Snow Geese on Mull

Occasionally an old-timer asks what happened to the Snow Geese at Treshnish.
One of the previous owners, Niall Rankin (see below) had a wildfowl collection, which included a flock of Snow Geese brought here in 1950s. Some of the strange artificial water retaining structures around Treshnish farm were for the birds of this collection, I am not sure if that includes Treshnish lochan or not but the sluice like structure at the mouth of Ensay Burn was one of these. Perhaps it was after Niall died in 1965 that the flight feathers were allowed to grow but whether that was the case or not in 1983 the flock flew to Coll for the winter and has apparently continued to do so ever since. It appears that later, part of the flock started to stay to breed on Coll because the first breeding occurred on Coll in 1985 possibly earlier and breeding has occurred there until at least 2002. Birds were successfully rearing young at Treshnish up until 1996 and probably 1997 (possibly 1998) but since then the whole flock has been wintering on Coll. In fact it seems that Coll has become their home because they have not been seen on Mull since 2003 at Gruline at the head of Loch na Keal, when 40 were seen.
If anyone has any further news on these birds please contact me.

Niall Rankin
Niall was an ornithologist and photographer who wrote Haunts of British Divers (1947) and Antarctic Isle: Wild Life in South Georgia (1951). He won the International Wild Life Photography Award of the Year in 1935, which was presented to him by Hermann Goring! A collection of 39 of his photographs is housed at the Natural History Museum, Tring and some were exhibited at the Country Life International Exhibitions of Wild Life Photography in 1935 and 1950. He died in Bechuanaland (Botswana) making a film on the life of Cecil Rhodes. Some of his photographs were published in the magazine British Birds where his obituary was published (BB 58:7). The famous wildlife photographer Eric Hosking writing in British Birds considered his photo of a Gannet braking to land to be highly memorable and one that ‘he would always be remembered for’.

From British Birds obituary
‘His varied interests led him to many distant lands, from Tibet and Indo-China to the American and European Arctic, and not only for birds. A tribe in Sikkim or a photo-mosaic of Annapurna were as much up his street as the wild geese of Iceland or big game in Africa…Although a lover of good company, he was very much an individualist, always content to be ‘the lone wolf’ and just as happy alone with Eskimos or Sherpas.’ G.K. Yeates
Apparently he was so busy moving onto his next project that he rarely had time to write up his bird notes or even to print his negatives!

Niall Rankin films
PEOPLE OF THE CONGO (1959). Documentary, Director
KING OF BIRDS (1956). Documentary, Director
LAND OF THE BASQUE (1950). Documentary, Director Of Photography
BRIDGE ACROSS THE SKY, THE (1940). Documentary, Director Of Photography, Director
ROOF OF THE WORLD (1940). Documentary, Director
HILLS OF SMILING DEATH, THE (1941). Documentary, Director
MANDARIN ROAD TO CHINA, THE (1938). Documentary, Director
MASAI PLAIN (1957). Documentary, Director
If you want to read the most incredible life of his brother click here.
His wife Lady Rankin is better known and you can find out more about her on her Telegraph obituary


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