Saturday 31 July 2010

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Saw my first Painted Lady of the year today - flying through the garden at Lorgba.  It did not stay around though and the photo below was taken a few years ago on pink-clad rocks south of Saligo.

Painted Ladies do not survive the winter in northern Europe in any form, they cannot hibernate here as adults, chrysalids or larvae.  The entire European population migrates to Europe from Africa - but only one way - none return.  Once here they can have two broods - but the whole population dies off in the winter - to be replenished once again from the south the following year. 

Numbers vary considerably.  Recent years have been good on Islay.

A big adventure

INHT member James How and his 11 year old daughter Eleanor are paddling across Scotland in an inflatable canoe in September this year, in aid of The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Marie Curie Cancer Care. You can follow their journey and find out how to sponsor them on their blog, at 

Friday 30 July 2010

Photos from Ruari Reynier

Ruari Reynier from Port Charlotte Primary School caught these interesting sea creatures in a "yottypot" while out on "Eclipse" in the harbour at Tobermory and has sent us the pictures.

They are a Flounder, a Hermit Crab and a Shore crab

Thanks Ruari.

Meadow Browns

Two Meadow Brown butterflies mating.  The Meadow Brown is probably the commonest European butterfly being found in environments from sea level to high mountain tops.  These were at Sanaig.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Flowers in a Shorefield ditch

Square-stemmed St John's wort (Hypericum tetrapterum), Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) and Purple loostrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Wildlife Photography Competition - Ron Steenvoorden

A lovely woodland shot of bracket funghi and bluebells from Ron

Mushroom risotto

These impressive chaps (check out the relative size of my size eleven feet) are the mature Wood mushrooms (Agaricus silvicola) growing next to our shed that I first found as small white-gilled buttons.  They are destined for the pot this evening - so if there are no posts from me on the blog tomorrow you will know that I got my ID wrong...

Difficult funghi

More funghi growing under pines in our garden.  Could be the edible Fairy Ring Champignon (Marasmius oreades) or Clitocybe rivulosa, which can be fatal if eaten.  Could be something else entirely.  Can't decide.

The Blusher (Amanita rubescens)

An edible mushroom growing under pine trees in our garden

Bombus muscorum

I think this is the Bumble bee Bombus muscorum on Buddleia in our garden at Lorgba.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

English stonecrop (Sedum anglicum)

Very common on rocky shores and hillsides on Islay, often within the splashzone from salty spray.

Wildlife Photography Competition - Stuart McCallum

Highland Cow in an upland peat bog - thanks to Stuart for this entry.

Monday 26 July 2010

Ten new common names bestowed....

Basking Shark sighting...

A visitor to the Centre this morning reported seeing a Basking Shark in Loch Indaal

Alder fly (Sialis lutaria)

I think this is a type of Lacewing (Neuroptera) called an Alder fly. It was resting up on a pebbledash wall at Glenegedale a few days ago, when it was rather sunnier than it is now


Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre)

Growing in a ditch next to the path to Port Mor outside Port Charlotte.


Wildlife Photography Competition - Mark and Sally Johnson

Fallow deer - one of several entries from Mark and Sally.

Sunday 25 July 2010

George Robertson to judge Wildlife Photography Competition

Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen has kindly agreed to undertake what is evidently going to be the tricky task of judging the INHT Wildlife Photography Competition.  The Competition has already attracted a good number of very high standard entries.

George is well known as a local photographer and his book 'Islay and Jura' is published by Birlinn.

There is plenty of time to enter - the competition does not close until October 29th 2010.  Please send either to:

or pop in and see us at the Centre.

The  competition is open to everyone - and there are no rules apart except that the photograph must have been taken on Islay (although not necessarily recently) and be of some aspect of the natural world.

First prize in the competition will be a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky.

A selection of entries, including the overall winner, will be published on this blog.  Copyright of all photographs will remain with the photographer.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Garden funghi at Lorgba

I think the big flat ones may be Wood mushroom (Agaricus silvicola) but I have no idea about the round ones - which have white gills. I will watch and see if they open over the next few days

Magpie moth

Moth trapping has been in abeyance recently with the weather not very helpful - either very windy or with rain forecast overnight. This fellow is currently sitting on the lip of an open window having come in out of the persistent drizzle. There are lots of them around just now.


Friday 23 July 2010

Pond Dipping

A selection of the bugs and animal life that we found while pond dipping up at Shorefield behind George's house this afternoon.  The water was absolutely thick with countless millions of semi-microscopic organisms such as daphnia.  We must get some back to the lab so that we can look at it under the microscope.

These four photos are of Water scorpion (Nepa cinerea), Water boatman (Notonecta glauca), a dragonfly nymph (don't know the species) and a freshwater leech (again - don't know the species).

pygmy shrew

found dead at shorefield



Thursday 22 July 2010

Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara)

This little fellow was basking in the sun today at the Colomba Hall, Port Ellen. He seemed totally undaunted by the presence of the many visitors to the Made on Islay Craft Market.

Someone has obviously tried to pick him or her up because it has lost its tail, but, don't worry - it'll grow another one! Clever, eh?


INHT's July talk

Just a quick reminder about tonight's talk at the Natural History Centre in Port Charlotte. Malcolm Ogilvie will be presenting 'Islay - A Bird's Eye View', starting at around 7:30pm. Residents and visitors alike will get the chance to see Islay from an entirely different perspective.

This will be a collection of fascinating photographs of Islay taken from the windows of aircraft - from the service plane on trips to and from Glasgow, and also from a light aircraft undertaking environmental survey work. Malcolm will also be adding some of his own shots of wildlife as appropriate.

There is an entrance fee of £2.50 which includes refreshments. It is free to INHT members.We hope to see you all there

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Common Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Bug Hunt at Port Mor

We had an excellent turnout at Port Mor today - with around four families containing an awful lot of bug hunters.  Happily there were lots of bugs to hunt, including this very friendly snail, which I guess is not really a bug but it came along for the ride anyway.

Fiona gave us a talk on how to be the right colour to be hard to find if you are a bug, and also how to catch bugs using nets and swishing them through the grass.  When we caught something we put it into bug boxes which had built-in magnifying glasses so that we could see them better.  Then we looked them up in a book to try and identify them.  When we had finished with them we let them all go. 

Fiona has a website, which is very properly called Green Bug Productions which sells her Wildlife Discovery Packs

Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita) and Common Earwig (Forficula auricularia)

This is a very beautiful Ruby-tailed wasp that really does have a metallic green head and thorax with a metallic red abdomen - all of which flash in the sunshine.  Although the adults eat pollen and nectar, they lay their eggs on the larvae of the burrow-dwelling Red mason bee - which then eat their hosts alive.  Not very nice

Earwigs are, extremely buggy bugs - this is a view of the underside, or ventral surface as it is called, of one.  Earwigs are very good mothers - not only do they look after their eggs once they have laid them, they look after the baby earwigs once they have hatched - looking like tiny versions of the adults.  Earwigs eat pretty much everything - they are omnivorous, which probably explains why you can find them pretty much everywhere!!

These were just some of the great creatures we caught during the Bug hunt today

Emperor and Cinnabar moth caterpillars

The black and yellow banded Cinnabar moth (Callimorpha jacobaeae) caterpillars were feeding on Ragwort.  It was generally agreed that it was good that Ragwort has some good uses - like feeding very hungry caterpillars - because it is not very good for horses if they eat it.

This is a lovely Emperor Moth caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia) also found on the bug hunt.  It was eating bramble leaves.

It is, as you can see, a very large caterpillar indeed.  When he (or she) was first picked up he squirted some stuff at us, and then rolled into a ball and refused to come out again.  We think the squirting must have been some sort of defense mechanism to deter predators.  It certainly deterred some young bug-hunters!!

Golden-ringed Dragonfly ovipositing

We watched this Golden ringed Dragonfly ovipositing on Jura on the 30th June. It was something I'd never seen before so it was very exciting and I thought it would be something other people would be interested in seeing.


(PS -sorry about the extra 's' in 'ovipositing' opposite. Since I learnt the correct spelling I can't seem to edit it)

Insects on Islay

Yesterday we scoured Islay's east coast for the Purple Hairstreak Butterfly - without success, but look what we found instead!

The top picture is the female Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea), a species which is widespread and common throughout Britain. Much more exciting was the Longhorn Beetle that Elaine found. It was well over an inch long with impressive antennae that are longer than its entire body length in males and equal to its body length in females. Its scientific name is Aromia moschata because it emits a distinctive smell (didn't ask Tim to check this after he'd held it!) and its English name is simply Musk Beetle - a bit of a plain name for such a beautiful creature if you ask me!

The Common Hawker was seen at Claggain Bay and the Musk Beetle at Ardilistry.


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Insects on Jura

The walk to Market Loch, near Craighouse on Jura in July provides ample opportunity to look for dragonflies, butterflies and moths. The top picture is of a male Keeled Skimmer - a species which, in Scotland is restricted to the west coast, particularly Argyll, although there is only one record for Islay from 1961 (probably an under-recorded species). This beautiful dragonfly perches and then often depresses and twists its wings forward so that they lie at nearly a 90 degree angle to its body.

The bottom picture is a micro moth - Pyrausta purpuralis which is an attractive purple and gold in colour.

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Monday 19 July 2010

Out of his skin

At first glance, this looks remarkably like a lobster - but in fact it is just a lobster's exoskeleton - which we found that our resident arthropod had shed when we opened up the Centre this morning (note judicious use of the Royal 'we' there). 

If you look carefully, the carapace behind the head has split, perfectly neatly, right down the middle, and the segmented tail has become almost separated from the body - enabling the shiny new, and remarkably larger animal, to emerge from his previously cramped existence to a new life of freedom within his skin.  He even extracted himself from his old antennae.  He presumablyfeels a lot better now.

The old exoskeleton will now join our growing collection of similarly remarkable shells from our previous year's incumbents - which have lightened and gone pinkish with age...