Sunday, 28 August 2016

A most adventurous nature Ramble to the Giant's Grave archaeological dig.

A keen band of 24 adventurous souls set about the long walk through the forestry with the guidance of Steve Mithen to the archaeological dig of the Neolithic burial tomb known on the OS map as the Giants Grave. 

A nice rest after the climb
In previous talks many of us had heard about the findings from last year and this was an opportunity to see the dig in progress.  The large megalith slabs of stone which make up the remaining structure are impressive and to think were moved into position by ancient peoples without the modern lifting devices of today.  The painstaking work of the staff and students removing the peat and soil debris of thousands of years to uncover the clues of the ancient past and the ability to read these and surmise and predict what went before is an impressive undertaking.

The views which once could be seen from the site and the impressive nature that the original structure would have afforded on the landscape is now obscured by a forest of Sitka Spruce.  Deer move along the rides and bright red toadstools (The Sickener - Russula emetica) grow under the thick canopy.  Goldcrest and Coal Tit could be heard in the canopy and the late flowering Devil's Bit Scabious provided a peppering of intense purple/blue. 
Devil's Bit Scabious
The Sickener (Russula emetic)

Lichens and mosses have taken hold on the Megaliths too.

It is not until the decent out of the trees and the view south across Laggan Bay that you can appreciate something of what the views from the site might have been like.
Thank you to all those who came along and hope the footwear dries out soon!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Two new fungi for Islay?

Our intrepid Fungi finder Alistair has been out and about, spotting fungi amongst Islay's undergrowth - and may have found two new species for Islay!
The first is the Peppery Bolete (Chalciporus piperatus) which he found on the 17th July and again on the 20th August at 2 separate locations at Loch Skerrols. Its key ID feature is a yellow stem base.

Peppery bolete

Peppery bolete

The second is the Spotted Toughshank (Rhodocollybia maculata) found on the 18th August in the Finlaggan plantation. Both ‘new’ finds have been referred for confirmation to the British Mycological Society - watch this space! 
Spotted Toughshank

Also found at Finlaggan were a host of Birch Knights (Tricholoma fulvum) and The Blusher (Amanita rubescens) and the area has yet to be fully searched.  

Birch Knights

The Blusher

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Manchester Treble-bar

We're not very close to Manchester, but this attractive small moth (winglength c.12-15mm) has a scattered distribution across Scotland as well as northern England. Until last night, there had been just three past records from Islay, between 1987 and 1996, and two from Colonsay, in 1961 and 1964. I was therefore quite surprised this morning to find no less than three in my moth trap in Bruichladdich. Their habitat is wet moorland where their food plants of cranberry, bilberry and cowberry grow. I'm not that close to wet moorland, though perhaps they were happy with a wet garden after the recent rain.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Seashore safaris - next, Scorpions and Dragons!!

We found lots of interesting stuff during last Thursday's free family activities, run jointly with the Islay and Jura Toy Library. Firstly in the morning on Jura, where we found shore crabs, hermit crabs, a flat fish, opossum shrimps, sand shrimps, limpets, a sea anemone and chitons:

And then at Killinallan in the afternoon we found shore crabs and hermit crabs, a flat fish, scorpion fish, butterfish and lots of shrimps:

And a random caterpillar...(identity to be confirmed!)

The next free activity is tomorrow, Thursday 18th August, pond-dipping for 'Water-Scorpions and Dragons'! Meet at Bruichladdich Pier at 2pm for onward direction to the pond ;-)

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Super afternoon at Currie Sands

It seemed like Currie Sands was the place to be last Sunday afternoon as our group of 9 headed out for the INHT rAmble.

Heading down to Currie Sands
It was a mixed bag of weather, being mostly dry with spells of sunshine that brought some butterflies out - you can even see shadows cast in the photo below! Fiona lifted a rock to unearth a little colony of yellow meadow ants, complete with the odd egg, and on the way down we saw lots of different wildflowers (full list at the end).

You never know what you might find...
Some of the plants seen are specially adapted to the seashore, being thick and fleshy so they retain as much moisture as they can, like Sea Holly, Sea Rocket, Sea Plantain and Sea Sandwort. I guess the clue is in the name... ;-)

Sea Holly
Moving off the sands and over the grasslands towards Frenchman's Rocks, different plants were thriving here, including Devil's Bit Scabious which was seen flowering here in abundance - good news for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly whose foodplant it is.

Devil's Bit Scabious
We also spent some time watching the grey seals in the sea below - or was it more like them watching us? A group of 6 seemed to be synchronised in suddenly all diving at once and reappearing to watch us some more. Can you spot them in this photo?

Watching the seals
Let's have a closer look...

Ah there they are!

We saw a few Fox Moth caterpillars around and about too, including this beauty:

And last but not least, a few of us were lucky enough to see an adder slither off through the undergrowth. Quite a haul! Join us for the next rAmble on Sunday 7th August where we'll be looking at what's about at Killinallan. Meet at the road-end gate, east side of Loch Gruinart for 2pm. INHT members £2, non-members £4, family £10. Sorry no dogs

Plants: Sea Sandwort, goose grass, sea bindweed, sea holly, sea rocket, spear-leaved orach (TBC), mayweed, eyebright, bird's foot trefoil, scots lovage, marsh woundwort, silverweed, ragwort, lady's bedstraw, knapweed, thrift, wild thyme, yarrow, red bartsia, red campion, buddleia, hedge woundwort, angelica, creeping buttercup, tufted vetch, cotton grass, sea plantain, grass of parnassus, daisy, bog pimpernel, self heal, pennywort, red clover, tormentil, ling heather, cross-leaved heath, heath spotted orchid, devil's bit scabious, marsh thistle, creeping thistle, spear thistle, ragged robin.

Insects: Yellow meadow ant, grasshopper, common blue butterfly, ringlet butterfly, meadow brown butterfly, fox moth caterpillar, slug, garden snail.

Reptiles: Adder

Birds: Great black back gull, gannet, linnet, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, stonechat (adult and juvenile)