The nature reserve at Mull of Galloway is currently home to an abundance of thistles including marsh thistle, creeping thistle and spear thistle. Often thought of as weeds and the scourge of farmers and gardeners these plants, as well as being attractive and of course, the national flower of Scotland, play an important role in supporting much of our wildlife. Whilst in flower here at RSPB Mull of Galloway many insects can be seen visiting them to feed on nectar including rose chafer beetle, buff-tailed bumblebee, white-tailed bumblebee, red-tailed bumblebee, small white butterfly, red admiral, meadow brown, wall brown, common blue butterfly, silver Y moth, a vast number of hoverflies, soldier beetles and many more. Once finished flowering and going to seed they then support birds such as linnet and goldfinch which can currently be found feasting on this bonanza. So next time you find a thistle growing in your garden, before judging it to harshly, why not let it flourish and see what wildlife it brings to your home?
Marsh Thistle
Another unpopular plant which is currently in flower around the reserve is ragwort. Ragwort contains toxins that are harmful to many creatures that feed upon it but one has adapted to take advantage of this. Cinnabar moth caterpillars are able to feed on the plant unharmed and can store the toxins they consume, making themselves unpleasant for predators to eat. With their distinctive yellow and black pattern birds and other creatures quickly learn to avoid them which allows more of the caterpillars to grow in to adult moths.
Cinnabar moth caterpillar
Around the reserve there has been the usual mix of smaller birds including stonechat, meadow pipit, rock pipit, wheatear, house martin, swallow and swift as well as a kestrel. A blackbird continues to be spotted frequently around the walled garden, a song thrush has also been present a lot this last week, a grey heron was seen flying over Luce Bay heading towards Port William and a buzzard was seen patrolling the cliffs just of the reserve.
Female stonechat
Guillemotrazorbill and kittiwake can all be seen rearing chicks at various points around Mull of Galloway and the shag have all but came to an end of their breeding season with many recently fledged youngsters hanging around on the rocks. Gannet, Manx shearwater and puffin can all be seen either on the water or flying past the headland and black guillemot can usually be spotted close in to the cliffs. Herring gull, lesser black-backed gull and great black-backed gull have also been recorded.