Manx Shearwater

Skomer

Pembrokeshire

Skomer (Welsh: Ynys Sgomer) is a 2.92 km² island off the coast of southwest Wales.

Arran

Firth of Clyde

Arran or the Isle of Arran (Scots Gaelic: Eilean Arainn) is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.

Annet

Isles of Scilly

Annet (Cornish: Anet, kittiwake) is the second largest of the fifty or so uninhabited Isles of Scilly, one km west of St Agnes with a length of one km and approximately 22 ha in area. The low lying island is almost divided in two by a narrow neck of land at West Porth which can, at times, be covered by waves. At the northern end of the island are the two granite carns of Annet Head and Carn Irish and three smaller carns known as the Haycocks.

The rocky outcrops on the southern side of the island, such as South Carn, are smaller. Annet is a bird sanctuary and the main seabird breeding site in Scilly.The island is closed to the public from 15 April to 20 August every year to limit the disturbance to the breeding seabirds for which it has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is also within part of the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is managed by the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust[3] who lease it from the Duchy of Cornwall.

History

Little has been found on Annet in the way of human remains apart from a prehistoric hut circle, a fragmentary field system and several limpet middens. Bones of cattle and sheep were found indicating that they were eaten here and probably grazed the island.[3] It is proposed to designate the whole of Annet as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[4] The name of the island is first recorded in 1302 as Anet.

In the 19th century Annet was ″used for pasturage by the inhabitants of other islands″although with only one freshwater seepage there could not have been many animals grazing on the island. The SS Castleford struck the Crebawethans in June 1877 and led to some of her cargo of 250 to 450 cattle being landed on the island and staying there for up to ten days. Gurney (1889) reported that ″… the animals trampled everything and would have caused an immense amount of damage at the peak of the shearwater and storm petrel nesting season″.  It seems unlikely that many stayed for ten days because of the need for fresh water. Cattle were washed up on the Cornish coast as far as Mount’s Bay and St Ives.Another ship wrecked nearby, the Thomas W Lawson spilled her cargo of oil on 14 December 1907 causing the loss of many birds. In 1971 Rex Cowan found the wreck of the VOC Hollandia. A large quantity of coins were found along with bronze cannons and mortars. The ship hit Gunner Rock on the 13 June 1743 with the loss of 276 lives.

Natural history

The geology of Annet is of Hercynian granite overlain with raised beach deposits. The island is low-lying with a top height of 18 m and the coast consists of boulder storm beaches. The effects of wind exposure, salt spray and lack of topography, restricts diversity and only 53 species of vascular plants have been recorded. The north of the island is dominated by a well developed, thick, thrift (Armeria maritima) turf whilst the southern part is dominated by dense stands of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), bramble (Rubus fruticosus) and bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), with some sand sedge (Carex arenaria) and Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus). Thickets of tree mallow (Lavatera arborea) have developed at the back of some of the boulder beaches. There were scattered colonies of shore dock (Rumex rupestris) until a storm in 1982 swept away some of the boulder beaches. One colony remains in the corner of a relatively sheltered beach in the south of the island at a freshwater seepage. Annet is the ″British stronghold″ for the lichen Roccella fuciformis.

Fauna

Annet is considered to be of outstanding importance as a seabird colony. Twelve species nest here, of which two, Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) have nationally important breeding populations. The Storm Petrel breeds amongst the boulders of the more stable storm beaches. The largest population of Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) in the islands breed here and the other annual breeding species are Puffin (Fratercula arctica), Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus), Razorbill (Alca torda), Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), Herring Gull (L. argentatus) and Shag (P. aristotelis). Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) breed on the island most years as do Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and very rarely Arctic Tern (S. paradisaea).

Breeding birds

Annet has long had a reputation for being the best island for breeding birds and Jessie Mothersole visiting in 1910 described the island thus:

Annet is known by the name of ” Bird Island,” from the immense numbers that breed there. In the early summer the sea all round is black with puffins and razor-bills, their white breasts being hardly noticeable as they sit on the surface of the water ; and the air above is dark with clouds of gulls, and full of their ceaseless cry. Puffins (also called sea-parrots) have bred on the islands from time immemorial″.
Numbers of breeding birds have fallen over the years and in the last 150 years some of the threats have been recorded. The stranding of cattle from the SS Castleford, in 1877, would have caused a problem with so many heavy animals grazing and walking over the shallow soils and burrows of breeding birds. Another wreck, the Thomas W Lawson on 14 December 1907, spilled her cargo of oil and many of the rabbits and birds on Annet ″were seen to lie upon the shore″. The smell of oil could still be smelt on nearby St Agnes eighteen months later.[10] At the time of Jessie Mothersoles visit in 1910, visitors were only allowed one hour on the island and shooting and egg collecting were forbidden. Despite this, Annet figured highly on the list of places to visit for egg collecting. An examination of the egg collection at the Natural History Museum (NHM) shows 45 eggs taken between 1880 and 1936 by 14 individuals and one group from Holloway College; doubtless there are many more eggs in private collections. Names on the data cards include well known wildlife experts such as Charles Rothschild and F W Frohawk. An indication of how common and acceptable egg collecting was at the time, is the issue of day permits to visit uninhabited islands by the warden A A Dorrien-Smith of Tresco. A NHM data card for three eggs in the collection has a permit for landing on Annet on 24 May 1931 attached and allowed the Souter brothers to land on any island, except tern islands, for up to one hour.

Seabird 2000 survey

The most recent count of seabirds on the Isles of Scilly was the Seabird 2000 count and on Annet 209 nests were found to be occupied by Shag out of a total of 1109 for the islands. On Scilly, they breed almost exclusively beneath boulder beaches or holes in low cliffs. Manx Shearwater was estimated to occupy 123 burrows out of a total of 201 for the islands’ – a 74% decrease from a previous survey in 1974.[2]

Eigg

Inner Hebrides

Eigg(Scottish Gaelic: Eige) is one of the Small Isles, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. It lies to the south of the Skye and to the north of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Eigg is dominated by “an Sgurr”, a dramatic pitchstone ridge, the largest of its kind in Europe. Laig bay, a large white Atlantic beach, faces the Cuillins of Rum, one of the most memorable views on the west coast of Scotland. Further North is the Singing Sands, a stunning musical quartz beach surrounded by outstanding geological formations.

As well as being known as the jewel in the Hebridean crown for its outstanding beauty, Eigg has many other cultural and historical attractions: Picts and Vikings have left their marks, and its rich history is steeped in clan warfare and the crofting way of life. Eigg’s pioneering community buy-out ushered in land reform in Scotland, giving islanders control of their future for the first time. Among other achievements, Eigg has the first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid in the world. Whether you come for the community or the scenery, to visit Eigg is to begin a life long love affair with our island.

Eigg is 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) long from north to south, and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east to west. With an area of 12 square miles (31 km2), it is the second largest of the Small Isles after Rùm.

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By Car

The mainland ferry terminals of Mallaig (Caledonian MacBrayne) and Arisaig (Arisaig Marine) are about an hour from Fort William on the A 830, the famous ‘Road to the Isles’.

The total journey time from Glasgow is about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, and from Edinburgh about 4 to 4 1/2.

There are only a very few miles of road on Eigg and the Highland Council have decided that the only vehicles allowed will be those of islanders (with permits) and service vehicles. Exception will be made for vehicles with registered disabled passengers. There is ample parking in both villages mentioned above, and when you reach Eigg you will appreciate it much more without your car!

Ferries

You can catch a ferry to Eigg from Mallaig on the Caledonian MacBrayne boat, the Loch Nevis, or from Arisaig on the Sheerwater.  The Loch Nevis operates all year round while the Sheerwater sails only in the summer months. Eigg Boat trips are also available.

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The main settlement on Eigg is Cleadale, a fertile coastal plain in the north west. It is known for its quartz beach, called the “singing sands” (Tràigh a’ Bhìgeil) on account of the squeaking noise it makes if walked on when dry.

The centre of the island is a moorland plateau, rising to 1,289 feet (393 metres) at An Sgurr, a dramatic stump of pitchstone, sheer on three sides. Walkers who complete the easy scramble to the top in good weather are rewarded with spectacular views all round, of Mull, Coll, Muck, the Outer Hebrides, Rùm, Skye, and the mountains of Lochaber on the mainland.

[/tab][tab title=”Nature”]At approximately 8km long and 5km wide(5 by 3 miles), Eigg has an astonishing variety of habitats for its size.

These support an abundance of wildlife. The otter hunts and plays around the sandy bays. Orchid-rich grasslands and rich meadows shelter the elusive corncrake. Squelching loch-studded moors alternate with volcanic crags where eagles and ravens ride the up-draught and cliffs where the Manx Shearwater comes to nest each year. Mature woodlands echo with the sound of songbirds.

Grey and Common seal colonies also inhabit the island’s coastal waters whilst dolphins and Minke whales are frequent visitors.[/tab][/tabgroup]


History

Bronze Age and Iron Age inhabitants have left their mark on Eigg. The monastery at Kildonan was founded by a missionary possibly from either Dal Riata or an Irish Kingdom, St. Donnan. He and his monks were massacred in 617 by the local Pictish queen. In medieval times the island was held by Clan Donald.

Writing in 1549, Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles wrote of “Egge” that it was: “gude mayne land with ane paroch kirk in it, with mony solenne geis; very gude for store, namelie for scheip, with ane heavin for heiland Galayis”.

Massacre Cave

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During the sixteenth century there was a lengthy feud between the MacLeod and MacDonald clans, which may have led to the massacre of the island’s entire population in the late 16th century. According to Clanranald tradition, in 1577 a party of MacLeods staying on the island became too amorous and caused trouble with the local girls. They were subsequently rounded up, bound and cast adrift in The Minch but were rescued by some clansmen.

A party of MacLeods subsequently landed on Eigg with revenge in mind. Their approach had been spotted by the islanders who had hidden in a secret cave called the Cave of Frances (Scottish Gaelic: Uamh Fhraing) located on the south coast.

The entrance to this cave was tiny and covered by moss, undergrowth and a small waterfall. After a thorough but fruitless search lasting for three to five days, the MacLeods set sail again but a MacDonald carelessly climbed onto a promontory to watch their departure and was spotted.
The MacLeods returned and were able to follow his footprints back to the cave.

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They then rerouted the source of the water, piled thatch and roof timbers at the cave entrance and set fire to it at the same time damping the flames so that the cave was filled with smoke thereby asphyxiating everyone inside either by smoke inhalation or heat and oxygen deprivation.

Three hundred and ninety five people died in the cave, the whole population of the island bar one old lady who had not sought refuge there. There are however some difficulties with this tale and in later times a minister of Eigg stated that “the less I enquired into its history… the more I was likely to feel I knew something about it”.Nonetheless, human remains in the cave were reported by Boswell in 1773, by Sir Walter Scott in 1814 and Hugh Miller in 1845. By 1854 they had been removed and buried elsewhere.

Massacre Cave (grid reference NM434874) sits in the back of a fault-like crevice under a steep rock face. It is no more than 0.65 metres (2.1 ft) height and one needs to crawl to gain access and then keep crawling for a further 7 metres (23 ft) before it opens out. The length is approximately 79 metres (259 ft), the width 8 metres (26 ft) and height 6 metres (20 ft).[/one_half_last]

18th and 19th centuries

Near to Massacre Cave there is another tidal cave with a large and visible entrance; it is high-roofed and is said to have been used for Roman Catholic services after the 1745 rebellion.

The Cruise of the Betsey (1858)

The Scottish geologist and writer Hugh Miller visited the island in the 1840s and wrote a long and detailed account of his explorations in his book The Cruise of the Betsey published in 1858. Miller was a self-taught geologist; so the book contains detailed observations of the geology of the island, including the Scuir and the singing sands. He describes the islanders of Eigg as “an active, middle-sized race, with well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings”. He describes seeing the bones of adults and children in family groups with the charred remains of their straw mattresses and small household objects still in Massacre Cave. Walter Scott was so appalled and moved on hearing that the skulls and bones of the dead were still stacked there, that he started a fund for a Christian burial which resulted in their removal.

By the 19th century, the island had a population of 500, producing potatoes, oats, cattle and kelp. When sheep farming became more profitable than any alternative, land was cleared by compulsory emigration – in 1853 the whole of the village of Gruilin, fourteen families, was forced to leave.