In five days time, we shall be heading up to the Western Highlands off Scotland, and taking a ferry to the Inner Hebridean island of Rùm. There we'll be joining colleagues from Scottish consultancy Caledonian Conservation, to carry out invertebrate surveys for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Our job will be to go prospecting around the island, seeking out places with neutral or calcareous geology that might support a greater diversity of snails; in particular the rare tiny whorl snails of the genus Vertigo. The task is difficult, as the island's geology is complex, varying from acid sandstone and igneous rocks to ultra basic igneous rocks. If we do find promising localities, we will take substrate, litter and vegetation samples, for later drying and sieving to extract any snail shells.
The Scottish Highlands have populations of all the UK's rare whorl snail species, and Rùm has received relatively little attention previously from malacologists or indeed other invertebrate workers. Presumably the access difficulties, and the protected National Nature Reserve status, are the main reason. There are few tracks and paths, and over a hundred square kilometres to explore. We will be travelling with special permission from SNH to visit this wild and rugged island.
We will be on Rùm for five days, from 20-24th July, and we're really looking forward to visiting this beautiful island.