New Glengorm Wildlife Ranger for 2017

As I approach my fifth summer on the island, it is with great excitement that I can announce I will be the new Glengorm Wildlife Ranger for 2017.

You may have seen me before, clad in my yellow wellies hopping on and off the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s research vessel Silurian, or dressed in a lime green T-shirt, hands grappling in a touch pool at the Mull Aquarium finding exciting creatures to show you all. However this year I am swapping my sea legs for my land ones, and my bright colours for khaki, as I explore the Glengorm estate in all its infinite beauty, ready to share my love and knowledge of the place with you all.

Having lived on the estate for nearly two years now, I am familiar with the comings and goings of the seasons.  The arrival of the first lamb, to the falling of the last cob nut. I’ve immersed myself in the clear icy waters of the bathing pools as curious otters swim out at sea and towelled myself off at flat rock whilst a sunfish swats the water with it enormous dorsal fin. The rutting deer have kept me awake at night, whilst overheard buzzards screech as I sip my hot morning coffee. Mice shuffling in the undergrowth, emerging if I am still for long enough.

I am looking forward to the step from casually observing the wildlife in my back-garden, to exploring the estate full-time showing you all that it has to offer.

So stay tuned and I will keep you up to date with some tall-tales and short-stories throughout the year and will let you know all the upcoming events and activities that I have planned for the season.

 Looking forward to seeing you on the estate soon!

Kerry Froud


Feathered Friends

Driving along Glengorm’s access road is something that I do daily. As a commute, it takes a bit of beating – and not just because of the scenery.

On Mull, being a birdwatcher with a driving licence really puts your peripheral vision to the test. There are few things more frustrating [and potentially life-threatening] than spotting choice birds behind the wheel.

Clearly, safety has to be the priority here… but that doesn’t mean we have to like it!

Some of my best encounters with birds of prey have taken place on the Glengorm track. Happily, this stretch of road is quiet – so pulling over isn’t often a problem.

Yesterday I was treated to an outstanding view of a peregrine falcon, resting on a sun-warmed outcrop.

This is not a bird to be passed up – ever – so I carefully wound down the window.

His glossy head bobbed up and down menacingly. Around it, small birds fizzed and tweeted in an agitated satellite belt.

I have a couple of peregrine wing feathers at home. They are boldly zigzagged in black and white – everything about them is sharp and precise, just like their owner.

On other days it might be a hen harrier or even a tiny merlin that I stop to watch. The open expanse of heather surrounding the road is a magnet for upland species.

But my favourites, without doubt or hesitation, are the resident pair of golden eagles. The wind has to be just right to keep them near to the track, so seeing them on my commute is always a treat.

The female is the loveliest – perhaps due in part to her larger and more impressive size.

The feathers around her nape have that special silky quality that you sometimes get on cockerels. When the sun catches them just right, they shine like plate armour; slipping seamlessly layer by layer as she turns her head.

Just by looking at them, you know that they would be impossibly soft and cool to the touch.

When I see the eagles close to the road they tend to keep their distance; higher up, they will sometimes circle low and tilt their heads down.

I wonder if they recognise me – they certainly don’t come across many other people wandering through their lonely hills.

Invariably, I will be grinning like an idiot and teetering about on my tip-toes to try and get a better view… they’re probably expecting me to keel over and die at any moment! This behaviour must seem very strange from their perspective.

Unfortunately, they have not been successful in rearing young since my arrival on Glengorm. I’m hoping against hope that this year will be different.

Seeing this pair with chicks would surely make for a blue-sky kind of day.

Stephanie Cope

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Falconer's bird perched on ground (controlled), Southern Scotland, February
Thumb & main image credit: Laurie Campbell  –




The Darling Buds of… January?

Opportunities to complain about Mull being too warm are infrequent. If complaints must be made, one certainly wouldn’t expect to be making them in winter.

All around Glengorm the 5,000 daffodil bulbs that Valerie planted in autumn are budding – some have broken into flower already.

My garden boasts more than a few roses; indeed, they haven’t stopped blooming since last spring. I cut a yellow one on Christmas day.

So far, we’ve only had one serious night of frost. Those clear, bright mornings that break up the seemingly endless fog of rain have been few and far between.

The unseasonably warm weather is due, in part, to a weather cycle in the equatorial Pacific.

Here, fluctuations in the temperature of ocean and atmosphere can influence weather on a global scale. Currently we are enjoying the fall out from El Niño – the so called warm phase of this cycle.

You could be forgiven for thinking that warmer weather at this time of year is a good thing.  Sadly, that is not always the case.

In the rush to get growing, plants are duped into expending their energy too early.

A cold snap – which we are likely to experience soon – will annihilate Val’s 5,000 daffodils. Any that have budded or flowered won’t be able to recover themselves for a second attempt this year. That’s bad enough for cultivated plants – but what about the wild ones?

Nature often depends on things happening at the right time. If the flowers are open too early, their pollinators won’t be around to help them reproduce and they also run the risk of frost bite. Later on when the pollinators emerge, they won’t have as many flowers to visit and feed from. This means bad business for both parties.

For larger animals such as birds, it’s a bit of a mixed platter:

Warm weather can make foraging easier for longer – so, we might expect to see fewer winter migrants around and fewer birds relying on artificial feeding stations. But, warm weather also encourages disease to persist; a particular concern for garden visitors, who feed and defecate in unnaturally close proximity to one another. [So remember to disinfect your feeding equipment regularly!]

For species that prey on small mammals, the mild temperatures could tempt out rodents that would otherwise remain hidden at this time of year. But, hunting in 80-mph winds and lashing rain is probably not an attractive prospect. The bedraggled Hen harriers of Glengorm, whose sodden wanderings are often seen from the access road, would probably confirm this.

Around the shores of Britain, exhausted seabirds appear in the wake of winter gales. Little auks visit our waters in small numbers annually – mostly around the Northern Isles and east into the North Sea. This year, there have already been several sightings of these tiny creatures on sealochs around Mull. As noted by Prince, it’s probably a sign of the times.

Foraging must also be difficult for coastal Otters when the rain, winds and waves are lashing – though, they do at least have the option to spend more of their active period inland.

Glengorm’s biological rhythm seems rather out of step already, so who knows how many unexpected performers might crop up? 

I await spring and summer with interest.

Stephanie Cope

Where the Wild Things Are

Following something of an Indian Autumn, Mull is now back to its default Winter weather setting: horrid.

Torrential rain, cyclonic wind and dour sky aside, I did manage to escape the office for a paltry hour and a half of fresh air.

It’s been a pretty difficult year on the island. As a community, it seems that everyone has been touched by loss and sadness. Sitting cross-legged above a blustery cliff face, my gaze wandered out to sea and I allowed myself time to reflect.

George, who is always annoyed when we sit down during a walk, harrumphed and stomped about in protest. In his opinion walks are strictly for walking.

Across the Sound, the Westward finger of Ardnamurchan was banded in gold. I let my eyes trail over the familiar profile; drinking in the spent bracken, which had now transcended the beauty of its living form.

Movement caught my eye. Raising my binoculars, I found a skein of Whooper swans flying near to where the lighthouse lies. There were fourteen of them.

Whoopers are my joint favourite Big White Bird – the other being the Gannet. I like the strange juxtaposition of these two: one carries summer, the other marks the onset of winter.

The swans travelled further out to sea than I expected. For a few moments, they appeared to skim over the hills of Coll as they made their way south. Their loveliness was like a sip of cool water.

George, finally, was still. I sighed and dropped my binoculars to my chest. Noting his pricked ears and intent expression, I followed his gaze to the shore below. He was watching two otters rolling about in the weed.

I grinned and wondered what he made of them.

Sometimes, being a person is tough. Life simply gets us down. When misfortune strikes, I turn to the wild things for solace.

Watching those birds, at least a few of my cares left upon their downy backs.

A wonderful festive season to you all,

Stephanie Cope

Whooper Swans