I’m the first one to admit it: my knowledge of bees is woefully deficient.

Clutching my FSC fold out guide I have made brief and tentative forays into the mysterious world of bee identification. Like most people, I just haven’t quite “got there” yet.

So imagine my delight when Katy Malone of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust asked for permission to hold a wildflower seed collecting workshop on Glengorm, as part of a Burnets and Bees mini-festival.

This September, Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have joined forces to deliver a series of free events, highlighting conservation for rare burnet moths and bumblebees on Mull.

Burnets and bees have both declined in the last decades, but the West Coast of Scotland [and the islands in particular] boasts some of the best areas in the country to spot rarities.

These invertebrates are reliant upon sites where wildflowers are abundant. Happily, Glengorm has some species-rich grasslands of outstanding quality that are actively managed to benefit our bugs.

Elsewhere on Mull, the invasive non-native Cotoneaster plant has destroyed grassland habitat that would otherwise have been suitable for burnets and bees. As part of the mini-festival, a group of volunteers collected seed from Glengorm’s species-rich grasslands to give these damaged sites a head start, following clearance of the Cotoneaster.

We learned how to collect, manage and store seeds for conservation… in addition to consuming a large number of scones (!)

Hopefully this is the start of a great relationship between the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Glengorm and our good friends at Butterfly Conservation Scotland.

Find out more about these great organisations here:

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward

Hitting the Bottle

There have been times this summer when, braced against horizontal rain and bellowing into the faces of distressed transatlantic tourists, I have had cause to re-evaluate my career choice. Sometimes being a wildlife guide just isn’t that easy.

Worse still, there are occasions when the wildlife is there with bells on… but your clients, dressed in pristine tennis shoes and casting wistful glances back towards the Castle and its Whisky Library, seem immune to its manifold charms.

It was at the end of just such a session when, deflated and frustrated, I returned alone to the rocks to search for Basking sharks. I only get to see these animals maybe once or twice a year; despite my every attempt to persuade the guests in question that they were well worth taking a closer look at, they had absolutely no desire to detour from our main route to see them.

I continued the walk in a state of puzzlement – evidently, I was expected to produce something even more spectacular.

Two cavorting Otters, a leaping pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and a White-tailed Eagle fly-past all failed to arouse so much as a flicker of interest. I was horrified.

When I arrived at the shore some time later, the sharks had long since disappeared. I hunkered down on a cushion of grass, plunking small shells into the water and brooding darkly on my misfortune.

It seemed unjust that these natural history ingrates had been blessed with a silver platter of island wildlife, when other [far more deserving] guests were delighted by the wooden spoon of foul weather and clouds of bloodsucking midges. Mother Nature can be capricious.

I waited hours. My backside transcended “numb” and reached some higher level of discomfort. The Sound was a shark-free zone.

Reluctantly, I slung my binoculars over my shoulder and turned towards home. I had already moved some distance before I turned to see a bright star flash in the water. Several others winked after it in rapid succession.  A couple of Shags scuttered over the surface, apparently moving out of the way. The dolphins were back.

Galvanised into action, I all but threw myself over the cliff and down onto the salt splashed rocks. My binoculars and camera swung wildly as I lurched from foothold to foothold. Breathless and more than a little sweaty, I watched.

There has been a lot of research into dolphin cognition. And really, I shudder to contemplate what they must have thought – casually swimming past this quiet stretch of the Mull coast, only to discover a crazed human being, literally bouncing with enthusiasm and grinning like an unhinged lottery-winner. No wonder they came so close; it must have been quite a sight. Two dusky silver calves popped up alongside the adults, and for a moment, I thought I might actually explode with happiness.

It’s days like that when I fall in love with this island all over again.

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward

Family Photo: the two adult females and the two calves!