Island Protectors: Meet the Wildlife Trust Rangers

The conservation charity protects the archipelago’s unique environment, making nature accessible for locals and visitors.

We met Head Ranger, Darren Mason and Seabird Ecologist, Vickie Heaney to find out about more their work.

What special species can you see on Scilly?

Darren: We have the greatest diversity of seabirds in the UK. The Isles of Scilly is one of the first landfalls during the migration periods in spring and autumn. If birds from America are blown off course, they may land up here. So people get excited to see some rare birds on Scilly.

If you are on a boat trip, look out for grey seals, which we have in good numbers here. Our boat operators are trained to approach without disturbing them, so you can get a good view of this large marine mammal. You might also see pods of dolphins or even a basking shark. They’re rare but we see them now and then.

Head Ranger of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust Dareen Mason

Where’s the best place to see seabirds?

Vickie: The seabirds are here in the summer, then they go off to sea or right down south for the winter. To monitor the trends, we do surveys. In May we go to our largest uninhabited island, Annet, which has the largest number of breeding seabirds, over 3000 pairs. When you’re walking amongst gulls and oystercatchers on a carpet of thrift, you feel part of nature – it’s fantastic.

As a visitor, you should go out on a boat trip, to get the best view of our seabirds.

Manx Shearwater rafting on the water. Photo by BareFoot Photographer

Manx shearwater © BareFoot Photographer

We fell in love with the puffins. Could you tell us a bit about them?

Vickie: We have about 120 pairs of puffins. They nest down burrows and underneath rocks. They come back to the islands in March and April and we visit the breeding sites in the evening to try and count them, bobbing on the water and hopping in and out of burrows. People are always surprised by how small they are.

By July the birds have chicks. That’s when you see them flying around with sand eels in their mouths.

When they fly their wings beat really fast, almost like a blur. They sort of doughnut, swing round and round and then decide where to go.

Puffins on the sea. Photo by the BareFoot Photographer.

Puffins © BareFoot Photographer

What is the role of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust?

Darren: 50% of Scilly is looked after by the trust. We protect Sites of Special Scientific Interest and manage over 50,000 metres of permissive paths across the archipelago. We host events and activities that get people out in nature, learning about the environment and run the campaigns for Plastic Free Scilly and Refill Scilly.

Head Ranger Darren Mason handles a fern on the Isles of Scilly

The ranger team goes out day to day, to assess the condition of the land, count wildflower species and seabirds and carry out the practical tasks of habitat management.

A project we’re working on at the moment is constructing a network of boardwalks from recycled marine plastic. These enable people to walk across the Lower and Higher Moors on St Mary’s, accessing nature, without getting their feet wet. We’re hoping to create a thousand metres of boardwalks, recycling around a million bottles.

Head Ranger of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust stands on a sunny path

Darren stands on one of the recycled plastic boardwalks

What can visitors do to support your work?

Darren: Our work enables visitors to get closer to nature and we rely on donations. We also encourage visitors to spend a couple of minutes doing a beach clean each day and to take their plastic home with them.