Welcome to the first blog of the year from RSPB Mull of Galloway. It’s been a week of very changeable weather since we first opened our doors for 2018. Rain has been a big feature along with strong cold winds interspersed by periods of sunshine but what else would you expect for late March, early April! We're keeping our fingers crossed though for plenty of sunshine throughout the season and lots of exciting sightings to share.
Mull of Galloway Lighthouse - Photo credit: Rob Conn
The seabirds are starting to slowly return to the cliffs. We have many shag busy collecting nesting material and sitting tight on their scruffy nests, in case any other opportunistic shag pinch their hard earned bedding. Shag will build their nests low down on the cliffs out of seaweed, branchy vegetation and anything else they can carry that might be of use. Here at the Mull of Galloway they seem to be particularly fond of heather. Two were seen recently having a tug of war over a precious commodity just off from the foghorn. There is no sign yet of any eggs but last year the first egg was laid on April 1st so we are expecting to see some any day now.
Shag gathering nesting material - Photo credit: Rob Conn
Kittiwake have been infrequent visitors to the cliffs, often appearing as if out of nowhere before disappearing again for hours, sometimes days at a time. Kittiwake do not nest until late May but will spend a lot of time around nest sites and staking out a claim to the best spots at this time of year.
Kittiwake gathering below the foghorn - Photo credit: Rob Conn
Gannet have been returning since February to take up position on Big Scare, the small island 6 miles off shore to the east in Luce Bay, where up to nearly 2,500 pairs will breed each year. Guillemot and razorbill have made a few short, fleeting visits to the cliffs last week but no sign of them since Sunday. Hopefully when the weather starts to settle down a bit more they will return to take up their positions around the Mull of Galloway. Black guillemot, which unlike their close relatives the guillemot and razorbill, stay around our coastline all year and have been a frequent sighting, either from the foghorn or Lagvag viewpoint.
Fulmar spend just a short time at sea over the winter and can be seen back at their breeding grounds from as early as February. Other cliff dwellers that have been seen recently include peregrine, kestrel and raven. There has been a raven cronking and tumbling each morning since we opened in full view of the visitor centre. An impressive treat for any lucky visitors that happen to be around when it makes an appearance. Great black-backed gull and herring gull have also been a regular feature over the cliffs or out to sea.
Raven displaying and calling just off the headland at Mull of Galloway- Photo credit: Rob Conn
A female stonechat has been seen gathering nesting material, a good sign that they will be nesting again soon. Wheatear are commonly seen along the south facing cliffs, particularly around Foxes Rattle. Rock pipit have been seen down near the foghorn and meadow pipit seem to be everywhere you turn, chasing each other from tussock to tussock, rising in the air and singing as they slowly descend, or just hoping around amongst the heath in search of tasty insects to feed upon or gathering nesting material. Pied wagtail are generally seen near the car park, RSPB visitor centre or around the lighthouse complex.
Pied wagtail - Photo credit: Rob Conn
Down in the willow bushes we have had a robin, a couple of blackbird, a song thrush and two snipe but as of yet no warblers coming through although we anticipate their arrival any day now. There has also been a single frog croaking away but no sign of any spawn.
Other wildlife that has been seen includes roe deer, harbour porpoise, grey seal, brown hare and in the visitor centre a very protective spider sitting alongside some eggs. If you have any suggestions as to the species please comment below.
Spider with eggs - Photo credit: Rob Conn
A few early flowers are starting to emerge and add some colour to the reserve including coltsfoot, lesser celandine and common scurvy grass and catkins are forming on the willow bushes.
Catkins developing on willow - Photo credit: Rob Conn
Our first guided walk of the year will take place on Wednesday the 19th of April at 1pm and every Wednesday thereafter. For more information please click here
For information on visiting the lighthouse please click here
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654