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6 Aug 2020

A puffin walk on Canna

Written by Gillian Gibson and Michael Butler
A puffin stands on a grassy patch on a cliff, looking out to a deep blue sea.
Join our rangers for a virtual journey across Canna to see the puffin stack ... and a lot of other wildlife en route!

With our Events programme still on hold this summer, we decided to film our planned walk to the Canna puffin stack, to share with you the beautiful wildlife on the island.

We saw many puffins in their usual nesting spot, as well as other seabirds, lapwing, geese and wheatear. The machair is looking beautiful at the moment, and we paused to admire the rich variety of flowers growing there.

It was another early rise, but we were lucky with the weather this time! As we crossed Sanday to Dun Mor, we could see across to Rum in the south and Skye to the north.

We hope you enjoy this virtual visit with us.

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A puffin walk on Canna


[National Trust for Scotland | Puffin walk]
[Puffin walk with NTS Canna rangers to Dun Mor on Sanday.]

Hello! You're here with NTS Canna rangers Gillian and Mike.We were up at 4.30 the other week to do a survey walking out to our puffin stack, and as this was meant to be one of our walks in our Events programme, we thought we'd take you with us. It was a bit windy on the day so we're now doing a voiceover to accompany it.
[Our coastal grassland has lady's bedstraw, red clover, yellow rattle, self-heal, frog orchid, greater butterfly orchid, and other orchid ssp, eyebright, buttercup ssp, milkwort ssp and lousewort and many more.]
So here is our coastal grassland. It's really good for its diversity. You can see lady's bedstraw, red clover, self-heal just coming into frame now. We also have frog orchid and yellow rattle in the machair itself.
[Canna Bay and Isle of Skye in the distance]
So we're now just panning round over Canna Bay. You can see the Cuillin Hills in the distance, and then en route we also came across Toby and Unique, the two horses that stay on the island. So you may see them if you visit.
[Bog asphodel and orchid ssp]
Here we have bog asphodel and some heath orchids.
[This is one of our reed beds that can be found on Canna and Sanday. Plant species found in our reed beds include ragged robin and marsh marigold. Bird species found include water rail, reed bunting, mallard and greylag geese.]
So this is our reed bed on Sanday, one of two that we have here. It's quite extensive - it's a reasonable area of land. Within it you can see ragged robin and amphibious bistort. I think there's also a marsh marigold in there as well. For birdlife we have our snipe, we have herons and greylag geese in here. We also have our water rail, we have approximately four pairs of water rail on the island. We also have reed bunting in here, and nesting meadow pipit.
And then, over to our left, are our wind turbines. These are six wind turbines, 18m high, and they pretty much provide the entire island with electricity that we need.
[The wind turbines and solar array that now provides the island with electricity means Canna & Sanday are powered by 98% renewable energy.]
Previously before this, we were running off a diesel generator and it is said that we save about 100,000 tonnes of fumes or pollution into the air, going from the diesel generator to these green wind turbines.
[CREEL, a community-owned and run enterprise, owns and operates the wind turbines and solar panels on the island. It generates all the community & island electricity needs.]
The wind turbine and solar panel project was a community-developed project and is now run by the community as a business. It powers all the electricity needs on the island and it means we're now 98% renewable. The 2% is the back-up generator, the diesel generator, that we still have. Each wind turbine was named after one of the workers on the project. So we have Steve, Jamie, Eine, Dod, Grant and Charlie.
Here is the Isle of Rum in the distance.
So we're just going to head over to Suilabheag now where we'll zoom in a seal's head just bobbing up out of the water. We also see eider and oystercatcher.
[Marine pollution is a big issue on the island with each storm surge bringing in more plastic and other waste onto our shoreline. Community beach cleans, individual efforts by locals and tourists, and carrying our beach cleans with NTS Conservation Volunteer groups, NTS Thistle Camps, and visiting school groups all help to tackle the issue, but some spots are just too remote to get to!]
One big problem we do have on all our beaches is beach litter, as you can see here. There is quite a lot of it. Last year we had our Conservation Volunteer group and Thistle Camp out and we ended up filling half a skip full. So we'll just pan around in a moment and it'll show you pretty much where we got up to. You can see the large bucket.
[Lapwing, also known as peewit]
This is us zooming in on a lapwing. We have three pairs of lapwing in this area.
There's the island of Hyskier you can see in the distance with its Stevenson lighthouse. It seemingly has a two-hole golf course on it.
Looking back, this sort of nearer hill here is Tallabric on Sanday and then this, that you can see in the distance, is going round to the west end of Canna.
So we're coming up towards our puffin stack now, Dun Mor.
[Dun Mor]
The stack you see here is Dun Mor, which we call our puffin stack. It's where one of our puffin colonies are. The other one is on the north cliffs of Canna. The hill here in the distance is the Isle of Rum.
[Isle of Rum]
[One of our kittiwake colonies]
We are here now at our puffin stack on Dun Mor, and as you can see, we have a number of puffins sat on the top. We estimate there to be 350 pairs on this stack. The Latin name for puffin is Fratercula arctica, which means 'little brother of the north', given to puffins because of their black and white plumage which resemble the costume of a certain order of monks.
And a group of puffins is actually known as a circus. Their food source is primarily sand eel, and they only have one puffling a year, which is why they're a good indicator of climate change. The egg is laid between May and June, and is approximately incubated for 40 days. Then, once hatched, the parents feed the chick for a period of 50 days until it's ready to set off on its own. They go out to the Atlantic Sea and then they only come back for breeding purposes.
The main predators of puffins are black-backed gulls, which you can actually see one in the back there, which has its own chick with it. The other predators include skua as well, which we do have just about 10 pairs on the island, and peregrine, which we have 2 pairs - one either side of the island. Puffins also regularly mate for life. And here we have a great skua flying over, also known as a bonxie. They're very territorial birds.
[Puffins nest on the top on the stack.]
So we're just zooming in onto Dun Mor, the other side from where we came in. You get a good look at where our puffins are along the top and then coming down you can kind of see a faultline where our fulmar nest.
[Fulmar nest on this ledge.]
And there are guillemots here [One of our guillemot colonies.] and then our kittiwakes, a small kittiwake colony there. [One of our kittiwake colonies.] And we'll just slowly zoom in onto each one.
So here's our kittiwake colony. You can see their nests there.
And then this is our guillemots. They have very little nesting material here. And they have a conical-shaped egg, which prevents it from running off the cliff. And then we're back to our fulmar. You can see the faultline now a lot clearer, which has created a shelf for them. This has created a bit more of a platform for them.
And then back on the top with our puffins.
[Dun Beag]
And then we've got Dun Beag, which is a smaller stack neighbouring it. We have no puffins on the top as there's very little nesting material, [One of our shag colonies.] but there is shags on it. These are about halfway down the stack.
[Greylag geese]
And then, as we were leaving, we have some greylags in the bay area.
[Great skua.]
And then 3 more skua flying.
So great skua are quite territorial and, if you get too close to their nesting point, they can dive-bomb you.
So this is us looking back where we've just come through that gully, and panning round you'll see the reed bed that we passed earlier with the lapwing on it.
So you can just see the wind turbines in the distance and we're sort of heading just below that. [Compass Hill] This is Compass Hill on Canna. It seemingly has a high iron content and can alter your compass readings. And then we have the Isle of Skye with the Cuillin ridge just sort of appearing.
[Thank you for watching]
This is now heading to the end of our walk, coming up to St Edward's.
Thanks for watching!