Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fungal Foray

It seems to have been a good year for fungi and our local enthusiast, Alistair Hutchison has been digging up some wonders of the fungal world. It's got to the 'you've lost me' stage with the weird and wonderful names he comes up with - but who needs names when you can feast your eyes (but definitely not your taste buds) on this lot?!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Free-ing the fishes

Cuckoo Wrasse and crabs
Now the centre is closed for the winter, it was time to set the creatures from the tanks free back into the sea.  Five dedicated soles came to scoop out creatures, clean pumps, pump out the water and scoop out the sand.  The fish, crabs and lobster all got a feed of prawns before getting fished out and released off the pier.  It took a while to catch many of the little fish in the touch tank, they were so quick to dodge the net!
Our lobster of the season
The Centre will now be closed until June 2015.  We will hopefully have some talks and other events on over the winter.  We will also be very busy organising and planning for next year and development for the future.

Monday, 29 September 2014

This moth uses a calendar!

On 30th September 2010, I caught this attractive moth, the Green-brindled Crescent, in my garden in Bruichladdich. It was the first record for Islay. On 28th September 2013, I caught another - the second record for Islay. Now, on 29th September 2014, I have caught my third (and Islay's third). I find the coincidence of dates quite remarkable.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Free for Kids day!

We had lots of children visiting us today at the Natural History Centre in Port Charlotte. Everyone enjoyed feeding the fish and lobster, holding the starfish and crabs. It's been a busy and fun season and we look forward to seeing you all again next year. Don't forget to tell your friends!


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Art Exhibition

The Islay Natural History Trust is proud to be the host of a small Wildlife Art Exhibition for this week only. Paintings on display are mainly by local artists, George Jackson and Robert Davison, and are for sale. Fifty per cent of the money raised will go towards the INHT. Come and see some excellent portraits of some of Islay's beautiful wildlife.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

More moths

This is my 6th year of moth trapping in my garden, and I have been surprised at how many new species I keep getting, including two this week, the Black Rustic for which there are eight previous records on Islay, plus further records on Colonsay and Jura, and Setaceous Hebrew Character, with just four previous records, all on Islay. The former is indeed very blackish, while part of the wing markings of the latter are supposed to look like a character in Hebrew.
Black Rustic
Setaceous Hebrew Character,

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust on tour!

On Monday just gone the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust gave a great talk at the ICCI as part of their tour of the Islands. Sightings Officer Connor Ryan told us about the natural history of whales and dolphins in the Hebrides, and about recent research results from the area. He also emphasised how important (and easy!) it is to report sightings to them, and showed us how to identify the different species we might see here. I've already submitted my sighting of a Basking Shark off Frenchman's Rocks in August! If you missed the talk they'll be visiting other Islands throughout the month, so if you happen to be there it's well worth attending. Tonight they'll be giving the talk on Coll, followed by Tiree tomorrow, and then Easdale and Seil, Arisaig and Mallaig, Canna, Eigg, Elgol and Dunvegan - see for dates and details. I'll certainly be keeping a lookout on my next ferry trip! Mandy.
Bottle-nosed Dolphins

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

More photos from Sunday's rAmble

Here are some more of the photos from Sunday's rAmble to the Lily Loch.
Bearded Lichen

Slug eating a Russula

Broom Moth caterpillar


Grey Coral Fungus

Hard Fern

Pleurotellus porrigens

White Helvella

Finding fungi was fun!

Well what a beautiful afternoon it turned out to be for Sunday’s Lily Loch rAmble. Blue skies above, fungi at our feet, what more could you want? Thanks to Alistair’s IDing prowess, plus the eagle-eyed spotters in our merry band, we saw lots of different fungi, some we’d never seen before! Here are a few photos of what we came across including Artist’s fungus, so-called because if you score the underside it turns dark so you can ‘draw’ on it…

Artist's Fungus

Other things spotted were non-fungal but equally interesting – a Bearded Lichen, a Broom Moth caterpillar, a Hard Fern, lots of dragonflies and a stunning hoverfly… and the lovely Lily Loch on my first but not my last visit to this area. More photos to follow. Thanks to those who came along! Hope to see you on next Sunday’s rAmble from the airport to Knockangle point.


Friday, 5 September 2014

A wee taster for the walk to the Lily Loch on Sunday.

I had a quick wander down the path on Thursday to see what might be waiting for us on the INHT's rAmble this Sunday 7th September. 

So to spark your appetite for the walk, the heathers are in bloom full spectacle and lovely, other late summer flowers too, in the wood tit flocks and lots of calling goldcrests. 

At the loch the lilies are lovely with moorhens paddling amongst them.  To top it a peregrine flew from the trees, obviously just fed with a bulging crop. 

I went in hope of fungi, and a few specimens were available, this rain today may just wet the ground enough to encourage a few more for Sunday.

Come along for a pleasant wander and social appreciation of the natural history.  We will meet at 2pm in the big layby between Caoila road end and the top of Port Askaig hill.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Frosted Orange

I've commented before on the sometimes very appropriate and sometimes downright weird vernacular names given mainly by the Victorians to our moths. One I caught last night definitely belongs to the former category, even if it does nowadays sound rather like a delicious sweet! The Frosted Orange moth may not be a sweet but its name is a fitting description of this very attractive little insect. This is only the sixth record for the vice-county (Islay, Jura, Colonsay) and the fourth for Islay. The first two were trapped on the RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve in September 2010, then one was caught on Colonsay in August 2011, followed by another there in August 2013. In the same month, David Wood trapped one on the RSPB's The Oa reserve here on Islay.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Sunday rAmble - 24th August - Geology walk at the Oa

After a long run of wet and windy weekend weather our programme of Sunday rAmbles have been severely washed out. So this weekend with hopefully dry weather we are hopeful that this Sunday's fascinating geology inspired walk around the monument at the Oa and Dun Athad will attract interest from many quarters. David Webster led a fascinating walk at Kilchiaran last month and will interpret the billions of years of rock formation, some of the oldest rocks in the world are on Islay, formed over the South Pole!
Come along, meet at the RSPB Oa car park at 2pm on Sunday.
Cost £4/person; £10/family; £2 INHT members

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Killinallan family activity 08/08/14

So it was a blustery and rainy day last Friday but against the weather the family activity continued. Although pollinators were few on the ground (although one common frog was very happy with the weather) in the rainy weather we were able to find many wildflowers still showing well, including eye bright, ragged robin, water mint, meadow sweet and harebells.

Out in force in the short grass were the grass of Parnassus flowers bobbing in the wind and looking none the worse for the rain. Although my ID skills helped me through most of the plants on offer at Killinalan I was lost for a few names to species I now remember so to correct that here are a few photos with their names below, forgive the image quality it was a rather miserable day and so I could only do the best that I could.
Silver weed


Self Heal
Sea Plantain

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust visiting Islay

And here is some footage of Bottle-nosed Dolphins in Port Ellen bay just a few days ago


Basking Shark Tag

A Basking Shark tag had come off a shark affectionately known as Finly. Several people, including Lorna and I went in search of said tag - it was near Smaull Farm. The search area covered about 1 km of potentially dangerous terrain though and we did not risk going too far, although we had a thorough, futile scour of part of the safer area. Apparently the tag has been located (by satellite) on its way north - perhaps (and hopefully) Colonsay - so let's hope it turns up somewhere more accessible next time!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Butterfly Fun Day 2014

We had the best turn out ever for our indoor activities at our annual Butterfly Fun Day, but the poor weather put budding counters off for the big butterfly count at Killinallan. Those that did turn up were keen however and the final scores revealed that, for the first year in 3, the Meadow Brown came out as our most numerous butterfly, beating the previous years' contender (Common Blue) by about 15 to 0!

At the Centre we made delicious butterfly cakes, designed butterflies and made caterpillars and learnt about the lifecycle of a butterfly, aided by the Cinnabar Moth caterpillars which are growing well in our pavilion, having been bred from last year's chrysalises!

Many thanks to all for coming and especially to Niall and Lynda and Maggie for baking, enthusing and clearing up!

Counting butterflies at Killinallan

Caterpillars and butterflies

Unknown species of caterpillar - any suggestions?

Friday, 25 July 2014

Swallow-tailed Moth

Only the fourth record for Islay (one each in 2000, 2001 and 2003), this beautiful moth with a 3-cm wingspan entered my trap last night, and, after being photographed, was released back into the garden.

Geology Ramble - Kilchiaran 20th July

A small band of budding geologists gathered for an insight into Islay geology, super old rocks and a fascinating explanation of how they were formed and how they got here, once formed over the South pole! David Webster provided the answers and managed to make confused brains understand how it all fitted together. A million years difference in the geology of the rocks south of Kilchiaran Bay and those to the north.

Sand martin burrows in glacial moraine deposited in the sea

Explaining the lines in the rocks

Chough beak marks in thyme covered ant hills

Basalt sill holding back a splash pool, full of sticklebacks and whirlygig beetles

Rare forms of basalt and understanding how it formed.

Basalt inclusions, slates, mud and siltstones, gneiss and rare flint stones, how they got here and the effects of glacial erosion and deposition.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A new moth for Islay

In my trap last night was a Scallop Shell, an attractive moth which has not turned up on Islay before, while the only previous record for any of the three islands is one caught on Colonsay in July 2013.
With my thanks to Danny Arnold for correcting my original incorrect identification!


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.