erosion Repairs / Damage

erosion_controlledWork has now been completed at Balephetrish and Crossapol. It looks like a great job has been done considering that we have been limited by the restrictions placed upon us and the fact that we could only use existing materials. Only time will tell how long the repairs last.

All involved are hoping for a less severe winter this year to allow the work to stabilise and bed in. Could I ask that people refrain from running down the newly established dune fronts for the foreseeable future to allow marram grass and other plants to re-establish themselves as these are what help strengthen and bind the dunes together.

dune_tunnelWhilst on the subject of erosion, I was called to Balevullin to investigate damage to the dunes. It appears that children had been digging caves into the dune front (see picture).

They probably did not realise the damage they were doing, but in the process of digging these caves they disturbed nesting sand martins and added considerable damage to the already badly eroded dune front. The only way to make these safe was to collapse the dune top.

There is also the matter of the children’s own safety and the parents should have known better. If the dunes had collapsed on them whilst digging we could have had quite a serious incident to contend with.

Beach Parties

party_garbageTwo beach parties have taken place at Balevullin and Sorobaidh. Unfortunately substantial amounts of broken glass and rubbish were left behind (see picture).

We don’t want to stop people enjoying the great weather but please act responsibly and clear up afterwards and don’t break glass on the beaches. I cleared up the mess at Sorobaidh and I would like to thank Suds, Lorna MacDonald and others who spent over four hours clearing up the mess left at Balevullin. I must also thank PC Tanner for talking to the individuals concerned and I hope that this matter is now closed.