Hello, and welcome to my first guest blog on Islay Info. I’ll be blogging on a regular basis, hoping to give everyone up-to-date news and information about what I’m up to on Islay in my role as the RSPB Community Information & Tourism Officer. That’s a mouthful and a real tongue twister to start with, so the job is often referred to as ‘CITO’. I am part of a fantastic team that manage our farms and reserves on the island and, whereas I consider them to be the brains behind our operations, I have made it my mission to be the ‘mouth. Should you visit the reserves, particularly the Visitor Centre at Loch Gruinart, or even better, join one of the many guided walks I have planned over the next 7 months, you’ll be left in no doubt that I take that responsibility seriously!
I also go by the name ‘Botswana Dave’. This is because there are a quite a few of us on Islay all called “David”, so with all the usual abbreviations and nicknames already allocated, and because I have spent a considerable part of my adult life in Botswana, it made everyone’s life simpler to give me that ‘call-sign’. I use ‘Botswana Dave’ as my Profile Name on Facebook and Twitter (@IslayRangerDave), should you wish to ‘follow’ me there.
Ok, having got that out of the way, what can I tell you about 2017? Of course, with tourism being such an important part of Islay’s economy, everybody is looking forward to a bumper season. I hope to contribute to that, and give visitors a quality experience by providing more opportunities for tourists to enjoy the diverse range of wildlife found on the RSPB reserves. The reserves may be regarded simply as a tourist attraction, but I’m also very keen to encourage the local community to enjoy them as well. I look forward to establishing closer ties with everyone on Islay and will keep everyone posted.
And it’s not always about the birds! RSPB Scotland is fortunate to have sites of historical, archaeological and cultural importance on both Loch Gruinart and The Oa. The Oa is famous for the American Monument, built in remembrance of 2 tragedies at sea (the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte has a fascinating display and loads of information) and is the location of another national monument, Dun Athad.
Loch Gruinart is the site of one of the last battle of the Scottish clans in 1597. This year Scotland is celebrating the Year of History, Archaeology and Heritage, so visitors to RSPB Islay will not only experience wildlife in diverse habitats but discover how history has helped shaped today’s nature reserves.
So, what about the guided walks? Having successfully bred for the last 3 years, one of the resident golden eagle pairs on The Oa will be the focus of attention in 2017. Every Tuesday (April – October) the guided walks will provide an opportunity for updates on their progress. The walk along the cliff tops towards the American Monument enables us to discover The Oa’s rugged beauty, experience its rare wildlife (the windy cliff tops are an ideal habitat for aerobatic chough while blanket bog and moorlands provide habitats for the marsh fritillary butterfly, carnivorous plants, amphibians and even reptiles, represented by the occasional adder basking in the sun), and find out about its fascinating history. The unpredictable weather adds another dimension to this unique 2 mile guided walk.
Beginning in April, the regular Thursday guided walks* at RSPB Loch Gruinart introduce us to the fascinating world of another RSPB Islay nature reserve. A 1 mile walk along the Woodland Trail enables us to experience this wonderful reserve, with panoramic views of diverse habitats and a close-up experience of the freshwater wetlands from one of the hides, or from the shore of the tidal loch. This year, from 11 June until 6 August, there will be guided walks every Sunday. For an overview of all the guided walks please visit the Islay Event Calendar
On Islay, RSPB Scotland ‘Farms for Wildlife’ – the reserves are working farms, and the guided walks on the reserves will provide an insight into why RSPB Islay farming methods are so important for giving nature a home! With that in mind, Sunday 7 May is a date to diarise – it’s the annual Farm Open Day at RSPB Loch Gruinart! Lambs, calves, ponies, farm machinery as well as refreshments make for a great day out! Free for everyone!
Lots more info coming your way over the coming weeks, so keep an eye open for Botswana Dave! Cheers! For enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org. *Please note, on Thursday 10 August, there will not be a guided walk. That’s the Islay Agricultural Show day!