Category Archives: Tiree Ranger Service

Tiree Ranger News

Hiya folks, Hope you are all doing well? We had a cracking spell of weather there but it has gone pure baltic again!

Certainly, seeing the seasons change now and Tiree’s greenery is coming to life. The Sea Pink is in bloom around the coast and Cuckoo Flower and Bog Bean in the marshy areas. So, what have I been up to instead of my events and visitor management. Well I’ve been out checking all the signage to see what needs to be changed, familiarising myself with the odd bit of the island I haven’t properly explored yet, recording signs of Otters right across the island and buzzing around in my wee van delivering shopping and scrubs for TAIC. Few other bits and pieces too for when we hopefully can meet up again.

The birdlife is increasing around the island too with 4 Corncrakes calling from my front door, Linnet and Blackbirds on nests in next door’s garden and hundreds of waders on the beaches. The numbers of Fulmars were building up on Kenevara a few weeks back and it’s time to turn our eyes to the sea. For the last two weeks, the seals have been very active around the island. Most nights I’ve watched the colony at Ruaig playing and porpoising in the bay. They have been doing this at Salum and Balephetrish as well.

Next month, the Commons will start pupping so please be careful and try and to avoid disturbing them if you see them resting on the skerries. There have been a few sightings of Basking Sharks away from Tiree and it won’t be long until these giants are back around the island. If you spot any please let me know.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to you all. I’ve now been on the Island for 6 months. Applying for the Ranger post came about by chance. I was rooted on the mainland but after 9 years working for the council and seeing the changes happening in the Ranger Service and the reduction in our roles there I wasn’t happy anymore. Fast forward to now and the kindness and help that everyone has given me from the MacDonalds and Flora at Ruaig, locals around the island and to my work colleagues, has shown to me that I have made the right decision. Thank you, it means a lot.

Until next time…

Hayley Douglas – Tiree Ranger

Tiree Ranger Update

Hi folks, Well that’s January out the way and it’s certainly becoming more noticeably light in the mornings.

The island took a bit of a battering from Storm Brendan with erosion obvious on most of the beaches. We lost about a foot and a half of sand at Ruaig and the materials from the old camp have become visible on Crossapol. The storm brought in a huge amount of litter as well. This was really noticeable along Gott Bay as it had been thrown onto the roadside rather than being caught up in the dunes. Three days and three van loads later the majority of it has been cleared up by myself. This has lead us here in the office to start to think about resurrecting The Big Tiree Tidy.

I know this went down well on the island two years ago and it would be great to get the community together again to spruce everything up and it gives us the opportunity to remove some of the bigger items that others haven’t been able to move previously. I’m thinking along the lines of having it towards the end of April and working on a team basis again. If you think you or your family would be up for the challenge please drop me a line on ranger@tireetrust.org.uk so I can gauge interest.

I’ve also got a few access tasks to complete like fixing some stiles and some ongoing repairs to a few of the car parks. If folk would be interested in volunteering and getting out for a few hours then please give me a shout. There will be cake!

The Weekend Wander walks have been going well with the next one on Sunday the 16th to avoid the cattle sale the day before. Meeting at The Lodge hotel at 11am. If these continue to go well I will look at running them on a weekly basis when the weather gets better. The Weekend Wanders are run as health walks with the idea that none of them will be too strenuous and it gives us all the chance to get out and about and to have a chat with folk. It’s certainly giving me as a newbie a chance to meet and learn. Again there is also the opportunity of eating cake. Can you see a theme here? I’ll also be adding a wee twist to them once an important delivery arrives so do come along.

Just to finish on a sad note, I lifted a young dog otter off the road at Balephetrish. I know otters aren’t universally popular here on Tiree for various reasons. (It was foxes and mink that caused issues in my old village). I’m trying to gauge what size of population we have on the island so if you see any, alive or dead or signs of them please let me know. Til next time.

Hayley Douglas

Tiree Ranger Update

Well folks, I’ve been here for a month now and I have had the chance to meet many of you out and about or at events. So much so I’m at the stage that I’m remembering faces but not from where so please give me a helping hand if I’m looking a bit puzzled.

I’ve spent my time at work getting to grips with some of the Ranger duties as well as exploring the island. I’ve been up to the school to meet the teachers and see what topics I can help with and had a lovely lunch with the Cùram lunch club ladies. I even took them Minnie the Mink to meet (a stuffed one not a real one) and she almost got rehomed (read pinched) by one of them.

One of my favourite activities is tracking so I spent a day looking for Otters and found one female with two cubs which we watched for 15 minutes and another family who I suspect are living under the decking of one of the holiday homes. I’ve started work on an events programme for next year with the first couple happening during the Christmas holidays so why not join me for a Mince Pie Beach Buster or Hangover Cure Walk (cannot guarantee it will clear your hangover but it will make you feel better). Look out for the posters and hope to see some of you there.

With all this wintery weather there has been a lot of seal reports coming in to the BDLMR team on the Island. The pups have been turning up in strange places. I found one sleeping on the grass verge near Baugh Church. I thought it had been hit by a car and it wasn’t happy when I prodded it and it woke up. It quickly headed back into the sea and hasn’t been caught napping since. Remember if you are concerned about one please call 01825765546.

On the theme of wildlife rescue some of you will have heard of the flying hedgehog. At this time of year Hedgehogs should be hibernating and if any are seen it can be a sign that there is a problem. I found one on the road and I knew straight away it was too wee to try and hibernate. It fitted in my hand and only weighed 290g. To survive they should be more like a football and weigh over 500g. I used to work for a wildlife hospital in North Ayrshire so took it home for a feed. It was a wee bit shoogly so I thought it would be best to get it to Hessilhead rather than overwinter it myself. The next day I packaged it up in a box and with the help of the folk at the airport and a willing passenger the wee hog, who has been named Annag, made a short trip to Glasgow where she is now in the care of Hessilhead and is putting weight on. In the Spring she will be released on the mainland as I didn’t book her a return flight.

That’s all for now except for me to say have a great Christmas and New year folks!

A seasonal ‘Thank You!’ from Tiree Ranger Service

As 2017 draws to a close, I would like to extend sincere thanks to the following members of our community:

William Welstead very kindly auctioned his compete collection of “Birds of the Western Palearctic” to raise funds for Tiree Ranger Service. These beautiful books are now in the hands of a professional marine surveyor – so they should be put to fine use! This was an incredibly generous gift, and I look forward to finding an exciting project for the resulting funds in 2018. Thank you, Bill.

Earlier in 2017, William Welstead also donated a second telescope to Tiree Ranger Service, for use during my guided walks and events. This second piece of equipment was extremely helpful during a recent visit from the North Argyll Carers Association; all of whom were keen to learn more about Tiree’s bird life, and to see as many of Loch a’ Phuill’s denizens as possible.

Dr John Holliday has been a generous donor of his time (for both our Welcome Evenings and our Hiking through History walks), plus two additional pairs of binoculars. As with Bill’s equipment, these extra sets came in very handy with larger groups; helping each guest to get maximum enjoyment from their experience.

John Bottomley gifted a generous amount to Nàdair Thiriodh with his membership subscription. These funds will be pooled with the book proceeds, and they were gratefully received.

Many local residents have donated their time and energy to support access work (such as the overhaul that has been completed at Balevullin carpark), and to assist with the delivery of Tiree’s Great Yellow Bumblebee Project.

I am delighted to tell you that our Nàdair Thiriodh website now boasts a brand-new project page, and a sumptuously illustrated project brochure. Many thanks to Janet Bowler, Colin Woodcock and Fiona Dix for their outstanding work here.

Finally, I would like to thank the photographers that have kindly waived charges for the use of their images. It would be infinitely harder to attract interest and support for our work without these exceptional pictures: They act to inspire our audience by demonstrating why Tiree is so deserving of protection. Image donors include: Fiona Armstrong, John Bowler, Tony Davison, Christine Hall, Ian Morrison, Steve Nagy, Malcolm Steel, Colin Woodcock and Richard Whitson.

This ‘Thank You’ has been taken from the Nadair Thiriodh blog which can be accessed by becoming a member of Nadair Thiriodh, please go to www.friendsoftiree.org.uk for more information.

Tiree Ranger Service News

Sun, Sea and… Soil?

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the community members who volunteered their time, tools and energy to overhaul the Balevullin parking area. The work was completed on a beautifully bright day, with an abundance of biscuits and good humour. The erosion pits have been filled and levelled, and the rope boundary has been moved inward from the steeply sloping section. A number of vehicles rolled down onto the beach this year. Fortunately, no one was injured (and how grateful we are for that) but this is obviously extremely dangerous. For safety reasons, the parking area has been re-marked to reduce the risk of this happening again. The posts to be extracted had the hallmark of Steve Nagy quality; whereby, like icebergs, only 10% is visible at the surface (the other 90% being set in dry cement, and practically scraping Australia). Rob Trythall reigned champion as the fastest post-digger in the west; setting most of our new boundary within the hour. John Bowler then had the opportunity to re-visit his trusty Cub Scout knot, and is likely still fiddling with it as we speak. I’m not 100% clear on whether the ‘rabbit’ goes up the tree or into the pond: Suspect John isn’t either… A huge ‘Thank You’ is also due to Lachie Brown, who very kindly transported the soil into the parking area for us – cutting down some serious wheelbarrow miles. Lachie’s help made an enormous difference to the logistics of completing this job, and allowed us to finish the task in one sitting. As the repairs establish themselves, can I ask that users avoid driving over them where possible. For the winter period, the space on the opposite side of the graveled track within the parking area should be sufficient for most occasions. With kind wishes and thanks again to all those who gave up their time; I am extremely grateful.

Tiree Access Forum

The Tiree Access Forum is made up of individuals from a range of different organisations and backgrounds. Those represented currently include: Argyll & Bute Council, Argyll Estates, Discover Tiree, island business owners, RSPB, SNH, TCDT, TRD, Tiree Ranger Service and local watersports operators/participants.

To ensure that the access forum remains representative of our community (and the cross-section of different viewpoints and interests within it) I would like to reiterate that this group is open to all. Please contact me on: ranger{@}tireetrust.org.uk if:

• You can attend our meetings reasonably regularly

• You are interested in access issues on Tiree

• You would like to find out more about how these issues are discussed

• You would like to share your own thoughts and ideas

• You would like to help steer access outcomes

We meet once a month; normally on a Thursday evening, between 19:30 and 21:30. If you cannot commit to regular meetings, I am happy to discuss access queries by email, telephone (074) or in person. I can then raise these matters for discussion at the next session. Remember: we cannot discuss concerns that aren’t raised. There are also many different viewpoints, interests and considerations to balance between different agencies and users.

With thanks and warm wishes to all, Stephanie.

Tiree Ranger Service – Autumn Access Update

As we enjoy a slight lull before the competitive watersports season begins, I would like to update you all on some of our ongoing access issues:

At the beginning of this year, I informed you of our aspirations to provide a new, permanent and sustainable parking area for Crossapol Beach. This is still very much our goal. However, progress with our intended project partners has been somewhat glacial.

With support from SNH we are now working to a spring 2018 delivery. Delays such as this are extremely frustrating: Pushing this project has taken up a considerable amount of my time. Nonetheless, with the extra room for planning, we are making progress towards an improved final result. I would like to thank all of the guests, local residents and local business operators who have respected the temporary arrangement at Crossapol. Your cooperation and consideration has been greatly valued and appreciated during this tricky period – there have been no issues to speak of.

At Balephuil, access to Balephuil Bay is shifting. Following a change in apportionment, the current, badly degraded access track will no longer be in use. Recreational access to the beach will follow a new fence line to a fenced parking area. This change has been implemented by graziers through the proper and necessary channels. The beach will still be fully accessible for larger events by prior arrangement. On behalf of the Ranger Service and AccessGroup, I would like to thank the graziers for maintaining and improving access to this site at considerable trouble and expense.

At Balevullin Bay, repair work on the erosion damage commenced at the start of the season – my sincere thanks to those who assisted with this task. This autumn, we plan to continue the patch-repair of the erosion damage in the parking area; in addition to moving the rope boundary back to reduce the likelihood of vehicle rolling. New signage concerning the use of handbrakes will also be installed to this end.

I think it’s fair to say that there was a little controversy last month, with regard to the Croft Camping scheme, my role in managing it and the role of Tiree Ranger Service generally. My job is shaped by the community: I work to directives provided by the residents of Tiree, in addition to some core requirements from SNH. The Ranger Service post is fully transparent. Details of our aims and activities are available to view in the Tiree Ranger Service Development Plan – downloadable from the TDCT website. By joining community boards and committees, those with ideas for the improvement of Tiree Ranger Service and/or the Croft Camping Scheme have the power to influence the direction and remit of this post.

At present my duties include the management of Freedom Camping. I would like to remind those with strong views on the ranger post and what it achieves that I am available to discuss my work by appointment. Indeed, I welcome feedback and fresh insight.

As a professional, I extend courtesy to every person that I deal with; regardless of whether our views are aligned or not. I expect to be treated with the same level of courtesy as I dispense my duties on Tiree.

Stephanie Cope, 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

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