Letters to the editor – week 21

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The uncommon gulls of Ardrishaig

Sir,

Many thanks to Robert Wakeham, writing in last week’s Advertiser, for his questions regarding the nesting colony and status of common gulls within the former oil depot, currently the Mid Argyll hub and museum construction site.

I am happy to address these questions.

Historically, this species was first named in the 1700s and thought by many to come from their association with grazing or ‘common land’ and in the more recent past the name ‘uncommon gull’ may be more apt.

In the UK they are essentially restricted as a breeding species to Scotland where numbers continue to decline, with this being reflected in Argyll, principally due to predation by the American mink, as pointed out.

Studies at the Lingerton landfill site have shown that, unlike the larger gull species at the tip, Common Gulls do not scavenge there, as was perhaps claimed, but use the tidal mud flats of Loch Gilp and surrounding fields to find invertebrates, fish and vegetarian foodstuffs. As with other gull species which are opportunist in diet, junk food and bits of plastic provided by us humans can be inadvertently consumed.

Over many years the Gleaner oil depot, which has a concrete bund in case of oil spillage, has provided a safe nesting site for around 20 pairs. The suggestion that this colony could easily find an alternative site is perhaps wishful thinking as suitable sites nearby in Mid Argyll are already occupied by other gull species or don’t have the required habitat features.

Thankfully, however, this should not prove necessary. Following a productive on-site meeting last week with the Scottish Canals’ environmental scientist, the project architect and TSL contractors we noted 10-15 birds sitting on eggs and unaffected by the work going on around them.

Planned works over the coming weeks should not affect these gulls, Oystercatchers or Black Guillemots from nesting and will also not impede the building work which is scheduled to be completed by next spring.

The Mid Argyll hub project and new canal museum will largely reflect the social and cultural heritage of the Crinan Canal, but should also encompass the important and often decreasing natural history of the Crinan Canal corridor. These breeding birds are also a part of this and should not just be something to ‘chase off’ to somewhere else.

Excellent viewing and educational opportunities from the new build will be possible to watch this colony raise their chicks as well as providing a point to lookout for other wildlife on the loch.

Nearby, the tidal estuary of Loch Gilp provides us with an often highly under-valued unofficial nature reserve that links Ardrishaig with Lochgilphead, which in winter hosts important numbers of duck and waders, in summer includes breeding Eider ducks and Common Terns and during migration is a vital stopping off point during adverse weather for passage Whooper swans, Brent geese and Black-tailed Godwits to name a few.

Increasingly good work is being undertaken by locals and the Phoenix Trust to help clear up some of the increasing amounts of shoreline rubbish.

Keep up the good work!

Jim Dickson, Argyll Bird Recorder, Cairnbaan

Islay’s roads and ferries

Sir,

I have been out and about Islay the past week speaking to my constituents, visiting local businesses and monitoring the roads department’s progress with road repairs.

Unfortunately CalMac management’s shocking handling of our local ferry service is really taking it’s toll on many local businesses that depend heavily of Islay’s growing tourist trade. We simply cannot allow CalMac to continue to make the same errors every year without consequences.

On another subject, I have been unimpressed with our local roads department management’s sluggish response to a large number of complaints from local residents and myself about the plague of potholes scattered across Islay.

There are many roads across Islay that have some potholes marked to be filled while others remain unmarked despite them in many cases being side by side. This scattershot approach to pothole repairs is as random as it is ineffective.

In the future we will need to see a more long term resurfacing solution to our local roads with less short term, random and piecemeal patchwork.

Cllr Alastair Redman, Isle of Islay

Helping Cats Protection

Sir,

In the run up to National Volunteering Week (June 1- 7), Cats Protection would like to extend our thanks to the many thousands of volunteers throughout the country who offer their time and expertise to help cats and kittens across the UK.

In 2017, our 10,200-strong volunteer network contributed an incredible 5.5 million hours, each volunteer gifting a wealth of expertise and immeasurable passion to the charity. Their dedication enabled Cats Protection to help around 200,000 cats and kittens nationwide.

Cats Protection is always on the lookout for new volunteers to join the UK’s biggest cat community. Though a large part of our work is helping cats, through fostering and rehoming, our volunteers have the opportunity to become involved with a range of interesting activities such as organising fundraising events, helping with publicity or managing funds and resources to benefit the greatest amount of cats.

Volunteering can offer the chance to develop skills such as time management, interpersonal skills and teamwork, making CVs much more attractive and, of course, helping cats.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer can go to our website www.cats.org.uk/get- involved/volunteering  to find out more.

Julie Meredith, head of volunteering development, Cats Protection,

Beating bowel cancer

Sir,

I really love being active, especially the feeling after and that’s why I’m supporting Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer’s latest fundraising campaign to get sponsored to do 30 minutes of physical activity for 30 days in June.

Step up for 30 is a fantastic way for you to be more physically active to reduce your risk of bowel cancer – the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. This can be anything from yoga, walking in the sunshine (I walk everywhere) or taking your favourite class at the gym.

While you’re getting fitter and feeling healthier, you’ll be raising money to fund the highest quality research and essential information and support services that will save lives from bowel cancer.

Take on the challenge and sign up at bowelcanceruk.org.uk/stepupfor30.

Gaby Roslin, TV and radio presenter

PICS:

The common gull has been seen nesting at the disused oil depot. no_a21Gleanergull01

Gulls at the former Gleaner site. no_a21Gleanergull02