Hello, and welcome to the October issue of the Voice for Arran. It is a beautiful autumn day here and my inclination to be outside is strong – primarily so that I can continue my recent pursuit of tracking swallows! This activity has been capturing my time and attention over the last few weeks, and in between the mayhem of work and visitors, Covid and school strikes, the words of local bird recorder Jim Cassels have chimed in my mind: “Some of our summer visitors like Swallow and House Martin are still around… Please report the last date that you have seen each of these species this month.” So in a break from home-school, I go out into the garden with my son and mentally log three swallows swooping overhead. The next day, an exhilarating ‘flight’ of 50 halts a venture around Glenkiln Farm.
Registering bird sightings is fairly new to me, but in a curious development, the study and recording of nature, of citizen science, are themes that extend across this issue of the Voice. The most comprehensive report on UK wildlife, the State of Nature Report, was published just last week and it relies on the efforts of 1000s of people, most of whom are volunteers, to provide the data on which the figures are based. And the data is showing that nearly one in six of the more than ten thousand species assessed are at risk of being lost across UK. This figure is much higher for some groups such as birds (43%), amphibians and reptiles (31%), fungi and lichen (28%) and terrestrial mammals (26%). With some variation between the UK countries, on average the species studied have declined by 19% since monitoring began in 1970.
It was around this time that the study of Arran’s natural history by the island’s community was foremost. The Arran Nature Centre was founded in 1974, followed soon after by both the Arran Natural History Society and The Arran Naturalist journal. The foreword to the first issue of The Arran Naturalist, by Robert McLellan, makes remarkable reading, and a sense of the community’s lively engagement with these projects is clear. He writes that, after a long tradition of interest in the natural history of the island among visitors, “The Arran Nature Centre was founded, to provide at once a centre for dissemination of information on the subject, and a place to which enquiries could be directed, or new discoveries reported.” The Centre’s aim was to build up “a complete record of the island’s natural history.” It is from this legacy that the Annual Bird Report continues, and in this issue we have included an article on Buzzards from the first Arran Naturalist issue. Over the coming months we will reprint more pieces, bringing still relevant information on the island’s flora and fauna into the changed context of today.
In the coming weeks there is lots to get involved with – if you are local you can collect and propagate acorns (and other seeds) with Roots of Arran, learn how to scythe with the Arran Pioneer Project, and witness the deer rutting season on a walk in Glen Rosa with the Arran Rangers. More remotely, you can respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Biodiversity Framework, which has just opened, or perhaps like me you will send in your bird sightings to Jim at Arran Birding, or another citizen science project near you. The National Biodiversity Network says, “Recording wildlife is key to nature’s recovery”. I am spurred on by this and by Arran’s long and vibrant history of nature study. October is here – will it bring the privilege of spotting one more swallow?! Elsa