Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Now open for the season

The Islay Natural History Centre is now open for the season. It is a wet and somewhat cold week, especially today, can someone remind the weather it is nearly summer! The island is very busy for the Islay Feis and Whisky Festival. So if you are not currently enjoying the music and locally distilled beverages call in and see us, new displays and the first residents of the aquaria have moved in.

This is the cast carapace of the now bigger crab in the tank which went from 5cm across to 7 cm across, pulling itself out of the old shell in front of our eyes - very cool!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Talk and Book Launch. 

Thursday 19th March 2015 @ 7.30 in the INHT Centre Port Charlotte.

The Geology of Islay
Ever wondered about what Islay is made of, how it got here and why it's the shape it is? A new book on the Geology of Islay has just been published which attempts to answer these questions. It also contains 12 illustrative walking excursions and is suitable for all levels of experience.
The book will be launched at the  Islay Natural History Trust in Port Charlotte on Thursday 19th March at 7:30. All three authors, David Webster, Roger Anderton and Alasdair Skelton will be there and will be giving short talks on their recent research on the Islay area as well as introducing the book and signing copies.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

AGM and talk - Circumnavigation of Islay

Don't forget our AGM and talk, is TOMORROW night, commencing at 7pm. Please support it if you can. The talk is on 'The Circumnavigation if Islay' and promises wonderful photographs of Islay's magnificent coastline.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Islay Natural History Trust 24th AGM

Islay Natural History Trust 24th AGM
Please note a change in date to that previously stated on earlier posts
NOW Friday 27th February 7pm start

The official business will hopefully take half and hour after which we have Racheal Searle-Mbulla of Foundation Scotland along to introduce the FOURTEEN funding initiative to benefit the communities of Islay and Jura.

And on top of that, I am most looking forward to Becky Williamsons illustrated talk of her 'Circumnavigation of Islay' her boat trip around the coast of Islay and her finally fulfilled quest to step foot on Knave Island and visit the last trig-point that has lain across the water unreachable until the trip last summer.

Everyone is welcome, there will be tea and cake somewhere during the proceedings and a silver collection on the door. 

If anyone is interested in joining the management committee please do get in touch as new members would be most welcome. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Arctic Gulls

After all these gales, it is a time to be on the look out for white winged gulls.  I passed this bedraggled looking youngster beside the road near Black Rock yesterday (20th) feeding on the remains of a dead rabbit that I had seen on the road earlier in the day.  From the its features and consultation with the book a faded spring 1st winter Glaucous Gull.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

INHT - Winter programme of talks

Winter programme of talks for the next few months has been scheduled - aren't we organised!
Next talk Thursday 29th January
Our AGM will be in February 26th, followed by a photographic tour of Islay's coastline with Becky Williamson, from the sea this time, and her finally fulfilled ten year quest to step foot on Knave Island!

March 19th we will be an introduction to the Geology of Islay with David Webster.

So hopefully many of you will be able to make it to some or all, we look forward to seeing you.

Snowdrops amongst the snow showers

There are some good tufts of snowdrops at Gruinart, they are a little more sparse at Bridgend so far.  Pictured amongst the hail and thinly scattered snow over the weekend.

After the Storms - 16th January 2015

Just the day before the sea was up to the road with waves and spray blasting the cars as they drove by at Black Rock, no ferries for much of the week with most folk finding indoor jobs and huddling by their fires.  But its not so easy for the wildlife.  I took a stroll along the beach at Black Rock where 24hours previously it had been churning waves, to see what had been washed up.  Broken shellfish, numerous sea squirts, starfish, crabs and a poor young coal fish.  It is always interesting, if a little sad, to find species that live offshore and know that out there, there is a whole other world we hardly appreciate.

many washed up worm carcasses
What I think to be a Sipuncula worm - Golfinga vulgaris

Sea squirt

Blunt Capper, buries itself in the sand

Ragworm, starfish and many Philinidea washed up

Philine aperta, it has a small insignificant shell, where its body grows from but not fully protected.  It lives in the sand in deeper water feeding on polychaetes, bivalves and on the small Green Sea urchin.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A ladybird and a moth!

Alistair Hutchison, out and about around Christmas seeking fungi (he being the island's undoubted expert) also found two interesting insects, both in Bridgend Woods. The first was the Orange Ladybird (a group of four hibernating), of which there is only one previous record for Islay (found by Bob Paget in Port Charlotte in 2011), and the other was the well-named Winter Moth, for which there are no previous Islay records, though two from Colonsay, one in 1976 and the other (on Oronsay) in 2011.
Malcolm - wishing all our readers a very happy and successful 2015.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas strandline casualties

A lovely Christmas present, calm quiet weather, a couple of beach walks, but some seafaring casualties of interest.
A Common Porpoise on Kilchoman beach fresh in on the tide.

A Trigger Fish at the top of the beach.
Boxing day at Black Rock had many washed up sea squirts and a small flock of c.60 Scaup close in shore.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Walk at Killinallan

Lorna and I sadly resigned ourselves to a non-boggy walk yesterday - yes,  the amount of rain we've had over the past month or so has even defeated the Islay Welly Walker! So we enjoyed a windy walk along Traigh Baile Aonghais and enjoyed the ever changing clouds and lighting.

Acorn barnacles and pink algae/seaweed

A freshly deceased Spider Crab

Freshly deceased Goose Barnacles

Afternoon sun over Traigh Baile Aonghais

Looking towards Gortantoid Point from low in the dunes!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Our 30th birthday party

We were a few months late, but we celebrated in style last night at our 30th birthday party, with a pot luck supper, a skills auction, a raffle - and of course a cake. Malcolm Ogilvie gave us a brief history of the Trust. George Jackson then presented Malcolm with a beautiful painting and a bottle of  Botanist gin as a thank you for his hard work and enthusiasm over the years. Thank you to everyone who contributed raffle prizes, food and wine and skills and photos - and to all those who turned up to make the evening a very special occasion to remember. We're looking forward to celebrating many more birthdays in years to come.

Friday, 28 November 2014

30 years of the Islay Natural History Trust

30 Years is a long time and one to celebrate so this is what we are doing Thursday 4th December at the Natural History Centre in Port Charlotte.  We have been looking through old photos of the centre over the years and wildlife and will have an evening of photos and share memories whilst enjoying a 'pot luck supper'.  A time to socialise with all those who have been involved and joined in our activities and visited us over the years.  If anyone has photos they wish to share then please bring them along or send to us via email.  We are particularly short of pictures from the early years.

There will also be a raffle and for those who would like to bid there will be a silent auction of skills and services provided by many of our committee and supporters great Christmas presents perhaps for those people who have everything whilst supporting the Trust.
So far we have available:

Hands-on Islay wildlife activity session

Personally guided excursion on Islay's geology

Personally guided fungal foray

Islay Botanicals Gin related floral/botanical excursion

Two day course in watercolour or acrylic painting techniques

Half day odd jobs provision

Fiddle lesson with Niall Oliver

We are happy to receive bids prior to the event, emailed or posted but must arrive by mid-day on Thursday 4th.

Hope to see many of you there. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A festival of colour on a dull day

A festival of colour on a dull day

RSPB Raised beach walk 20th November 14

It may have been a dull and gloomy type of day with overcast skies, the poor light sucking out the definition in the landscape and Islay on the edge of the fog bank over Northern Ireland, but, as Becky and I discovered on what was essentially a two dimensional featureless landscape, the 'raised beach' on the south side of the Gruinart Flats, there was a wealth of colour and gems forming a Persian rug below our feet.

It has been many years since I walked the 'raised beach' at the back of the 'Flats' at Loch Gruinart, which holds fond memories of watching to pinpoint Hen Harrier nests and checking Buzzard nests for lapwing chick remains for research projects.  My memory was of high quality peat bog.  Becky had not had the pleasure of walking this ground so it was great to take her up there, bag a few Km squares and revisit this old haunt. 
Much of the Calluna heather along the sides of the escarpment is old, and has grown tall and leggy, flopping over to reveal the open area beneath, I remember from old school ecology lessons in succession, that old heather should flop over and the increased light allow fresh new shoots to develop and grow.  I always wondered whether this was actually true as often once exposed the open peat would be colonised by Mollinia grass which would allow little light and inhibit heather development.  I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see an area of old heather with young shoot growing up in the open canopy of flopped old branches. 

There are bog pools on the top of the raised hill area, the odd deer path traverses the peat, but there is little disturbance to the ground and the peatland vegetation is undamaged and left to thrive.  Underfoot the soft sphagnum mosses provide a spongy carpet, garishly patterned with deep reds, browns, greens and orange.  Sphagnum capillifolium forms red hummocks rising above the flat ground whilst saturated in the bog pools are the soggy 'drowned cat' forms of the green Sphagnum cuspidatum.  On the look out for the less common hummock form of Sphagnum fuscum we did chance upon a small hummock, but not in as good a condition as I have seen before.
Sphagnum capillifolium

Sphagnum fuscum?

Amongst this carpet there were red and black berries like beaded gems, of crowberry and the round and pear shaped juicy fruits of the Cranberry, identified subsequently, a testing taste was wonderful but if identification was as sure when we were actually there we might have tasted more!


The bushes of the gorse have sprung back into colour within the last month or two and the golden yellow flowers brightened up the dullness of the day.  

Meadow Waxcap
A dose of waxcap fungi on some sheep grazed pasture completed the festival of colour in the dullness of the day.