Tuesday, 29 September 2015


After a poor summer for butterflies in my garden - none appeared on the flowering buddleia earlier on - it was good to see three species today on the michaelmas daisies.

Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A wealth of fungi waiting to be discovered...

Thanks to Alistair we found many different fungi on our INHT rAmble last Sunday at Loch Skerrols. The area itself is beautiful, with the loch looking picturesque in the calm conditions...

...and we headed into the woods to see what we could find.

The range of size, colours and smells of the fungi was amazing, and the more we looked the more we found, as is ever the case when looking at nature. Here's Alistair describing what he's seen to the group...

One of my favourites was Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune), the name describing how underneath the gills are split (that's what I love about mycology, there's always a clue in the name!) - I think they look like tiny white furry paws! AND it's a relatively new record for Islay so well done to Alistair for finding it.

Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune)

Another interesting one for me was the Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) - the fungus rather than the mammal! Again the name comes from what it looks like underneath, which is this...

Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)

 As you can see it looks quite spiky, which you can see in this photo too...

Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)

I find identifying fungi quite difficult due to their changing appearance throughout their life cycle, and it seems I'm not alone, as suggested by the name of the next one, the Deceiver (Laccaria laccata), so called because it changes so much it can be mistaken for other things. 

Deceiver (Laccaria laccata)

At least another one, the Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina), is lilac coloured, making it a little easier to identify.

And then there was the Earthfan (Thelephora penicillata), a strange-looking fungus that forms rosette-like clusters among mosses on the forest floor. One feature of them is that however good a specimen it is, it always looks like it's been trodden on!

Earthfan (Thelephora penicillata)

It often pays to look really closely at the forest floor too, and you may see something like this Stagshorn fungus (the yellow one)...

Calocera spp.

...and this one which could be Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica).

Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica)

Here's a list of what we found on the day, with more photos to come no doubt! Many thanks Alistair for hisvexpertise, to Fiona for taking the photos and to everyone for their pleasant company on our fungi foray! Mandy

Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva)
Bay Bolete (Boletus badius)
Stagshorn (Calocera spp.)
Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus)
Webcap (Cortinarius spp)
Ganoderma (possibly Ganoderma applanatum or Artist's Bracket)
Hoof Fungus / Tinder Bracket (Fomes fomentarius)
Common Rustgill (Gymnopilus penetrans)
Poisonpie (Hebeloma spp)
Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)
White Fibrecap (Inocybe geophylla)
Laccaria spp
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
Deceiver (Laccaria laccata)
Mild Milkcap  (Lactarius subdulcis)
Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum)
Bonnet (Mycena spp)
Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica) or Tan Ear (Otidea alutacea)
Porcelain Fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)
Deer Shield (Pluteus cervinus)
Brittlestem (Psathyrella spp.)
Pink Brittlegill (Russula)
Winecork Brittlegill (Russula adusta) or Crowded Brittlegill (Russula densifolia)
Yellow Swamp Brittlegill (Russula claroflava)
Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha)
Sickener (Russula emetica)
Geranium Brittlegill (Russula fellea)
Beechwood Sickener (Russula nobilis)
Ochre Brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)
Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune)
Urchin Earthfan (Thelephora penicilliata)
Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)
Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum)
Soapy Knight (Tricholoma saponaceum)
Velvet Bolete (Suillus variegatus)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Fun Fungal Foray! Join us this Sunday at Loch Skerrols

This Sunday we're running our next rAmble at Loch Skerrols near Bridgend, to see what different kinds of fungi we can find! If last year's rAmble is anything to go by, we should be in for an interesting afternoon - see here for last year's posts.



If you fancy coming along, meet us at 2 pm beside Loch Skerrols. There is a small charge for this walk: £4 adults, £2 INHT members, £10 families. Sorry no dogs. See you Sunday!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

This weekend is Great British Beach Clean weekend!!

Over the next few days (18-21 September) the Marine Conservation Society is organising the Great British Beach Clean throughout the UK, so here's their information on what's going on. If there isn't an organised event near you, why not help do our bit to keep our beaches and seas clean by picking up any litter you see whilst you're on the coast? It'll make a big difference to marine life, however small a piece you pick up! Good luck and enjoy.

Great British Beach Clean 2015
Calling all beach lovers - Your beach needs you! 

We are aiming to make this year's Great British Beach Clean the biggest ever and we would love to invite you to join in! 

Throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK there will be events going on over the weekend of the 18th-21st September and we hope to see you at one of them! 

Beachwatch is the Marine Conservation Society’s national beach cleaning and litter surveying programme - helping people all around the UK to care for their coastline with the Great British Beach Clean being the flagship event.  

Whether you want to become a Beachwatch Organizer for your local beach or just come along to one of our registered events we can help you make it the most educational and fun day out at the beach in your calendar!
For more information and to sign up please go to www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch/greatbritishbeachclean
Contact: Catherine Gemmell catherine.gemmell@mcsuk.org

Ardnave wader walk

Four visitors to the island joined Martin and myself for a short walk on Ardnave on Sunday 13th September to look out over Loch Gruinart for passage and resident waders.
We walked across the Machir and dunes and over looked the loch and we were straight onto a small group of waders on the shore line this included Curlew, Black tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Sanderling.
This sighting gave the visitors a great view of the size comparison of the birds.

There were a good number of the gull species about with 3 Kittiwakes flying up the exposed river on the loch.

One of our visitors was the raptor spotter for the walk finding us several Buzzards and two cracking ring tail Hen Harriers. We had great views of one of the birds as it passed in front of us passing a darkening cloud and we could clearly see the white rump patch and tail feather detail.

We walked across one of the larger sandy beaches near the tideline and on nearing the rocks we observed several small waders, we got the scopes onto them and watched two Sanderling and a Dunlin working the tideline together. Again we were able to show the visiting birders the differences in these small waders, the feather colouring snowy white on the Sanderling and the fading browns of the Dunlin coming into its winter finery.

A juvenile Ringed Plover dropped in nearby by and all birds moved together and again due to the light conditions we had great views of the birds and the feathers patterns. It also helped that the birds were obliging and no more than 30m away from us.

During the walk we had a fly by of two Chough and several Raven nearby. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtail were about in good numbers and we also had a juvenile Wheatear soaking up the sun on the grass.

Who said birding was hard work, this was a nice walk with us being able to show visitors to Islay the best of what it has to give as a wildlife hot spot.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Scientific Research Washed Ashore

Scientific Research Washed Ashore

During a cold morning of beachcombing back in March, a rather unusual object was discovered. This was something that is usually associated with stories and tales, but in this instance it held much more scientific value. On the 4th March, Fiona uncovered a message in a bottle washed up on Machir Bay here on Islay. On closer inspection it was evident that this message was of great importance.

Along with a hand written greeting message, the typed information introduced The Drift Bottle Project.  It explained that this project was launched in summer 2014 to look at surface circulation in the North Atlantic ocean, in the wider context of global ocean circulation. The project is run by the Students on Ice (SOI) Arctic Expedition and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with involvement from international high school students, world-class scientists, explorers and educators.  

On the 17th and 18th of July 2014, a total of 142 bottles packed with personal messages and recording sheet scrolls were dropped into sea on a trip between Canada and Greenland across the Labrador Sea. It is predicted that a typical path of these bottles would travel south to the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland and across to Europe, carried by the North Atlantic Drift as an extension of the Gulf Stream. They are then assumed to reach the coasts of Ireland, the UK, Iceland and Norway.

This was a great find and The Drift Bottle Project has been contacted with the details of our discovery! The Islay Natural History Trust is working on putting together a display to represent our finding where you can find details such as the proposed path our bottle took across the ocean and how fast it got here. Come down and visit to hear more about the project and where other bottles have been found - although many more are still presumed to be afloat and awaiting discovery! 

If you think you have made a similar discovery and haven't acted on it, don't keep it bottled up - let us know! 
Lorna Archer

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sunday 13th rAmble - Ardnave

Sunday 13th rAmble - Ardnave 
Join us this Sunday 13th on our next rAmble along Ardnave dunes and shore for seashore and waders. This will be birding on the edge when we will be looking out for autumn waders on their southwards migration. Have an enjoyable Sunday filled with the sights and sounds of this beautiful area of Islay!
Meet at Ardnave Loch car parking area the end of Loch Gruinart west side, 2pm.
£4 person; Family (2 adults +children) £10; INHT members £2

Wear stout footwear and dress for the weather. Sorry no dogs.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The Flowers' Final Fling

A passing shower before we set off but it stayed dry and sunny for our rAmble through the flowers at Killinallan.  This visit was a carpet of blue and yellow with Harebells and particularly Devil's Bit Scabious in the prime of their seasonal flowering.  Autumn Hawkbit heads were bobbing and the white heads of Grass of Parnassus in the wet flushes at the top of the shoreline floated to and fro in the light breeze in profusion.
Devil's Bit Scabious

Frog Orchid
Despite many species fading off the flowering scene, many still provided examples of their blooms with late flowering stems.  Most of the orchids were completely finished but a few Frog Orchid spikes eluded to flowering, although mostly the bracts remained.

Mountain Everlasting

Grey Seals bobbed in the receding waters, although none emerged onto the sand bank or decided to sing for us.  Our only butterfly of the day was a Meadow Brown.

What we saw:
Meadow Brown;

Grey Seal

Autumn Hawkbit; Grass of Parnassus; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Lady's Bedstraw; Fairy Flax; Red Clover; Black Bog Rush; Frog Orchid; Twyblade (leaves); Thyme; Devil's Bit Scabious; Harebell; Autumn Gentian; Eyebright; Self Heal; Knapweed; Milkwort; Tormentil; Silverweed; Ragged Robin; Meadow Rue (leaves); Meadow Sweet; Bog Myrtle; Yarrow, Tufted Vetch; Angelica; Mountain Everlasting; Water Mint

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sunday 6th rAmble - Killinallan Dunes

Join us this Sunday 6th on our next rAmble along Killinallan Dunes. This will be The Flowers Final Fling as the last flowers of the season bloom. Have an enjoyable Sunday filled with colour and glorious flowers on our gentle nature walk!
Meet at Locked Gate at the end of Loch Gruinart East side, 2pm.
£4 person; Family (2 adults +children) £10; INHT members £2

Wear stout footwear and dress for the weather. Sorry no dogs.

Walking Back In Time

A wonderful afternoon on Sunday's rAmble where David Webster led us on a geological path through time. Down at Kilnaughton Bay, we learnt about the underlying natural processes which have shaped Islay as we see it today, whilst identifying tell-tale rock formations that illustrate the past. 

The walk began with Jura Quartzite, where the rock layers noticeably dip in a South East direction - meaning we were walking in the direction of younger days ahead! Here a rare form of kyanite mineral can be found. This Quartzite is what makes up the Paps of Jura.
Jura Quartzite layered rock
Moving on, as well as examples of compressed sedimentary rock squashed to form slate, we were introduced to a new rock type - conglomerate - seen down by the lighthouse, identifiable by the small pebbles embedded in the layers. 

David Webster pointing out the curvature in the conglomerate rock layers

Pebble remains of raised beach

Further along, groupings of isolated pebbles around 20m higher than today's coastline tells the story of the past where sea levels were higher, perhaps due to glacier melt water from the last ice age. These pebbles represent raised beaches bordering the sea cliffs which now sit inland from the shoreline. Similarly, large sea stack rock columns along our path would have once been surrounded by sea.

Fault rock alignment 

The last rock feature lead us down on to the Singing Sands. Here we were able to see an alignment of rock along the sand and out to sea, representing the underlying fault line. The dyke rock feature stands out on the sands and can often be identified by its honeycomb stacking structure and rough sandpaper texture.

 An incoming rain shower towards the end was in fact exactly what we needed to allow the group to get their feet scuffing and hear the Singing Sands "sing" - or squeak to be more accurate! The erosion of the Quartzite rock creates these sands and along with the combination of shell deposits and added moisture, you can enjoy a tuneful stroll on the beach.

Our group making tracks down at the Singing Sands

Thanks to David Webster for this wonderful walk and helping us get our heads around all the geological terms and timescales! A fascinating walk discovering Islay's ancient landscape. - Lorna 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Many Scorpions and not so many Dragons!

Our pond dipping session this afternoon fell between the showers, in the sunshine.  Nets were plunged into the murky depths of the pool and scooped out a multitude of strange beasties.
Lesser Water Boatman came first then the larger paler, red eyed Greater Water Boatman.  Pond Skaters skimmed the surface, midge larvae and the striking Water Scorpions were impressive in their oddness.  We had hoped for some dragonfly larvae but none were found a couple of Damselflies flew above the pond but no big fierce larvae.
Lesser Water Boatman

Pond Skater and Caddis Fly

Water Scorpion
On the grasses round about were many hopping froghoppers and leaf hoppers and a sweep of the big grass net revealed the grass was alive with Daddy-long legs, flies and bugs.
The children were extremely enthusiastic and in their excitement left a bit damper than they arrived!

This was the last of the summer activities and we are thankful for teaming up with the I&J Toy Library and funding from Foundation Scotland meant we could provide these activities for free this year, enabling many more families to benefit from the fun gained from discovering and exploring Islay and Jura's nature in the wild.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Investigating the Port Askaig Tillites

45 eager students in search of Tillites

Geology excursion to the Tillite features along the Sound of Islay with the Bolin Centre Climate Students. 
Alasdair Skelton explaining where the Tillites feature in the Islay geology

A beautiful day and some interesting rock formations. 

Could there be too many rocks?!

Granite, Limestone and Quartzite stones and boulders infused in rock the result of glacial till fused in geological time!

There was also a White-tailed Eagle on the walk back and a grey seal watching all the people on the beach. So the identification features provided on last nights 'Islay Wildlife Wonders' talk could be pointed out in the field: Grey Seal - Labrador face; Sea Eagle - big heavy bird just flapping along (no Soaring!)


Monday, 24 August 2015

A pile of treasures discovered on our mini wildlife adventure to Uiskentuie

We scavenged the shore on Thursday for treasures - the beachcombing kind! Lots of shells were found, very big and small, things that were hard, things that were soft, things that were lived in, made a noise, smelled of the sea. 

Beachcombing along the strandline

The fascination with beachcombing is you just never know what the sea might bring you. Although most of our finds were local remains, we found the husk of a coconut (which might have travelled on the currents thousands of miles from the Caribbean!).

Not a hedgehog trying to get in...

...but a coconut husk!

Our lived-in finds were the most interesting - there were egg cases of Common Whelk, a mermaid's purse from a Ray, bivalve molluscs of all sizes and winkles and dog whelks.  There were many forms of seaweed, including the brain-like sea algae Leathesia difformis, and lots of the Eel grass (Zostera) had been washed ashore having been shed.

The brain-like sea algae Leathesia difformis
Eel grass
Some of our findings
A grand time was had by all. Join us next Thursday for our last family activity session of the season! Entitled 'Scorpions and Dragons', we'll be doing pond-dipping and mini-beast hunting at a local pond - meet us at Bruichladdich pier at 2pm on the 27th August for onward direction to the pond! See you there!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Next week is Geology Week!

In a major coup for the island, Islay is hosting a conference next week on the unique geology of Islay, run by the Bolin Centre, Stockholm University. In a full programme of events, some will be open to the public, starting with two Climate Change Geological Excursions, and a talk about 'Snowball Earth' in conjunction with the Islay Natural History Trust. Details are as follows:

Tuesday 25th August 2015, 1-4 pm: Excursion from the Lily Loch to the Sound of Islay - Tillite features. Meet at layby near Caol Ila junction.

Wednesday 26th August 2015, 8 am: Excursion from Bunnahabhain to Bolsa/Rhuval, a full day's hard walking. Meet at Bunnahabhain, option of boat transport back from Rhuval (£20).

Wednesday 26th August 2015, 7pm: Illustrated Talk by Prof. Ray Pierrehumbert on the Stones of Islay: Unraveling the mystery of the time when all Earth froze over. Islay Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte. Admission £3 (£1 INHT Members) including refreshments.

In addition, in conjunction with the Museum of Islay Life there will also be a talk as follows:

Thursday 27th August, 7:30pm: Talk by Prof Steven Mithen on Ice Age Hunters and Neolithic Tomb Builders on Islay. The Laddie Shop, Bruichladdich Distillery.

And then on Sunday 30th August, to carry on the geology theme, our afternoon rAmble will be at Singing Sands near Port Ellen, where we'll be answering the question "Why do the Sands Sing?" Meet at 2pm at the cemetery car park, Kilnaughton. The usual small charge applies for this - £2 INHT members, £4 non-members, £10 families.

Should be a great week!

Minor Shoulder-knot

This attractive small moth, with a long name and long feathery antennae, was caught in my garden trap last night. It is the fifth Islay record, with one in the 1970s, two in the 1980s and the last one in 1999. So, there's been quite a long gap since then. It likes damp places with willow as its foodplant and, in this so-called summer, I think my garden qualifies as a damp place and I do some have willows.

Monday, 17 August 2015

A sunny Islay Show! Next, Kilchoman Gala on Sunday!

It was fantastic weather for last week's Islay Show, and what a great show it was. We had lots of people visiting the INHT tent, many of whom had a go on the Bird Race and Fishing games - always popular and lots of fun - and to guess which square the Otter might be in (won by Mr Bull). Many thanks to Bruichladdich for donating the prize - a bottle of Bruichladdich Islay Barley malt whisky! Here's a photo of the tent before it got too busy to take any more photos!

Nearly ready to go at the Islay Show!
To anyone who took photos, we'd love to see them - why not post them to our Facebook page here? 


All in all we raised around £150, so thanks to everyone who came along and for supporting us, and thanks to everyone who helped on the day!

Next it's the Kilchoman Gala this coming Sunday the 23rd between 1 and 4pm at the Port Charlotte Playing Fields, Port Mor campsite. We'll have a stand there again instead of doing the usual Sunday rAmble, so please come and say hello, it'd be great to see you. More prizes up for grabs, more games and sales goods! And don't forget there's the procession of vintage cars leaving from Port Charlotte at 12:30. Should be another great event!

It's an Ard life....

What glorious weather we had for our weekly Sunday afternoon rAmble yesterday - blue skies, warm sun, calm seas....who needs the Med!

View from the Ard
We set off for a stroll round the Ard, which for anyone who hasn't visited yet is an area to the south of the bay at Port Ellen. And what a beautiful spot it is. The views are lovely, and there are wildflowers in abundance.

Swan Pool
Why it's called Swan Pool
Amongst other things we saw this Wood Sage, a new one for me, as well as various marsh wildflowers like Bog Asphodel and Marsh Cinqfoil - see end for full list.

Wood Sage
Plenty of insects around too, like this Grayling butterfly, and this beautiful Emperor Moth caterpillar.

Grayling - can you spot it?
Emperor Moth caterpillar
Lots of 6-Spot Burnet moths buzzing around too, including this one that looked like it might be newly emerged, as well as lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on ragwort.

6-Spot Burnet moth
Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort
All in all a lovely walk - thanks to Fiona for leading it and thanks too to those who came along for your very enjoyable company! Mandy

Plants: Greater knapweed, ragwort, red bartsia, yarrow, eyebright, self heal, tormentil, daisy, red clover, white clover, cat's ear, marsh pennywort, marsh ragwort, marsh thistle, sphagnum moss, bird's foot trefoil, ling heather, bell heather, willow, bramble, wood sage, buttercup, devil's bit scabious, ladies' bedstraw, scented mayweed, meadowsweet, marsh cinqfoil, marsh lousewort, bog pimpernel, bog asphodel, yellow flag iris, english stonecrop, blackthorn, goosegrass, reindeer moss, spear thistle.

Insects: Emperor moth caterpillar, cinnabar moth caterpillar, 6-spot burnet moth, grayling butterfly, common blue butterfly, ringlet butterfly, small heath butterfly, green-veined white butterfly, meadow brown butterfly, soldier beetle, carder or moss carder bee, ants' nest, cranefly,

Birds: Shag, greater black-backed gull, herring gull, swallows.

Mammals: Seals.