Kicking Our Heels


And with it, our first Highland calves of 2016!

For once, the weather has been kind to our youngsters. Though they are well prepared for the worst sort of Scottish spring, you can’t help but feel that it must be more… enjoyable… to be born on a sunny morning.

All around the castle and associated buildings, Val’s 5,000 daffodils are bobbing their rubbery heads. Though a few were scorched by the inevitable frost, their ranks haven’t been thinned too much. The smell – that light vanilla scent – is all the more pleasing because of the warm air.

The tree sap has also started to rise. Our willows are studded with silvery buds. Colourful bullfinches creep about in the thin branches, nipping the growing shoots off with stubby bills and their quiet, mewing call.

In short, we’re feeling good here on Glengorm; made all the better by news that we have secured a substantial grant to continue protecting our valuable habitats and biodiversity.

As the daffodils spread liquid gold over our lawn, it feels like our hard work from the year before has finally paid off.

Stephanie Cope
Farm Animals (52)

Juniper Jungle

Great news from Glengorm today, as we welcome Matt Parratt from The UK National Tree Seed Project to collect Juniper seeds from our site!

This initiative is overseen by Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, as part of their Millennium Seed Bank.

Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a priority species for conservation. Scottish Natural Heritage, the Forestry Commision and Plantlife are working in partnership to help conserve Scottish plants.

Common juniper has the largest geographic range of any woody plant in the world. It is one of three conifers native to Scotland [the other two being Yew and Scots Pine].

Although individual trees and shrubs can live for more than a century, a lack of regeneration is leading to its downfall.

For example, the absence of grazing by animals such as Highland cattle means that seedlings germinating from these older plants struggle to compete with other vegetation. Worse still, voles and rabbits have a real taste for the young shoots, nibbling them away before they have a chance to grow.

Juniper has now disappeared from more than a third of its original range in the UK.

If you need proof of juniper’s importance to our landscape, the berries are used to flavour that most essential life-giving substance: GIN.

These berries are also commonly used as flavouring for game dishes – think hearty venison, pheasant or grouse.

What’s not to love?

Upon closer inspection, you will find that juniper berries are in fact small cones. The word gin originates from a Dutch term for the plant; “genever” was the traditional Dutch precursor to Britain’s favourite tipple. Sadly, most cones destined for production in the UK are now imported from Hungary.

Historically, Scottish junipers were also prized for their smokeless wood by illicit whisky distillers, as burning it didn’t betray the presence of their illegal stills! So, not only does juniper taste good, but it’s got a hint of rebel spirit about it too.

Hopefully, cones collected from juniper here on Glengorm will help to secure the future of this fascinating and delicious plant for generations to come.

Now, where did I put that tonic and lime…?

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward
Gin & TonicThumb Image: Alan Watson Featherstone –


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

A Bad Case of Songthrush

The Song Thrush: one of Britain’s most charming and decorous songbirds. Dressed tastefully in brown, black and gold, it hops about in our pasture tweaking at this or that worm, bashing snails against rocks or cocking its head to watch passers-by.

One of the most frequently asked questions on my walks is “why do you have so many thrushes?” Why indeed. I have often asked myself the same question at 3:05am, when they all erupt into song right outside my window. I have a high tolerance for birds; but at that time in the morning, good humour is thin on the ground.

Even more annoying is their interval – usually somewhere between 4:00-5:00am – which lulls the human sleeper into a false sense of tranquillity. At 6:00am they all strike up again, shrieking like car alarms. This uncharitable behaviour would try the patience of even the most virtuous bird lover.

So why do we have so many Song Thrushes on Glengorm? To answer that, we must turn the question on its head: why might there be fewer of them elsewhere? Song Thrushes are a Red Listed species in Britain – their decline seems to be linked to the way our landscape is used.

Intensive arable agriculture doesn’t suit thrushes. They prefer a mixed farmland environment, and preferably, one that includes permanent cattle pasture. Such pastures are rich in manure and its associated insect life; ideal foraging habitat for the Song Thrush. They also like hedgerows, woodland, wet flushes and gardens – all of which provide opportunities for nesting and feeding on insects and fruits.

Most Song Thrushes don’t live long [average 4yrs] but they can make up to five breeding attempts per season when the getting is good. Song thrushes produce fewer broods per season in intensively farmed areas – to such a marked extent, that they can no longer recruit enough young birds to keep the local population topped up.

Thankfully there is evidence that the overall decline is stabilising, and there has been a partial recovery in the last 10yrs. With luck, thrushes will be depriving me of sleep for many years to come.

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward

Fueling Up: this Songthrush has to keep energised for all that early morning singing!Songthrush