Bute Flora & Fauna

Bute is fortunate in having a variety of habitats and therefore a good population of bird species. There is moorland in the north, a coastline of both rocky and sandy shores, farmland , some woodland and fresh water lochs. The town houses of Rothesay and the villages often have gardens which provide good nesting sites and extra food for small birds.

Morell McWilliam published "The Birds of the Isle of Bute" in which he lists 85 species all but a few of which are still seen at least occasionally. Around the coast there are cormorants and shags, sea ducks, particularly eiders which breed prolifically and herons. The most conspicuous wader is the oyster catcher which can often be seen and heard.

In winter flocks of turnstones and ringed plover are frequent visitors and there are over-wintering flocks of geese. In summer the diving and soaring of gannets is spectacular off shore. Gulls include herring , black headed, black backed and common gulls. Raptors seem to have declined though buzzards are a constant feature. Hoodie crows are common. There are few magpies if any.

In McWilliam's day there would have been many corncakes which sadly have not returned for many years. The small birds which one would expect to see are well represented in Bute Museum and there are useful aids for identification there. There are two bird hides on Loch Fad and Loch Ascog with bird charts also available.

In 1768 James Robertson, a well known naturalist of the time, paid a visit to Bute and sent a list of 445 plants including mosses, lichens and seaweeds to the Professor of Botany at Edinburgh University. This was considered a good number to be found in a short time.

Over 230 years later, in 2001, there is still a fine flora in Bute though possibly not as widespread as in 1768. Some farmers still make hay but silage has largely replaced that activity which means there are fewer meadow plants left to set seed in the fields though many can still be found in the hedges including meadow sweet and buttercups. Corn marigolds and poppies are not so common.

Some moorland has been lost to forestry but enough is left to have plants such as ling and bell heather, willow and birch trees, and many species of moss and lichen. The native woodlands of oak and alder are sites of special scientific interest because of their rarity and the value of their accompanying bird and plant species. These are on the west and north of the island.

Around Rothesay certain horse chestnut trees are well known to generations of conker gathering boys and girls. The spring display of primroses, wild hyacinth, and wild garlic, campions and stitchwort is still to be seen. The gorse is very spectacular and there is always some in flower and smelling of coconut. During the period from April to October there is a display of the common flowers to be seen in Bute Museum.

Mollie Munro
Mollie settled on Bute along with her husband Ian in 1953, he was a native of Renfrew and was always attached to the island from the days when he was brought down as a child to take the tram to Ettrick Bay and play on the beach. Mollie originates from Millom, Cumberland.

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