Monday, 9 April 2018

Learning English as a foreign language with Islay's Nature as the theme.

Would you be interested in teaching and hosting students who wish to learn English as a foreign language on Islay?  

Nicholas Waller will be visiting Islay this week with an idea and an opportunity for Islay to welcome students/individuals from different corners of the world to come and learn English on our island.  His idea is to use the natural environment that Islay can boast for learning opportunities, and the wonderful sense of community and friendly welcoming people as a basis for developing a potential network of host families willing to help foreign individuals come and learn English.  There would be some financial gain for the host families but more importantly a chance to exchange experiences and learning.  We have offered to facilitate a meeting for anyone who is interested or just curious to come and hear what Nicholas has in mind, find out if there is potential and/or local interest in the idea.

If interested or just curious come along to the INHT Nature Centre in Port Charlotte at 7pm this Thursday 12th April

An outline of Nicholas's plan/idea:

Nicholas Waller is visiting Islay this week in search of a place to launch a “Wild English” summer school, which will use the natural environment to teach English as a Foreign Language. Islay’s Natural History Centre makes it very attractive. Students will be mainly adults, from Europe, Russia and south-east Asia. They’ll spend a lot of time outdoors doing “citizen science” tasks set by wildlife and environment organisations like Scottish Natural Heritage.

As the summer school will bring in its own students, it won’t compete in any way with existing businesses, and students will be encouraged to arrive by public transport, not bring a car. The summer school, and it could go on all year round, will bring money into the community, especially for host families and local people interested in teaching or admin. (The basic EFL teaching qualification is the CELTA, which is quite quick and easy, plus at least 4 months intensive teaching practice in a language school, typically a big city summer school for foreign teenagers in Edinburgh, Oxbridge or along the south coast of England.)

English language lessons always have a theme. It’s usually either general English (pop culture, fashion, everyday life, relationships, “what I did on my holidays”) or business English (business meetings, negotiating, problems with suppliers). Simulated activities like these are getting less popular with students, and they’re not very motivating. At the same time “English Plus” courses are getting more popular, such as English plus yoga, English plus art appreciation, English plus golf, and now English plus the natural environment.

Nicholas isn’t here to represent any school or corporation, so please don’t expect to see massive investment, or dozens of students right away! He expects the school to start small and grow naturally. Students can be obtained via agencies, but Nicholas intends to build the school’s client base by producing a regular environmental blogspot with articles in “international English”, which is simplified English that’s graded for intermediate to advanced learners.

If you like the idea, please join in, or there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start your own similar venture; it’s not patented! In fact, the more Islay gets a reputation for high-quality English plus environment courses, whether from one school or half a dozen, the more everybody benefits.

Nicholas started his working life as a kayaking and mountain sports instructor. He was then a solicitor for 20 years before turning to EFL. He has other interests too, and his main motivation is doing high-quality work with happy, motivated students rather than getting rich quick. Host families should bear in mind that hosting a student pays less than running a B&B, but it’s more fun.

Nicholas has worked with adult students from Hitachi, Renault, HSBC, the German weather service, the French nuclear power organisation, and many others, but he’d rather work with eco-conscious students.

There’s more information on his website at

Many pieces of rubbish

A trailer load in 4 hours

Thank you to everyone who came and helped clear rubbish and plastic off the beach at Kilchoman on Sunday. There were in excess of 45 people some who came specifically to help and some who came to enjoy the beach and were still prepared to grab a bag and pick up debris, big and small.  So much help makes a big difference to the beautiful beaches we so enjoy but it doesn't have to be a big effort just a few times a year, if we all chip in during our beach visits by doing a little, we can achieve a lot.
Fiona MacGillivray

Three pieces of rubbish!

Make your beach plastic free,
Oh, what a sight that would be!

Plastic litter on the beach,
is a scourge to man and beast.

It floats on in, off the sea,
in a relentless tide of mans' debris.

Piled high, we throw our hands up high
'How can we just let this lie?!'

But with visitors and walkers each day,
we can reduce it day by day.

Pick up three pieces of rubbish each,
and your beach will be a peach.

There is always a bin that sits quite near,
pop it in and you can cheer.

Then your beach will just be,
sand and sea, and clutter free!

 © Fiona MacGillivray 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Visitor Centre Open Easter Monday

Islay Natural History Trust is Springing into Nature

We are very pleased to be able to open the Islay Natural History Trusts Visitor Centre in April this year, with the doors opening from Easter Monday with a new, simpler name - the Islay Nature Centre. It is true we have changed the name of the centre a few times over the years, with some still calling it the Field Centre, and from there it has merged into a few formats in an effort to summarise in a title what we offer, as so many are often put off by our little door which unbeknownst to them, leads into a vast area of wildlife exploration and information.  So come Easter Monday all will be go, with tanks and creatures, tadpoles and bugs, and a plethora of information boards and displays. Please come and visit over the Easter holidays and throughout the summer for information, excitement and activities for all ages.

We will need some help collecting creatures to fill the tanks, so if you fancy giving us a hand we will be down at Port Mor on Monday (2pm) rockpooling, with some of our catch making its way to the centre tanks - all welcome.  

I am always keen to pay the beaches back for what they provide and so on Sunday 8th April we will be undertaking a beach clean with the help of what was 'Rejig' on Kilchoman Beach (Machir Bay) at 2pm. Everyone is invited to come along and help out, for as long as you can manage or if you are just going for a walk come back with just 3 items of rubbish!  Every little helps and with so many of you enjoying a walk on a beach a few items removed each time makes a big difference.

Let us know what wildlife you are seeing around the island and we will put it up on our boards and record it in our sightings.  The skylarks are singing, the curlews are 'cerlewing' over the moor, and lapwings are combat dancing in the air and peewitting for a mate, scraping a nest in a damp corner of a field.  We await the first of the summer migrants and the departing of the winter visitors.  A few warmer days and the frogs are out on the roads heading for a pond, and the cold wet chill of winter will hopefully be a distant memory. We look forward to seeing you all at some point through the season, either in the centre or on the many activities over the summer.

Fiona MacG

Monday, 19 February 2018

Butterfly Conservation Scotland on Islay

The Bog Squad

This group of volunteers is dedicated to helping to restore peatland habitats, it is visiting Islay from the 25th Feb for a week to undertake some Rhododendron clearance on Duich Moss and provide training in surveying the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.  Anyone interested and wishing to help and volunteer in the practical work days are very welcome and they are providing a training session on Thursday 1st March for anyone interested in learning to survey Marsh Fritillary sites (booking required).  Please contact Sarah Edwards ACT CANN Site Co-ordinator for times, meeting points and booking  Tel: 01496 810462. 

As part of their week they are bringing a talk for us, come to the Islay Nature Centre in Port Charlotte on Thursday 1st March 7.30 for "The Bog Squad - Restoring Scotlands Peatlands" By Rebecca Crawford.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Summer employment opportunities with INHT

The Islay Natural History Trust
is recruiting for the summer season,
April to end of September 2018.

We are a small charity, primarily run by a volunteer committee we will provide active support and training and welcome a keen individuals to help run and manage our varied and exciting range of wildlife themed activities and surveys this summer.

Available job roles:

Islay's Nature Centre:

Visitor Centre Manager

April/May - End September.  Wage dependent on skills and experience.
4-5 days per week depending on availability, 6 hours per day.
The applicant will ideally have a friendly engaging manner, good organisational skills, competence with computers and a good knowledge of Islay.  Lone working required, therefore the ability to work under own initiative essential.  Knowledge of a variety of wildlife is desirable.  You will be required to promote the centre, manage visitor facilities, admissions, shop, displays, the aquatic tanks and organise nature walks and family activities.

Visitor Centre Assistant - Part time/flexible

Availability May - End September.  Wage dependent on skills and experience
This role will be to support the Centre Manager with visitor centre duties, covering days when they are not available and holiday cover.  Ideal for someone interested in Islay's natural history but with limited availability, or for a student during the summer (this position also has the potential to be combined with the Pollinator Ecologist role below).  Must have a friendly and engaging manner.  Some wildlife knowledge is desirable, but not essential. Lone working required therefore the ability to work under own initiative essential.

Islay Verges/Pollinator Initiative:
Islay Verges Project aims to record the floral and pollinator species interest in 112 km of the roadside verges of Islay.

Floral surveys:  Ecologist/Botanist with proven skills in vegetation survey techniques  
3-3.5 month post April - August.  £12.50/hour based on an 8hr day, c. 20 days per month.  Can be worked as self employed contract.  You will be expected to organise your own work plan to achieve the survey goals.
Would suit graduate with interest in pursuing an ecological career in botanical surveys.  Must have proven skills in plant identification and standard survey techniques; some training will be given where needed.  Excellent organisation skills and the ability to manage their own time effectively.  Lone working required so the ability to work under own initiative essential.  Must have an accurate approach to data gathering and recording.  Happy to work in variable weather conditions and preferably with their own transport, car or bicycle.

Pollinator Surveys:  Ecologist with skills in insect identification (Butterflies; Bees and other pollinators)

Requires availability for approx. 8 days per 6 week period mid April to Mid September £12.50/hour based on a 5 hour day covering routes four times through season.  You will be expected to organise your own work plan to achieve the survey goals.
Must have skills in Butterfly and Bee identification and the ability and interest to develop these skills.  Some training will be given where needed.  Some lone working required so the ability to work under own initiative essential.  Must have an accurate approach to data gathering and recording.  Flexibility in availability is essential in order to fit in with suitable survey weather conditions.  Preferably with their own transport car or bicycle.

Depending on the skills and interests of applicants it may be possible to combine some of the job responsibilities of the Verges project with the roles at the Islay Nature Centre and vice versa. 

For further details please e-mail: or call Fiona 01496850607.  Application by CV with references via email or post to INHT, Main Street, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay PA48 7TX. 

Closing date: 28th February 2018

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Next Trust talk - Serengeti Safari 23rd January

Following a recent safari trip to Africa, Malcolm Ogilvie will be giving us a talk on his Serengeti Safari undertaken at the end of last year, we look forward to images of lions, leopards and much more.  Please join us on Tuesday 23rd Jan at 7.30pm at the Nature Centre in Port Charlotte. 

Everyone is welcome, small admission charge with tea and ginger cake to follow.

Sad loss of our former Chairperson and avid supporter Carl Reavey

We at the Trust were deeply saddened by the sudden loss this week, too early in life, of our former Chairperson Carl Reavey.  An inspirational and enthusiastic advocate of nature and history, he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.  

He joined the Trust management committee in 2002 going on to become Chairperson in 2010 (until 2014).  He had an entrepreneurial spirit and his business knowledge and expertise was so helpful in guiding the direction and projects the Trust developed.  

Keen to learn - looking at beetles in cow pats with Crystal Maw

His connections with Bruichladdich Distillery helped us to inform and enthuse the public on the wonderful natural history of Islay through welcome evenings hosted at the Distillery and funding to help the Trust through some difficult times, along with his support of the current project to increase our knowledge of Islay's roadside verges through active surveys and data recording, for which we are so grateful.

Photographing INHT activities
- Owl ringing at Octomore

He was an engaging speaker, providing entertaining talks and photos for our blogs and such enthusiasm and understanding of the natural world for which we will remember him with great fondness. He will be greatly missed by so many on Islay, and we would like to pass on our deepest sympathies to Jan, Alistair and all his family and friends. May the memories inspire and give comfort into the future.

Fiona MacGillivray