Monday, 21 July 2014

Kilnaughton flora and hoverflies

How come I've never really explored Kilnaughton dunes before? I was overwhelmed by how beautiful they are and found the most gorgeous display of Meadow Cranesbill and Meadowsweet I've ever seen. What a delight it was to hear the constant humming of bees and hoverflies enjoying the rich nectar of the bountiful flora of these dunes.
Becky







Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sanaigmore rAmble - 13th July 2014

Last Sunday's ramble was a bright and sunny afair with a sociable mix of members and visitors. We did not roam far but enjoyed a host of flowers and butterflies. There was a broad spectrum of knowledge amongst the group, with botany, birds, invertebrates, inc. butterflies (which were enjoying the heat of the sun), fungi and geology.
Flowers: Monkey Flower; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Eyebright; Self Heal; Common Centaury; Autumn Gentian; Frog Orchid; Field Thistle; Fairy Flax; Hawkbit; Devils Bit Scabious; Bog Pimpernel; Lady's Bedstraw; Lesser Meadow Rue; Thrift. Invertebrates: Soldier Beetle; Dung Beetle larvae; Common Blue butterfly; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Tortoiseshell; Dark Green Fritillary. Birds: Gannet; Chough; Oystercatcher; Arctic Tern; Rock Pipit; Ringed Plover. Geology: Flint; Gneiss. Looking forward to today's geology walk at Kilchiaran at 2pm. Fiona MacGillivray (Chair) This is the first time I have managed to get access to blog to post (via my old computer, new one doesn't like it) so apologies to those who like hearing about the rambles. This has taken an age to post so hope it works!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Pond of Wonders

So a slightly delayed post about our pond dipping activity day at Bruichladdich. last Friday we met down at the Bruichladdich pier before traveling up to George's pond, a great little spot which became a great pond dipping experience. Before nets even got wet a few keen eyed pond dippers spotted some tiny froglets just in the grass around the pond, followed swiftly by a tiny toadlet, sparking discussion about the difference between the two, unfortunately these little fellas made an escape attempt whilst we were distracted by the other wonders we found. The activity started slow as the weather was hot and all the mini-beasts headed to the deeper regions, but a few clouds saved the day and with a few keen eyed netters we soon had trays over flowing with key species and a few monsters of the pond.
                                                                                                       












                                                   
So our first finds were the typical water boatmen, mostly greater water boatmen but these were soon overshadowed by the first water scorpion of the day, after which we would find a handful more including this monster specimen who probably should of had his own bucket as these veracious predators see everything on the menu including tadpoles fish and even our tiny froglets. This one soon made quick work of one of our damselfly nymphs another top predator of the pond with the alien like hinged bottom jaw similar to their dragonfly cousins, they hunt by ambush grabbing anything that strays too close.

One of my personal favorites from the day was this brilliant water beetle, One of my favorite things to find in ponds; their larvae rival the water scorpion for top dog in most ponds. Alongside the usual groups of beetles and insects this was already a good haul until a shout went up for an eel. A great find Immediately followed by another great find, a leech, these two together where unexpected and we were incredibly luck.

These capped our pond dipping day and after releasing the critters back to the pond it was back to the centre to return some very muddy nets, and to let clean some very muddy wellies.
 



Monday, 7 July 2014

Down on the shore in Port Charlotte

I have often been too pushed for time to properly get down on my hands and knees and delve in to the rocky exposed shore next to Port Charlotte beach. However, one sunny day last week, the opportunity arose. Apart from finding an abundance of  Dahlia Anemones, and releasing a deadly looking jellyfish into the open sea, we uncovered many exciting creatures, photographed below.

Mum's favourite, the Broad Clawed Porcelain Crab. Both these individuals were missing a claw each, testament to their fragile nature. Not often seen, this species is found at very low tides often under rocks under rocks! They are very good at clinging onto surfaces with their back legs, including your hand when it is time to return them!

Not two, but one Piecrust Crab which has recently moulted, leaving its old, paler armour behind. Be careful when handling crabs at this time of year, as moulting is in full swing and the shells take a while to harden, making them very vulnerable.

Sea Lemon. We found two on this occasion, both feasting on Breadcrumb Sponge, their favourite food.

Sea slug, possibly Grey Sea slug, which along with many other sea slug species, are busy laying eggs under rocks and seaweed at this time of year.

Lorna

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Camping and caves at Bagh an Da Dhoruis

Wow! What a trip this was! Two days away from toil and trouble; days when you have to pinch yourself to know you're still human and living on earth and not on some amazing Paradise. Of course, Islay can be utopian, or almost (there are always midges and clegs and tics to remind us of its earthly status). Those aside, however, and you're left with something so idyllic you want to invent a new word for the occasion. Walking from Bunnahabhain northwards and inland, we descended very steeply to the beautiful Bagh an Da Dhoruis where the sunshine and clegs welcomed us and the caves beckoned. Armed with a good torch and the gung ho attitude of our youngest two members, we set off to explore Islay's inner core. The intrepid need not read on. It was a belly crawling experience in parts with the wonder of stalactites and stalagmites, spiders, dead goats and cave pools bathed in sunshine. We went in about 200 metres to the rear of the cave's chamber where you could stand up in complete darkness and be afraid - very afraid! We emerged from the cave's birth canal onto sun-kissed sand and sea, gathered wood and had a banana BBQ before hitting the pillow. Of course we saw lots of flora and fauna en route:

FLORA
Cross-leaved Heath, Bell Heather, Bog Asphodel, Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Heath-spotted Orchid, Wild Thyme, Thrift, Sea Campion, Flag Iris, Milkwort, Lesser Spearwort, Meadow Buttercup, Bog Myrtle, Self-heal, White Clover, Red Clover, Bracken, Marsh Bedstraw, Eyebright, Marsh Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Spear Thistle, Common Nettle, Common Cottongrass, Round-leaved Sundew, Butterwort, Foxglove, Bilberry, Wild Strawberry, St John's Wort sp

BIRDS
Pheasant, yellowhammer, Redpoll, Blackbird, Wren, Stonechat, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Shag, Kestrel, Peregrine, Buzzard, Grey Heron, Black Guillemot, Fulmar, Gannet, Swallow, Arctic Tern, Hooded Crow, Cuckoo

MAMMALS AND AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES
Grey Seal, Red Deer, Common Frog, Common Lizard, Rabbit

INVERTEBRATES
Sea Gooseberries, Dung Beetle, Large Heath, Small Heath, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Ringlet, Peacock caterpillars, Forester Moth, Elephant Hawk Moth, Emperor Moth (caterpillars), Green Tiger Beetle, Carabus glabratus, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Large Red Damselfly, Pond Skaters, mating Bumble bee sp

A fantastic trip!
Becky

Bagh an Da Dhoruis

Emperor Moth caterpillar - final instar

Forester Moth

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Mating Bumble Bees

Peacock caterpillars

Sun-kissed sand

Whinchat

Into the grim grotto!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Killinallan Ramble

The first summer Sunday rAmble of the season (29th June) was a great success, wonderful group of people and the lovely sunny weather showed off the wildlife at its real best.  A nice low tide, provided a host of crabs, fish and the grey seals came out to bask in the sun!
Of note: big hermit crabs, common shore crab, cockles, shanny, butterfish, sand mason worms, grey seal, eiders, redshank, oystercatchers.


A move up onto the dunes had a plethora of dune flowers, butterflies and moths.  Orchids: pyramidal orchid, frog orchid, fragrant orchid, northern marsh orchid, common twyblade and a sole wayward marsh helleboraine.  Dune flowers: wild thyme, lady's bedstraw, fairy flax, lesser meadow rue, burnet rose, bird's foot trefoil, grass of Parnassus, marsh pennywort, self heal.  Insects: six spot burnet (everywhere), small heath, meadow brown, ringlet, common blue, dark green fritillary, marsh fritillary (old and tired), grasshopper and dragonfly.  The last couple of creatures, common lizard and skylark.  Finally at the end of the walk the seals decided to sing as I promised that they would.





                                                                            

     

         

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Rockpooling at Bruichladdich

Having recently arrived back on Islay for the summer, high on my list of priorities was, of course to explore some rockpools! At Bruichladdich, this usually means turning over the many stones available at low tide, and often discovering something different with each visit. The weather yesterday was not exactly in our favour, and also seemed to affect the usual abundance of creatures. However, dipping into the shallows, mum and I were excited to find a Comb Jelly (4cm long, but grows up to 12cm), and a Leuckartiara Jellyfish (about 1cm long) which belongs to the Hydrozan medusae group. I have long wanted to see the latter, sometimes wandering down to the shore at night, hoping to pick them out by torchlight. We were happy to be able to contribute a few new additions to the INHT Visitor  Centre touch tank, such as 15 Spined Sticklebacks, and a pretty pink Hermit Crab. Another species common at this location is the Small Brittlestar, which due to their size, will not be kept in our tanks, but are well worth looking for. 

Keep an eye out for our INHT family activity sessions, including our popular rockpooling trips. On Friday 4 July, at 2-3.30pm in Port Ellen, we will be Exploring Sandy Shores. Bring your wellies, and join us! 

Comb Jelly

Leuckartiara Jellyfish

Lorna

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Welcome to Chris Bristow

The Management Committee would like to extend a long overdue and warm welcome to Chris Bristow, the Centre's new manager, originally from Kent, but recently graduated from Cumbria University with a degree in Wildlife and Media. He is a keen birder and has many exciting plans for the Visitor Centre in Port Charlotte. Why not pop in and introduce yourself?
Becky


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

So What's been happening?

So I believe after 3 weeks as center manager I am well and truly overdue a post to the blog, My name is Chris Bristow, I will be center manager for the summer. My training is within Wildlife media and so over the course of the next few months I will endeavor to update displays and create new interactive displays, updates on this will be posted on here as new displays are prepared and created.

Now a quick update on the wildlife front, many of you may have heard about the Red-Necked Phalarope seen at the RSPB Gruinart reserve, unfortunately after 3 visits on separate occasions I have yet to see it but fortunately someone has been able to provide us with some images showing us just what we missed.


From what I have heard it may or may not still be hanging around so anyone eager to see one may be in with a chance, if you do spot it please let me know as I will be out with binoculars as soon as the center closes.

Alongside the Phalarope I have just received some pictures from some visitors who were lucky enough to find a velvet scoter,once again here is a picture for anyone who were not as lucky.



Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A new micromoth for Islay

I caught this very small (c.12 mm long) moth last night. Unlike many micromoths for which I have to call on expert Danny Arnold's invaluable help to identify, this one is distinctive enough for me to be confident in my own identification!
There is no English name, but its scientific name is Olethreutes schulziana - also called in some books, Phiaris schulziana. It is the first reported for Islay (with no records from neighbouring Jura or Colonsay, either) and has a somewhat disjunct distribution, occurring in northern England and Wales and southern Scotland, and then in northeast and northwest Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides, with a big gap inbetween in which sits Islay!
Malcolm


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Beinn Bheigier from Kynagarry

Wow! What a day! I wasn't looking forward to 3 miles of monotony along the Kynagarry track to the start of the moorland trek to Beinn Bheigier, but I can tell you, I was looking forward to it on the way back after miles of making muscles you'd forgotten you had work harder than they have in a long time! Also, I was wrong about the 3 miles of monotony; with almost every footstep we saw something new - the air was truly alive with the sound of natural music. It was a great morning for insects and I was delighted to see my first 2014 Marsh Fritillary, plus the bonus of one freshly emerged (I wished we'd come upon it minutes earlier as I've never seen its chrysalis). The biggest bonus of the day, for me at least, was the brief sighting of 2 Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moths. They were too quick for a photo - as was the adder - James' highlight of the day. We just managed a photo of its disappearing tail.

Approaching Islay's highest hill from this direction is definitely more difficult than from Ardtalla, but it was a rewarding walk, with stunning views, and well worth the effort. I'm just glad that, unlike James, I didn't have to go and play rugby afterwards!
Becky

Adder tail

Small Copper

Thrift - growing on top of Beinn Bheigier

Allalladh and Red Deer

Beautiful wispy clouds and Beinn Bheigier

Emerging Marsh Fritillary

Elephant Hawkmoths

Last night, I caught an Elephant Hawkmoth, which I have seen many times in my moth trap. However, there was also a similar but much smaller hawkmoth, which I was delighted to identify as a Small Elephant Hawkmoth, of which there is just one previous Islay record - one seen by Becky at Killinallan in 2011. The only other record in this area is one in north Jura in 2004.
The tubes the moths were photographed in are the same size, which nicely demonstrates the difference in their sizes.
Malcolm
Elephant Hawkmoth

Small Elephant Hawkmoth

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Preparing for Opening Day

Thanks to our band of willing helpers for coming to scrub walls, direct, fill tanks, drill holes and a host of other things today. Hopefully we'll be ready for Monday - grand opening day!
Becky