Wildlife Watching

Otter Spraint Microplastics Survey

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Lucy: Today I met with a student from Glasgow University who is collecting otter spraint on Arran as part of his dissertation research, to see whether it contains microplastics. This is a new science, and will help give conservationists a better understanding of how microplastics may be traveling in the food chain around the Firth of Clyde, and the potential impact on otters and their prey. Pablo Garcia is going to be on Arran quite a bit over the winter, gathering samples from locations around the island, and is keen to garner support from locals and wildlife enthusiasts who can help him out by collecting spraint that they find on Arran.

Pablo has been on Arran for a few days now and has visited a number of locations in the South Arran Marine Protected Area. Today he and I travelled North to Lochranza, to walk the coast around the Cock of Arran, a place where previously I have seen lots of otter sign, spraint and of course, otters themselves.

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We were not disappointed. Almost immediately we spied a dog otter fishing off shore just outside the village. We also found numerous spraint locations, well used trails (some made by badgers and red deer as well as otters) and disused otter holts. We were careful not to disturb any sites that looked like they were in current use. Later in the day we were also treated to a fleeting glimpse of a female otter.

If you would like to help Pablo, please get in touch with Pablo on 2197669G@student.gla.ac.uk for further information. He will send you a sheet with information about how to collect and record your samples. To keep the spraint fresh, pop it in a ziplock bag. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust are acting as a hub for collection of samples, storing them in their freezer on Pablo’s behalf, so drop them in to the COAST Octopus Centre by the tennis courts in Lamlash.

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Wintery spring

Lucy

Lucy: I've been back in the UK for a month and I have to say, it's been a bit colder than I expected!  When I left France I was longing for a bit of green and some proper Scottish spring flower after a winter of monochrome but what I got was the Minibeast from the East, and then the Easter Beast. I'm a bit disappointed to say the least!  This is me camping in the peak district last weekend, working for Adventure Expeditions.  It was cold. Very cold.  Amazing work by the young people completing their Gold Practice in these conditions! 

Anyway, today there was a lull in proceedings. Client Carole came over with her camera to enjoy some of the best of Arran's wildlife. As always, it was dramatic, but made us work hard for our sightings.  We got a soaring golden eagle having a bust up with kestrels and buzzards,  and then later a couple of otters braving the rough seas. The icing on the cake for me was a male and female hen harrier quartering the moors above the Ross Road. As usual, I failed to take any photos of the wildlife, but I did get a few of Arran looking spectacular in her wintery spring garb. Just in time to make me feel bad about heading back to France at the weekend! Adieu Arran, see you when spring is a bit more sprung. 

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Goatfell
Glen Rosa

Going Wild on Arran

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Lucy: The title of this post, is deliberately, quite similar to the title of my old blog, over on the google platform, that I curated for many years.  It describes perfectly what I spend a lot of my time doing.

The last couple of days I've been out and about with clients, wildlife guiding.  Yesterday we were on a Hotspot Safari- quite literally a tour of the best palces to watch wildlife on Arran.  The day began beautifully, with otters and sunshine.  There were snipe on the beach (who expected that?) and a red throated diver out to sea. Later in the day the weather deteriorated, but we were treated by a show of strength by the stags on the hills above the Newton Shore, who are in full rutting mode just now. Very dramatic.

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This morning was a typical dreich west coast day with strong westerlies. I wondered whether to call it but hoped that we could find a bit of shelter, and some sheltered water for an otter watching session.  Happily when we hit the shore, the rocks along the beach gave a bit of protection and we saw plenty of activity, incluing a female with two cubs, who bounced and flounced amongst the waves while their mother fished for breakfast. Later, we took a stroll along the shore the watch seals and found these lovely otter tracks in the sand.

Where the heart is...

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lucy: A huge contrast to the bright colours and fierce sunlight of last week. It's good to be back amongst the soft greys of home. There's been just a little rain, only a few midges, and a refreshing breeze.  I'd forgotten how tangy the sea air is until it hit my nostrils when I arrived back at the coast.

This week has been mostly wildlife tours, with a couple of days spent in the company of lovely Val, enjoying otters, seals, wildflowers and a bit of Arran history thrown in for good measure. 

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The Eagles are Coming

Lucy writes: Today was another beautiful day on Arran and I was out with Charlotte and Electra again, on a wildlife watching Hotspot Safari. They'd been lucky enough to see otters earlier in the week, and so were happy to focus on other species today.  With the dry weather and excellent thermals, there was lots of bird of prey activity. We began the day with a hen harrier spot, and ended the day with lovely views of a pair of harriers.  However, most of the day seemed to be spent watching golden eagles, soaring in the skies above Arran's big glens. The highlight was watching a male eagle deliver a dead rabbit to his mate, who swooped down from on high when he called her to devour it.