Musky wrote the articles below between September and October, 2015

The Bigger Picture

 

Just what is biodiversity and why is it so important?

 

What is it that the Isle of Mull seems to have that other places lack?

 

Musky Mustelid gets around quite a bit and sees things from the view point of a wild creature who lives both on land and at sea.

 

Musky sees Biodiversity first hand at ground level and below the sea. Both his and our survival can depend on a diverse and unpolluted environment.

 

Below are some of his thoughts.

Photograph of Male Otter (Lutra lutra) crossing a road on Mull.

SIMPLY MULL

SIMPLY MULL

 

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (1)

A Landscape of Overlapping Ecosystems

Diversity

From microscopic phytoplankton in the sea around the Isle of Mull that generates around 50% of the oxygen that human residents breathe, to an impressive swathe of apex predators like Minke Whale, White-tailed Eagle and otter, that capture the imagination and generate ££££££'s for the island economy.

 

The view from atop a mountain landscape (Ben Buie),

South-east across various coastal and marine ecosystems to the islands of Luing, Scarba, the Garvellachs and Jura.

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (2)

A Footprint of the Past - Belemnites

What came first the rock or the mineral?

This is an ecological take on the 'Chicken and Egg' story and acknowledges the fundamental role that rocks and minerals play in shaping the landscapes that we inhabit and the wildlife that we share our lives with.

 

The Isle of Mull's recent geological journey through time has been forged by volcanism and moulded by glaciation.

 

Sedimentary layers underneath young lavas reveal rocks of an older age that contain the remnants of prehistoric animals, like Belemnites (Belemnitida).

Carsaig, Isle of Mull

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (3)

Memories of a Recent Past - Shell Beach

 

Evoking Memories of a Recent Past.

 

This photograph evokes 8,000 years of both natural and social history on the Isle of Mull.

 

With higher sea levels after the last Ice Age, the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers that settled on the island may not have known the shell-sand beaches and herb-rich grasslands we call 'machair', yet they would have been very familiar with the shellfish that lived in the sea.

Langamull, Isle of Mull

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (4)

Open Your Eyes (to a Wider World) (07/10/15)

Marvellous Mosaics and Pretty Patchworks.

Around 40% of all the lichens known to the British Isles can be found on the Isle of Mull.

 

Among these are species that are Ancient Woodland indicators, as well as some that the West coast of Scotland has an International Responsibility for on account of their restricted distribution.

 v

 

Marvellous mosaics and pretty patchworks of lichens adorn woodlands on the Isle of Mull, particularly on the stems of smooth-barked trees, such as Hazel (Corylus avellana).

 

Acknowledge, appreciate and respect. You don't always need to put a name to something to do that!

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (5)

Wide-angle Wildlife - Ocean Colour Scene

Rocky shores comprise around 35-40% of the British coastline and are particularly prevalent on the Isle of Mull.

To many, such areas are messy, unattractive and devoid of wildlife.

 

To those in the know, they are among the most biodiverse of any habitat, linking sea with land.

 

Otters, one of Mull's most iconic animals, like gently-shelving rocky coastline that provides easy access between land (where they spend most of their lives) and sea (where they feed).

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (6)

 

A Strandline Aurora!

 

Seaweed is classified by its colour.

 

Hundreds of different species of brown, green and red macroalgae can be found arund our shores, many of which are unknown to most.

 

Detached from their holdfasts and thrown on to the high tide mark by wind and wave action, seaweed that accumulate on the strandline offer a fascinating insight into the ecology of an often jazzy and polychromatic world.

Wild Mull: The Bigger Picture (7)

 

First to Show, yet Last to Go!

 

The Herald (Scolioptyrx libatrix) is a spectacular moth and a species that overwinters on the Isle of Mull as an adult.

 

Hence, it re-emerges early in Spring and may be one of the last moths that you will notice in Autumn.

 

Yet, you may not notice it, as its colours and scalloped wings help to conceal it among the dead and shrivelled leaves of Autumn.

Wild Mull: (A Very Big) Bigger Picture (8)

On Top of the World

 

Sitting on top of the roots of a prehistoric landscape, where the remnants of a past punctuated with the extremes of fire and ice remain.

 

An ice-shattered and sculpted landscape where once lava flowed.

 

Beinn Talaidh, looking North-west across Loch Ba

 

to the head of Loch na Keal and beyond.

 

Wild Mull: (A Very Big) Bigger Picture (9)

This Changing World - A Price To Be Paid?

 

The same climatic changes that are altering the seas that surround the Isle of Mull may also be reshaping the fabric of life on the island's mountains.

 

Previously, all Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) had to do was to hide away from hunting Golden Eagles. As if that wasn't difficult enough, along came the White-tailed Eagle.

 

At least, eagles are big birds that can be seen and, thus, avoided, but the threat of climate change stalks unseen on the mountains of Mull.

 

The Isle of Mull has a very small, fragmented and isolated population of Ptarmigan. It could be that the ecological odds are stacked against the long term future of this white grouse on Mull's highest tops.

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (10)

Biodiversity's Hit Parade - Land, Sea and Sky.

 

Recent and forthcoming posts will focus on celebrating the unique biodiversity package that exists on the Isle of Mull, something that I do every day of my life.

 

The Bigger Picture. People - Wildlife - Environment.

 

'Wild Mull' is a group of like-minded enthusiasts who want to try and link the many threads of biodiversity that make the island such a wonderful place to live, work and play.

 

What does biodiversity on the island mean to you? What makes living and working on the Isle of Mull so special? What do we have to do to make sure that the island retains its unique blend of awe and wonder for future generations of islanders and visitors to enjoy?

Musky.

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (11)

On Land, at Sea and in the Sky -  Sun Dog, South Mull

The skies above the Isle of Mull contribute enormously to the bigger picture that is the island's biodiversity.

 

Daytime skies are packed with ephemeral life, those shifting patterns of cloud that help produce a light beloved of both photographer and artist. Blink and what was there before is now gone forever.

At night, the lack of pollution allows our eyes free and unlimited access to the heavens, where far-travelled light from distant constellations and planets in season can be observed.

 

And, as yet, there has been no mention of the Aurora borealis, that light show par excellence borne on the back of solar wind.

If only we didn't have to sleep!

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (12)

Making a Bigger Splash! - Sea of Change

 

Straddling a cusp between warm, temperature influences and cold, polar currents, the seas around the Isle of Mull have long been a hot spot for marine life.

 

Upwellings of nutrient-rich water form the basis of a food chain that for several decades has supported concentrations of seasonal feeders, like Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).

 

In recent times, it appears that this hot spot has become fragmented as the seas around the Isle of Mull become slightly warmer. What this will mean in the long term remains to be seen with regard to whale and shark populations in the area.

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (13)

 

Global Responsibility - An Even Bigger Splash! - Skittering...!

 

The shallow seas and deep trenches of the seas around the Isle of Mull support a well-recognised importance for Basking Sharks and Minke Whales in season.

 

With fish stocks becoming more and more fragmented and localised, many of the area's breeding seabirds are having to travel further to find food. Britain has a global responsibility for birds like Bonxie (Stercorarius skua), Gannet (Morus bassanus) and Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).

 

The waters around the Isle of Mull lie at the heart of the populations of these iconic and dynamic sea birds in the British Isles.

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (14)

 

The Largest Part (of that Bigger Picture) - Hidden, Unseen and Overlooked

The Generals and Majors of Mother Nature's Re-cycling Army, fungi and bacteria are among the most important organisms on the planet. Yet, their veiled industry goes unrecognised by most and taken for granted by all.

The fabulous fungi that add colour, shape and texture to the Isle of Mull's woodlands in Autumn have a much bigger and wider role to play in our lives than we could ever give them credit.

And, what happens when these mushrooms and toadstools decay? They, too, are returned to the soil in a way that can also be re-used.

Be ever mindful of the air that you breathe and the food that you eat...!

Decaying Boletus sp., Baliscate

 

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (15)

Wild Mull: The Biodiversity Bonus -  The Meat on the Bone

 

A roof over your head and food in your stomach. The prospect of Affordable Housing, permanent employment and quality health care provision is what people on the Isle of Mull require. These are the bare bones of island life for many.

 

The meat on those bones is the quality of life afforded by the unique biodiversity package that is the Isle of Mull: its landscapes, people and wildlife.

 

The secret is acknowledging the positive impact the scenery and wildlife of the island has on everyone's life, whether directly or otherwise, and looking for ways to sustain this attraction for future generations of islander and visitor alike.

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (16)

Biodiversity Bus -  Re-inventing the Wheel

Initially, I railed against the prospect of a double-decker bus on the Isle of Mull's single track roads. How incongruous! However, I have been converted and the 'Tobermory Topper' is a wholly unique way of seeing the island's stunning scenery. Far better than anything a car or van can offer!

 

The Isle of Mull, its landscapes, people and wildlife are always on the move, evolving with each new day and set of circumstances.

As such, those with a vision of the future, of a Bigger Picture, are always attempting to look at things from a different perspective. In terms of sustaining a healthy, yet productive, alliance with the wild places and wildlife of the Isle of Mull, this can be regarded as akin to re-inventing the wheel.

 

We have to acquire a balance between conserving the landscapes and wildlife that make the island such a wonderful place to live and work in, while continuing to be attractive to visitors from near and far.

 

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (17)

Celebrating Wild Places and Wildlife on Wild Mull - Bio-Essential!

 

The number of flowering plants on the Isle of Mull may seem inconsequential among the 400,000 others that bloom on the planet, yet their role as individual species is the same the world over.

And, their importance to human life (the people part of biodiversity) can never be understated. Without plants there would be no human life, to admire and marvel at the delicate beauty of life that we frequently take for granted, trampled on and grub up in our everyday existence.

Whether it be a pernicious Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) that threatens to take over your herbaceous border or a rarer Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) growing by the side of a woodland path, these are plants that are contributing enormously to our well-being today, tomorrow and forever!

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (18)

A View You Can Enjoy Without Ruining Your Appetite! - Milky Way

 

Are the stars out tonight?

 

You bet and with next to no light pollution on the Isle of Mull our dark skies are home to an overwhelming mass of star fields.

 

Clear nights on the island allow access to our galaxy of up to 400 billion stars, represented as a dim glow of light arching its way across the heavens. It's a view that many who live in towns and cities on the mainland would love to see.

Wild Mull: Something Worth Celebrating!

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (19)

Connecting People with People, Places and Wildlife - Vital links

 

The M.V. Lord of the Isles passing Inninmore Bay on Morvern on its outward journeyto Coll and Tiree. Cal-Mac ferries are vital links in the everyday fabric of island life.

On the Isle of Mull, such ferries allow people from all over the World to make personal journeys to connect with the island's wild places and wildlife, a biodiversity package that has global recognition.

The dichotomous tear in the landscape that is the Inninmore Bay fault separates over 400 million years of geological history and is clearly appreciated from the ferry terminal at Craignure. How many people who sit in the car lanes awaiting the arrival of a ferry notice this disjunct landscape, let alone marvel at its make-up or meaning?

 

Wild Mull: Bigger Picture (20)

What does Biodiversity mean to you? - Acknowledge, Appreciate, Respect (and Tolerance)

 

Depending on who you are and your interests, Biodiversity will mean something, anything, everything or nothing at all!

 

It is a sad fact that there are individuals who are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the role that this bigger picture plays in the well-being of everyday life on the Isle of Mull.

 

You don't have to be directly involved in wildlife tourism or have a passion for animals and birds to appreciate the debt that we all owe to the scenery and wildlife that the island is blessed with.

 

That said, there are lots of things that take place everyday on the Isle of Mull that I have little or no interest in. But, I acknowledge the role which these activities play within the bigger picture of island life and respect individual choice to participate and enjoy such pursuits.

 

So, what does Biodiversity mean (if anything) to you? Is it simply an 'activity' enjoyed by SOME or is it really so special that we should ALL cherish and conserve its well-being for future generations to come?

Photograph of a view from the summit of Ben Buie, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of Belemnites embedded in granite in the Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a view of a sandy beach in Langamull, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of Lichens growing on a boulder, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a rocky shore line on the Isle of Mull.
Photograph of brightly coloured sea weeds on a beach, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a Herald Moth (Scolioptyrx libatrix), Isle of Mull.
Photograph of Beinn Talaidh looking north-west across Loch Ba, Isle of Mull
Photograph of a Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) sheltering behind a rock, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of rocky shores and breakers with islands in the background, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a Sun dog at dusk, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of two passsengers on a boat looking across the waters off Mull's shores.
Photograph of Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) skittering over the waves off Mull.
Photograph of a decaying Boletus fungi, Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a meaty meal on a plate.
Photograph of passengers on the Isle of Mull Tobermory Topper double decker bus.
Photograph of Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) groiwing on the Isle of Mull.
Photograph of a Milky Way night sky over the Isle of Mull.
Photograph of CalMac Ferry Lord of the Isles in passage along the Sound of Mull.
Photograph of a Buzzard (Buteo buteo) soaring over Mull.

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