Monday, 31 May 2010
I had good hopes of an interesting catch last night, but hadn't bargained on the temperature dropping so sharply - it was down to just under 5 degrees at the airport - and so I had to be content with just 9 moths, including the (inevitable?) White Ermine. Danny Arnold (visiting moth trapper) commented last week how common it was here. Others were Small Square-spots, Heart and Dart and a Flame Shoulder (photo).
Sunday, 30 May 2010
I am not sure what this Speedwell is - which grows abundantly in our lawn at Lorgba. It looks similar to Germander, but the stem is very definitely hairy all round, unlike the Germander which has two very definite lines of hairs down the stem.
I pedalled round the west to the Wave station near Portnahaven this morning, then walked out to Frenchman's rocks. There were lots of birds moving (see Ian's blog for details), and a flower spectacular. The sea pinks were as good as I have seen them.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
Mark has been looking after a group of Drinker moth caterpillars at the Centre. They live in a mesh tower and eat the coarse 'cocksfoot' grasses that are their food plants. The caterpillars are quite large and hairy with a small horn at each end. Cuckoos are probably their main enemy in the wild - as most birds will not eat hairy caterpillars.
The caterpillars hibernate through the winter, and apparently give the moth its name because they can be seen drinking dew from the grass.
The adult moths are a rather dull brown with orangish furry bodies and a white mark on each forewing.
Adult drinker photo by Reg the Birder
Friday, 28 May 2010
We found our first flowering examples of Pinguicula vulgaris, the common butterwort north of Bunnahabhain this afternoon. These rather weird looking plants live in poor acidic soils and so supplement their meagre diets by trapping small insects and digesting them.
Wikipedia says "In order to catch and digest insects, the leaf of a butterwort uses two specialized glands which are scattered across the leaf surface One is termed a peduncular gland, and consists of a few secretory cells on top of a single stalk cell. These cells produce a mucilagenous secretion which forms visible droplets across the leaf surface. This wet appearance probably helps lure prey in search of water (a similar phenomena is observed in the sundews). The droplets secrete only limited enzymes and serve mainly to entrap insects. On contact with an insect, the peduncular glands release additional mucilage from special reservoir cells located at the base of their stalks. The insect will begin to struggle, triggering more glands and encasing itself in mucilage.
"The second type of gland found on butterwort leaves are sessile glands which lie flat on the leaf surface. Once the prey is entraped by the peduncular glands and digestion begins, the initial flow of nitrogen triggers enzyme release by the sessile glands. These enzymes, which include amylase, esterase, phosphatase, protease, and ribonuclease break down the digestible components of the insect body. These fluids are then absorbed back into the leaf surface through cuticular holes, leaving only the chitin exoskeleton of the larger insects on the leaf surface.
"The holes in the cuticle which allow for this digestive mechanism also pose a challenge for the plant, since they serve as breaks in the cuticle (waxy layer) that protects the plant from desiccation. As a result, most butterworts live in humid environments.
"Butterworts are usually only able to trap small insects and those with large wing surfaces. They can also digest pollen which lands on their leaf surface. The secretory system can only function a single time, so that a particular area of the leaf surface can only be used to digest insects once."
After listening to the ever excellent Skerryvore at the Bunnahabhain Open Day, we walked north up the coast on a stunning afternoon. You cross a burn after a short while, there is a bridge, and then the best thing to do is to keep to the shore. There was not much in the way of birdlife around, but we still heard a Blackcap in the birches, and watched a Great tit plus both Meadow and Rock pipits foraging on the shore. Wheatears were singing, and a Common gull was nesting on the rocks among some pinks - too far away for a picure unfortunately.
Some common seals were more obilging, lying out on the rocks long enough for us to get a couple of shots before splashing into the sea. Seals are great drama queens however, and their curiosity always gets the better of them, once they are in the water they have to try and sneak up to us for a closer look.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
A visitor to the Centre this morning reported seeing a huge adder up at Beinn Bheiger yesterday. This started us thinking of reptiles you can see around Islay. We found this home video footage of a slow worm; they are only found on Jura so if you are over there this summer, keep your eyes peeled!
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Monday, 24 May 2010
Saturday, 22 May 2010
And for those who hoped the hard winter would have done for the midges - I caught lots and lots!
Friday, 21 May 2010
Loch Indaal is absolutely brilliant for birdwatching, which means of course that it is absolutely brilliant for birds. Whiich means it must be brilliant for the things that birds eat. The current low tides give us the opportunity to see just how fertile the top of the loch is. Doubtless someone has worked out how many millions of lugworms are out there by counting the casts, and then extrapolating from that to work out the tonnage of wormage. It must be a lot.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
There are particularly low tides at the moment. Right down at the edge of the water were three Dunlin this afternoon, all in summer plumage with black bellies and red-brown on their backs. They were very tame, allowing me (and my dog) within a matter of a few feet. Islay's breeding pairs will be busy by now, so these are presumably still on their way to the arctic.
The last few days, Red-throated Divers have been making their wailing calls out on the loch.
It seems to have been an unusually good year for flowers of Lady's Smock and their pale mauveish/ pink flowers provide quite a carpet round the periphery of the pool at the moment.