Friday, 3 July 2015

Seals, Hermits and Little Fishes - Family Seashore Specials

Our family activity at Killinallan yesterday was amazing, 13 children and 10 adults had a mini adventure, skiddling about on the seashore, turning over seaweed and swishing the nets to discover lots and lots of hermit crabs of all sizes and styles of mobile home! We had lots of little fishes, sand shrimps and little boggle eyed Opossum Shrimps. Two shy butterfish, and a blob of jelly that turned out to be a Sea Hare. There were shore crabs the size of your finger nail and ones the size of your hand, brandishing defensive nippy claws! Various types of sea snail were plucked from the weed, some had barnacles on their backs and a lovely sea anemone attached to some seaweed opened out nicley in our tray. We investigated the signs of lugworms that were buried under the sand and explained the worm casts were really worm poo, the result of feeding on the particles attached to the sand. The Grey seals were basking on the sand bank across the water opposite us and sang their songs. The tide eventually decided it wanted to come in and would lift the trays, so we set all the creatures free and headed off for tea! For those of you who missed this fun session come along to Port Mor (Port Charlotte campsite/football pitch) on Monday (6th) 2pm and meet us in the car park for some rockpooling down on the shore. Fiona

The Oldest of Rocks & the Billion Year Gap!

Our next Sunday rAmble (nature walk)(5th July) is heading for ancient rocks, some of the oldest in the world, who could fathom that within a few metres is a billion years of geological history. The walk will be lead by David Webster who's knowledge of Islay's rocks will enthuse and leave you in awe. We are meeting at Kilchiaran at 2pm, please park resonsibly either in layby by the old chapel or by the farm track with the information board (please do not obscure access). The walk will last c.1.5-2 hours, there will be plants and other natural delights.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Orchids galore at Killinallan

Common Twayblade
An amazing array of wildflowers was seen on our walk over at Killinallan on Sunday on a sunny but windy day. Not only did our hardy band of 12 see the recently-recorded narrow-leaved orchid, but also frog orchid and common twayblade, not to mention early purple, pyramidal, heath spotted and early and northern marsh orchids. There were lots of 6-spot burnet moths about too, as well as a beautiful marsh fritillary butterfly.
Marsh Fritillary
There were so many different flowers around that I'll just list them at the end rather than pick any specific ones out. As ever, a very enjoyable few hours ambling about - thanks to everyone who came along, and to our experts Fiona and Malcolm for their wealth of botanical knowledge. The nice thing about these walks is that it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about nature, you're bound to learn something new, and you can share the knowledge you do have! Hope to see you on the next one, which will be a geology walk! Details to follow.
Sea Milkwort
Six-spot Burnet Moth Cocoon
Six-spot Burnet Moth on Pyramidal Orchid
Marsh Cinquefoil
Plants: cuckoo flower, silverweed, thrift, ragged robin, marsh marigold, sea milkwort, sea plantain, sea arrowgrass, narrow-leaved marsh orchid, northern marsh orchid, early marsh orchid, early purple orchid, heath spotted orchid, frog orchid, common twayblade, pyramidal orchid,germander speedwell, lousewort, lesser meadow rue, fairy flax, thyme, bird's-foot trefoil, eyebright, lady's bedstraw, marsh bedstraw, common milkwort, meadow buttercup, daisy, sea plantain, burnet rose, carnation sedge, mouse ear, hawkweed, marsh cinquefoil, marsh lousewort, valerian, meadowsweet, yellow iris, marsh thistle, knapweed, marram grass, black bog rush, tormentil, pennywort, tufted vetch, dog violet, bracken, spear thistle, adder's tongue fern, common nettle, ribwort plantain, tormentil, red clover, white clover. Birds: skylark, swallow, sand martin, rock pipit, hooded crow, herring gull, redpoll, meadow pipit, redshank, oystercatcher. Insects: 6-spot burnet moth, marsh fritillary butterfly. Mammals: grey seals.

Thanks to Hazel Cunningham for most of these photos.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Next Sunday's walk at Killinallan - Orchids, Butterflies and other Dune Delights

After finding four different kinds of orchids on last Sunday's walk, we're sure to see even more when we head for Killinallan on the next INHT rAmble this coming Sunday 28th June at 2 pm. This side of Loch Gruinart is renowned for its variety of orchids and helleborines and is the area that a new orchid for Islay was recently found (see earlier blog). We'll also be looking out for butterflies and day-flying moths (such as the beautiful Cinnabar and 6-Spot Burnet moths) but these will very much depend on the weather - fingers crossed for a sunny day! Regardless of the weather there'll be plenty of wildflowers to see in the dunes, where the carpet of flowers is usually spectactular. We'll be meeting 3 miles up the east side of Loch Gruinart at the locked gate - basically, take the Killinallan turning off the B8017 and drive until you get to a locked gate across the track. The walk is just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and £2 for members of the Islay Natural History Trust. Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Orchids and insectivores - yesterday's rAmble at Bunnahabhain.

Given the original weather forecast for Sunday, we were lucky after all on our rAmble at Bunnahabhain, with spells of sunshine and only one brief shower. After admiring the views over to Jura, our intrepid band of 8 headed up the track towards the woodlands, spotting many different wildflowers along the way (see list at the end for everything we saw!).

Perhaps for me the nicest sight was of the orchids, of which we saw 4 types: common spotted orchid, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid and early purple orchid. No doubt there’ll be even more orchids to see on our rAmble next Sunday at Killinallan, which is an area well-known for these beautiful wildflowers! Details to follow.
Another lovely sight was the Sundew, growing right there in the middle of the track! These tiny plants are insectivorous, and catch small insects (like midges!) in their sticky globules that the insects mistake for water. Its name comes from the fact that the sun does not evaporate what was originally mistaken for dew, and Alchemists thought therefore that the plant must have magical properties. For me, its most magical quality is that it eats midges. All hail the Sundew! And not forgetting the lovely Butterwort, which is also insectivorous.

Time flew with so much to stop and look at, and although we were out for 3 hours it seemed like no time at all before we were heading back down the track again, with lovely views of the Sound of Islay ahead of us. Before leaving we headed down towards the distillery to see if we could spot an otter, with no luck sadly. We did spot some seals though further up the coast, and a Black Guillemot was spotted flying over the sea’s surface. And to top it all, on the drive home some of us were lucky enough to see an Osprey over Ardnahoe Loch, as well as a Buzzard and a male Hen Harrier nearby. All in all it made for a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon! Thanks to Fiona for leading the walk. Mandy

Birds (seen or heard): Redpoll, Linnet, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Starling, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch. Ardnahoe Loch: Osprey, Buzzard and male Hen Harrier.

Flowers: Eyebright, lady’s bedstraw, heath bedstraw, common spotted orchid, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, early purple orchid, bluebell, germander speedwell, field speedwell, tormentil, lousewort, milkwort (purple and pink), butterwort, sundew, yellow pimpernel, cotton grass, hard fern, crowberry, willow with galls on it, primrose, water avens, red clover, white clover.

Mosses and Lichens: Star moss, Sphagnum moss, Chladonia spp. (lichen).

Insects: Dor beetle, Sexton beetle.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Next sunday rAmble at Bunnahabhain forestry

Join us for a wander through the woods near Bunnahabhain this coming sunday (21st June). We'll be looking out for woodland birds and anything else we can find, as well as admiring the views over to Jura! We'll be taking it at a nice slow pace so we don't miss anything, and should be out for about 2 hours. The walk is just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's just £2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. We'll be meeting for 2 pm at the grass triangle just before the road bends down towards the distillery, and will be heading along the track towards Staoisha. See you on Sunday!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

New Residents at the Centre

Thanks to Paul Rennie we now have a few more creatures resident in our aquaria, a lovely sea urchin, a large hermit crab, velvet swimming crabs, some Long-spined Seascorpion fish and a beautiful flat fish (Brill maybe).

We also now have a Lobster in its own tank, it is missing its right claw and a few legs, but they will grow back, and we can watch this regeneration process in action.  It now just needs to be given a name, any suggestions?, we will keep you posted with the best selection.

Last Sunday’s Sanaigmore rAmble

On a glorious afternoon our group of 19 set off for a meander through the dunes of Sanaigmore, eager to see what wildlife awaited us.

We weren’t disappointed as wildflowers, birds and butterflies revealed themselves to us. On the bird front, we saw hen harrier, buzzard, oystercatcher, common sandpiper, skylark, meadow pipit, common gull and linnet, with a few gannets and auks spotted out to sea. As for the wildflowers, we saw bird’s foot trefoil, germander speedwell, thrift, heath bedstraw, tormentil, English stonecrop, silverweed, stork’s bill, ragged robin, milkwort, lousewort, mouse ear (aren’t these names fantastic?), cuckoo flower, heath spotted orchid, scurvy grass and mountain everlasting. This last one was a new one for me and one I’ll be looking out for.
Mountain Everlasting

 Also seen and identified by their leaves as they’re not yet in flower, were meadowsweet and devil’s bit scabious, the latter being the food plant of the marsh fritillary caterpillar. And what should happen by but a marsh fritillary butterfly! Good to see these rare butterflies that are just on the wing. Thanks to Diana for the photo. Another butterfly out and about was the green-veined white. 

 We also set free one of our Cinnabar moths which had just emerged from its pupa having spent the winter hibernating at the centre.

So a very pleasant couple of hours was passed at this stunning location, so much so that after the ‘official’ walk I just had to spend another hour out walking there! Thanks to everyone who came along, it was fun! Our next rAmble will be at Bunnahabhain forestry, details to follow.


Thursday, 11 June 2015

New orchid for Islay

It wasn't just a new moth for Islay which Mark, Sally and I looked at in the Killinallan Dunes the day before yesterday, but the Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides which is new for Islay (indeed, new for the vice-county). Mark and Sally had found it earlier and were pretty certain that this was what it was, but it needed confirmation so I went back with them and then sent photographs to an orchid expert, who was more than happy to say that the identification was correct. It grows on Mull, Tiree and Kintyre, so Islay fills a gap between them, and in a handful of sites in north-west Scotland, as well as up to 40 mostly coastal sites in England and Wales.
At Killinallan, there were a few tens of plants scattered thinly over quite a wide area of the flatter ground and in one wetter dune slack. It is the eleventh species of orchid found in this one area of the island: Pyramidal, Frog, Early Marsh, Northern Marsh, Fragrant, Marsh Helleborine, Early Purple, Common Spotted, Heath Spotted and Common Twayblade. Well done, Mark and Sally!


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A new moth for Islay

Walking in the Killinallan dunes, yesterday, with Mark and Sally Johnson from Lincolnshire, this small (10-12mm) moth attracted our attention. It didn't like camera lenses too close and kept flitting from plant to plant, but never going far and, eventually, some images became possible. It is called the Small Purple-barred Moth and has not been recorded on Islay before. The only other records for this vice-county (Islay, Jura and Colonsay) are from Colonsay, one each in 1985, 2010 and 2012. It is one of the rather few moths that flies much more in the daytime than at night while its main foodplants, Common and Heath Milkwort, are abundant at Killinallan.


Join us for the next Sunday afternoon's rAmble at Sanaigmore!

This Sunday June 14th sees the next in our weekly wildlife rAmbles, this time meeting at Sanaigmore for 2pm. We'll mainly be looking for wildflowers in the dunes, and with that beautiful beach there we'll be looking at the flint too, and anything else that comes along! Our walks are taken at a relaxed pace so we can have a really good look at what's around. You can park at the Outback Gallery (and coffee shop!) so hopefully we'll see you there. The walk is just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's just £2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. Hope to see you on Sunday!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Botanist Gin - 22 of Islays plants ~ New Display

Bruichladdich Distillery, our sponsor for the last two years have this very nice tipple - The Botanist Gin

There are 22 plant elements sourced on Islay which make up the botanical flavour that gives it its unique appeal. We have pulled together a fabulous new display providing tips on identification and outlining the qualities these plants had in the past for our ancestors who knew their qualities well, far beyond just flavouring for Gin.

Thanks to Bruichladdich for producing and printing it so well for us.  Please do come and visit and find out more about these wonderful and useful plants.

All ashore – 1st Sunday rAmble (7th June) of the summer

There were lots of amazing creatures to be seen along the shore on yesterday’s walk from Bowmore towards Gartbreck. Aided by a perfectly timed low tide, blue sky and our walk-leader Fiona’s wealth of knowledge, we uncovered shore crabs, tortoiseshell limpets, a chiton, a small flatfish, sandhoppers scooting through the water, a common shrimp, and lots of golden carpet shells to name but a few. 

There was even a Squat Lobster that must have been the victim of stormy weather and sadly it was full of roe, as these photos show. 

Possibly the most beautiful slug I’ve ever seen was the sea-slug we found, Facelina bostoniensis. An amazing sight as its sluggy fronds waved gently in the water.

And scattered all over the shore were glistening jelly-like blobs of algae, Leathesia difformis, known variously as sea balls, or sea cauliflower.

We also found a piece of kelp with a sea-mat on it that made it look a bit like a snake skin! Apparently it’s a bryozoan called Membranipora membranacea…but I think I’ll just call it Bryan.
Or maybe this one should be called Bryan!
Breadcrumb sponge with a tuft of red seaweed

A fantastic way to spend a few hours – looking forward to the next walk!

Sunday 14th June - 2pm: Sanaigmore -Dunes and Coastal Treasures.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Orange Tip spotted on Islay!

Yesterday afternoon around 15:15, Alistair was about to go up into the woodland at Port Askaig Brae when he spotted what he first assumed to be the ubiquitous Green-veined White butterfly. However, as luck would have it the small white butterfly landed on a Bramble which gave Alistair the chance of a closer look - and a photo opp - and it turned out to be a male Orange Tip butterfly! Now you might not think this is very exciting, if you're from a place where these lovely butterflies abound, but here on Islay, it is a rarity indeed. Since the first sighting (before 1970), there have been only 15 sightings on Islay, plus 12 on Colonsay and 3 on Jura, but they are slowly getting more regular, with annual sightings since 2010. One was seen on Colonsay on 15th May this year. Here's a photo of the little beauty, and please let us know of any other sightings !

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

This Sunday's rAmble - Seashore, Seals and Waders

This sunday afternoon will see the next in our series of weekly rAmbles, and this time we'll be looking out for seals and waders along the seashore between Bowmore and Gartbreck. We'll be meeting for 2pm at the playing fields car park down Flora Street, Bowmore, near the high school. Led by Fiona, we'll head down the lane to the seashore and along to Gartbreck to see what we can find! So if you fancy finding out more about the wildlife of Islay's seashore or just fancy an amble in the fresh air to somewhere you might not have been yet, why not come along? It's just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's just £2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs so pooch will have to miss this one. Hope to see you on Sunday!

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.