Call of the Loon Expedition

by Roland Arnison in Isle of Harris, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, United Kingdom

Total raised £2,935

raised so far



I am setting off on a solo quest to find, record and research all the seabird species in Scotland - travelling only by kayak.

by Roland Arnison in Isle of Harris, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 18th April 2024 we'd raised £2,575 with 26 supporters in 28 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.


This is a personal quest. And a research expedition. And also a creative endeavour.

 This summer, I will set off on an ambitious solo journey by sea kayak in search of all of Scotland’s seabird species. My quest will involve paddling to remote seabird colonies on many islands all around the west of Scotland. My aim? To find each of Scotland’s seabird species and record them and their habitats by audio recordings, photography, filming, and writing.

 As I explore the wild coasts, I will meet with and help researchers investigating why seabird populations are declining so dramatically and I will carry out my own citizen research too. After the expedition, I will share my love of seabirds and what I have learnt about their plight, through at least some of: a film, multimedia exhibition, radio documentary, lecture tour and book.  I want the world to celebrate our seabirds!

 My most ambitious aim of this expedition? To record the haunting, hair-raising, ethereal call of the Great Northern Diver: the Call of the Loon.








And we don’t fully understand why. But an impressive body of research coordinated by the Seabird Monitoring Programme shows seabird population changes over the last twenty years. The Seabirds Count report gives a shocking picture of major declines for most of the seabirds:  19 of the 23 species surveyed in Scotland have suffered population declines over the last 20 years. The reasons are varied and not always clear, but climate change, predation and competition for food are all significant factors. Avian Flu has caused further declines for some species since the Seabirds Count survey was completed. Scottish populations of Leach’s Storm Petrel – a small nocturnal bird that lives in crevices – have crashed by almost 80%. Kittiwakes, those beautiful onomatopoeic small gulls who give an evocative soundtrack to many a sea cliff have fallen by 57%. Puffins – everybody’s favourite – have lost a third of their population in Scotland in 20 years.


Changes in seabird populations in Scotland

There is a clear need for more research to better understand the reasons behind these dramatic declines – and to act to protect our seabirds. The Call of the Loon expedition is intended to help!


 I plan to set off on a long solo kayaking journey in April, visiting many islands around west Scotland. My intended route is shown below, joining up the locations of seabird colonies I have already identified to maximise my chances of meeting each species on my list. But I will also paddle along many miles of remote coastlines where I am likely to encounter many more seabirds and possibly discover previously unrecorded seabird colonies.

 I will be self-sufficient – carrying all the kit and supplies and wild-camping as I go. I will drink clean fresh water from springs and, with luck, harvest and catch some of my food as I go.

 With each seabird species I encounter, I will spend time photographing, filming and capturing the sounds of the birds and their habitats. One of the aims of the expedition is to capture good quality audio recordings of each seabird species – and other interesting sounds I hear on my journey. I will be using professional sound recording equipment for this, alongside my cameras to photograph and film the world of seabirds on the perilous boundary between land and sea.

 I will also carry out research into seabirds throughout the expedition, using cameras, audio-recorder, GPS device and other equipment to record data about seabird’s locations, abundance, behaviour and health.

 In all my encounters with seabirds, I will make every effort to avoid disturbing the birds, and I will conduct the expedition in line with the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code.

 I am planning also to meet with scientists and others who work with seabirds, at particular seabird colonies, to learn from them and support them in their work.


The Call of the Loon expedition route


I have had detailed discussions with many seabird scientists and research organisations, to ensure the research I carry out on the expedition is of value to the BTO’s Seabird Monitoring  Programme and the wider research community and for the future protection of our seabirds.  My research tasks will include recording the location of seabird colonies and the abundance, behaviour and ecology of seabirds. 

 These field research data will be shared with seabird research community and donated to various citizen science programmes focussed on birds. I will also publish a research report after the expedition to share the findings and insights from my summer studying seabirds. 


The Call of the Loon expedition is a celebration of Scotland’s seabirds. I want to use the expedition to share my love of our seabirds with the rest of the world. I want people to know that our seabirds are under threat and to care about this. To do this, I plan to share what I learn through social media and also, following the expedition, to produce at last some of - a film, multimedia exhibition, lecture tour and book. I am also in discussions with the BBC about producing a radio feature about the Call of the Loon.

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Roland in training

For me this expedition is a culmination of years of intent, combining my life-long love of the Scottish coast and the evocative sound of its seabirds. I have spent years visiting the wild edges of Scotland – kayaking, sailing, climbing and scrambling, exploring its hidden coves and cliffs. The call of the seabirds has been with me throughout all these explorations, like a soundtrack of my life.

 I am experienced sea kayaker but this expedition will push me to the next level, with many weeks of solo paddling in remote and challenging waters including several long crossings of open water. 

 As an environmental science graduate and as an experienced leader of conservation research expeditions, I am familiar with the concepts and practicalities of field research methodologies. This gives me the confidence to carry out the research tasks of the Call of the Loon expedition.

 The expedition will also make good use of my passion for story telling through film-making, photography and the written word to share what I discover on the expedition with the rest of the world and tell the seabirds’ stories. 

 You can find out more about my background here:



 Call of the Loon equipment sponsors

 The Call of the Loon has already attracted attention. Several companies are now supporting the expedition with supply of specialist kit. Other supporters have been donating their time and advice.

 I have received an enthusiast response from the seabird research community who appreciate me contributing to their research as well as raising awareness of our often underappreciated seabirds.

 This Crowd Funder is being launched to help raise funds for the remaining core costs of the expedition - transport to Scotland, expedition food, remaining navigational and safety equipment and more. Please support me if you can, and so join the Call of the Loon Support Club.


The puffins are grateful









This project offered rewards

£50 or more

£50 Reward

I will treasure you, acknowledge you by name in the Call of the Loon post-expedition publicity and honour you as a Puffin class member of the Call of the Loon Support Club. Puffin members will receive exclusive news and the latest updates by email before everyone else, during and after the expedition.

£20 or more

£20 Reward

My deep gratitude and an acknowledgement of your support, by name, in the Call of the Loon post-expedition publicity

£100 or more

£100 Reward

I will treasure you, acknowledge you by name in the Call of the Loon post-expedition publicity and honour you as a Storm Petrel class member of the Call of the Loon Support Club. Storm Petrel members will receive exclusive news and the latest updates by email before everyone else, during and after the expedition. They will also receive a signed print of one of my seabird photographs taken on the expedition.

£500 or more

£500 Reward

You are awesome and I treasure you. I will honour you as a full Loon member of the Call of the Loon Support Club. I will give you extra special thanks by name in the Call of the Loon publicity. You will get exclusive news and the latest updates by email before everyone else, during and after the expedition. You will receive three signed prints of seabird photographs that I take on the expedition plus free tickets to the Call of the Loon lecture.

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