Wednesday 31 August 2011

Butterfly Bonanza

A visitor to the island made it his quest to photograph as many butterflies as he could whilst on holiday here. He promised to send his photos to us upon his return. True to his word, here they are. Thanks, Tim!

Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus

Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja

Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria

Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina

Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

Grayling - Hipparchia semele

Jaws Galore (the friendly version!)

We have recently had two reports of over 20 Basking Sharks in Loch Indaal off the Rhinns, Nerabus southwards. This is exciting news so keep your eyes peeled!

Basking Shark

Seashell Workshop

Do you enjoy a walk on the beach? Do you find you can’t resist collecting seashells? Do you wonder what they all are?

I have been inspired since working on the display of shells at the Islay Natural History Trust (INHT) visitor centre many years ago to build up a collection of shells, most gathered from Islay.  So far I have recorded just over 110 species from Islay’s beaches and 129 in total from across the UK.  These range from the big Iceland Cyprina (up to 12 cm) which can live up to 100 years, the small but beautifully ornate Pheasant Shell to the tiny yet common Turtonia minuta (barely 2mm) which you probably unknowingly are walking all over, mixed up in the sand under your feet. 

I will be running a workshop and short talk at the Islay Natural History Trust centre on Sunday 4th September from 2-4pm (donations welcome). If you have an interest and would like to learn about some of the shells you have found anywhere in Britain, bring them along and get some tips on identification techniques. There’ll also be an opportunity to use microscopes and the chance to get your hands stuck in shell-sand. We’ll be looking at other beachcombing finds too – so bring along your other strandline treasures as well.

Why not go beachcombing at your leisure sometime before and bring along your specimens?

If you have a collection of your own from Islay or further a field then please do get in touch (  I would very much like to compare specimens and see if you have species missing from my list.  I am looking at photographing as many species as possible of all qualities, as a representation of all conditions likely to be found which will help aid identification. 

Fiona MacGillivray

Monday 29 August 2011

Flora and Fauna at Killinallan, 29th August 2011

Only two people for today's windy ramble. Think we'll need to improve the advertising for next year. It's been interesting going back to Killinallan over the past few months and seeing the annual floral cycle take place. The orchids are now all gone and instead of being awash with pinks and purples, the dunes are a carpet of blues with Harebells and Devil's-bit-Scabious in profusion. Fungi is sprouting up all over the place as well - and so we welcome autumn!

Curlew, Raven, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Eider, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Pied (White) Wagtail

Grey Seals (singing)

Xanthoria parietina, Anaptychia runsinata, Lecanora Gangloides, Ramalina sp.

Lots of species - to be identified we hope!

Dark Green Fritillary, Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder Bee - the 'orange' one), Bombus Lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee), Orb-weaver Spider Web

Baby Common Frog

Autumn Gentian, Yellow Flag, Self-heal, Wild Thyme, Yarrow, Harebell, Devil's-bit Scabious, Thrift, Sea Milkwort, Silverweed, Marsh Marigold, Water Mint, Forget-me-not sp., Marram Grass, Yorkshire Fog, Sweet Vernal Grass, Grass of Parnassus, Black Bog Rush, Jointed Rush, Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lesser Spearwort, Eyebright, Spear Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Lady's Bedstraw, Red Clover, Bracken, Marsh Pennywort, Marsh Lousewort, Lesser Meadow Rue, Ragged Robin, Meadowsweet, Angelica, Pignut, Hawkweed, Knotted Pearlwort, Marsh Willowherb

A profusion of Devil's-bit Scabious

Thursday 25 August 2011

Stone Age man on Islay

Red Admiral

There have been very few of these around this summer compared with past years - just two in my garden in the last two weeks. We'd love to hear of more records, and of Painted Lady, so please send us details via our Biological Records website (link at the top of the page).

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Fungal Foray

We're breaking the record for the number of posts per day,but I don't want to leave anyone out and it's great having so many folk send in their records. Please keep them coming!

This latest batch is from Alistair Hutchison, a local man, and is more evidence I'm afraid of the onset of autumn - a veritable fungal foray. I'm afraid I don't know what the fungi are, but will seek help from the experts! NOW DONE AND IDENTIFIED. Thanks, Alistair!
Hygrocybe conica  - Blackening Waxcap

Volvariella gloiocephala

Polyporus squarmosus - Dryads Saddle (sorry-looking specimen)

Hygrocybe conica  - Blackening Waxcap

Carabus clatratus - Golden-dimpled Ground Beetle

I've been waiting for definitive identification of this previously misidentified (by me!) beetle. I'd thought it was Carabus arvensis, but it is in fact the superb Carabus clatratus, which for once has an English name - and a rather lovely and fitting one at that - Golden-dimpled Ground Beetle.

Carabus clatratus - Golden-dimpled Ground Beetle

Moths from the Lawson family

The Lawson family are regular visitors to Islay and keen naturalists. They have borrowed the moth trap this week and sent us these photos. Thanks everyone!

Ear Moth sp.

Chevron - Eulithis testata

Burnished Brass - Diachrysia chrysitis

Autumnal Rustic - Eugnorisma glareosa

Rosy Rustic - Hydraecia micacea

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth

A representative of Butterfly Conservation Scotland was over last week surveying Marsh Fritillary caterpillars. He really liked our butterfly display! He's going to send more records, but for now sent in this great photo of a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth larva. Thanks Paul!

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth caterpillar

Walk to Stremnishmore

Whilst Fiona was exploring moorland at Upper Killeyan yesterday, I was not too far away, walking to Stremnishmore, a deserted farmstead on the Oa. There was a lot to be enthused about (despite lack of good lighting for photography), but I was particulary excited about these Marsh Fritillary caterpillars. These butterflies seem to have had a poor year, not helped no doubt by THE storm of 23rd May, so it was encouraging to see these critters swarming about. I only saw one web though.

Also saw this common ground beetle, Pterostichus niger.

Marsh Fritillary caterpillars, pre-hibernation

Pterostichus niger

Moorland Magic at Kintra

Fiona sent in this piece about yesterday's magic moorland session:

Moorland magic this Tuesday was attended by 10 very enthusiastic participants on a small area of moorland just 100m from the RSPB Upper Killeyan car park on the Mull of Oa. We investigated the hidden range of colour to be found if you get down low and really look, moorland is definitely not dull and boring. The Ling Heather is just beginning to bloom, but despite many flowering plants having set seed there was still a rich range of greens, yellows, pinks and autumnal browns but a distinct lack of blues.
A search for animal life revealed a great variety of invertebrates, spiders, leafhoppers, centipedes, beetles and some impressive grasshoppers including both common green and meadow grasshoppers. Unfortunately the weather was a bit cool and densely overcast so no butterflies although a moth was captured. We also found round-leaved sundews an insectivorous plant.
I am looking forward to next week, (unfortunately), the last activity of the summer when it will be beachcombing on Uiskentuie Strand.

Bug Box with Leaf hopper, Jumping Spider and Meadow Grasshopper

Monday 22 August 2011

Flora and Fauna at Kintra, 22nd August 2011

What a great ramble! There were 9 of us today and we were able to cross the mighty ravine this time. I like it when folk stop and ask me questions - lets me know they're still interested, so thanks to all for their questions and patience and enthusiasm. Here's the list. Look out for the GREAT, BIG FLY (yet another Bumble Bee mimic) and see Carl's previous post. Thanks also to Catriona (I think) for demonstrating how to use a rush for a wick and to Ann and Bill for the geology lesson!

BIRDS: Cormorant, Shag, Black Guillemot, Eider, Common Gull, Wheatear, Rook, Chough, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Swallow, Twite, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Starling, Raven, Pied Wagtail

FUNGI AND LICHEN: Panaeolus semiovatus (in cow dung), Red Waxcap, Puffball, Xanthoria parietina (yellow on rocks), Anaptychia runsinata (brown seaweed foliose species), Ramalina sp. (on stone), Cladonia portentosa - Reindeer moss (grows in grass), Ochrolechia parella - Fish-eye lichen (white on stone), Parmelia saxatilis (foliose on stone/fence posts), Rhizocarpon geographicum - 'map' lichen (bright green on stone)

FLORA: Red Bartsia, Harebell, Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Devil's-bit Scabious, Black Knapweed, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Dove's-foot Crane's-bill, Marsh Pennywort, Marsh Lousewort, Lady's Bedstraw, Daisy, Meadow Buttercup, Lesser Spearwort, Ivy-leaved Crowfoot, English Stonecrop, Yellow Rattle, Mouse-ear sp., Hawkweed sp., Heather, Cross-leaved Heath, Bell Heather, Common Nettle, Germander Speedwell, Wild Thyme, Bog Myrtle, Common Spiked Rush, Perennial Rye Grass, Yorkshire Fog, Common Cottongrass, Silverweed, White Clover, Red Clover, Curled Dock, Carnation Sedge, Reed, Knotted Pearlwort

INSECTS: Peacock Butterfly, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Tacchina grossa, Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee), Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder Bee), Carabus sp., (Ground beetle), Eristalis arbustorum male (hoverfly)

Catriona demonstrates how to use the white inside a Common Spiked Rush as a wick - a lesson learned from Loch Tay crannog.

Tachina grossa

Eristalis arbustorum

Happy ramblers at Kintra.

Adder Bonanza at Loch Cam

Not just one, not two, not even three, but FIVE adders on our walk yesterday at Loch Cam. It's taken me till this morning to recover sufficiently to write about it! The young are slithering around freely now, so no doubt this is a good time to adder watch if you're an enthusiast, which I'm not. Still, we also saw lots of other things as follows:

BIRDS: Raven, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear, Wood Pigeon

FLORA: Bell Heather, Heather, Cross-leaved Heath, Grass of Parnassus, Red Bartsia, Meadow Vetchling, Purple Loosestrife, Round-leaved Sundew, Milkwort, Meadowsweet, Creeping Thistle, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Bracken, Redshank, Self-heal, Water Lily, Water Mint, White Clover, Red Clover, Eyebright, Daisy, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Common Hawkbit, Common Ragwort, Jointed Rush, Pineapple Mayweed, Marsh Bedstraw, Marsh Willowherb, Harebell, Yarrow, Cuckoo Flower, Lesser Spearwort, Common Rush, Bog Pimpernel, Common Cottongrass, Devil's-bit Scabious, Bog Asphodel, Oak, Black Knapweed

INSECTS AND SPIDERS: Black Darter, Emerald Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Four-spotted Chaser, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Common Darter, Small Copper, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White, Meadow Brown, Dark Green Fritillary, Bombus lucorum, Bombus pascuorum, Oiceoptoma thoracium (Red-breasted Carrion beetle), Green Tiger Beetle, Carabus glabratus, Garden Spider, Fox Moth caterpillars (hundreds)

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS: Common Toad, Common Frog, Adder

FUNGI AND LICHEN: Lichenomphalia umbellifera and lots of unknown species


Black Darter - Sympetrum danae
Garden spider - Araneus diadematus

Red-breasted Carrion beetle - Oiceoptoma thoracium

Common Toad - Bufo bufo

Adder - Vipera berus

Saturday 20 August 2011

Bumble Bee Blunder

Oops, how embarrassing! But no-one picked it up yet so it can't be that bad! The first bumble bee picture I posted is in fact NOT a bumble bee, but the hoverfly Eristalis intricarius. This is a large, furry hoverfly which resembles a bumble bee. Its colours are variable.

Eristalis intricarius.

Friday 19 August 2011

Flora and Fauna at Ardnave, 19th August 2011

It was a cold wind that blew this afternoon as 16 of us traipsed across the dunes at Ardnave. Undaunted by the harsh conditions (!) we soldiered on, finishing earlier than usual, but still with a great list. Thanks to Bob for bringing his 'scope and to all the eager eyes for their contributions.

Greylag Goose, Eider, Mute Swan, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Raven, Rook, Jackdaw, Hooded  Crow, Chough, Rock Dove, Buzzard, Merlin, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Starling, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Linnet, Twite, Wheatear

Grey Seal, Rabbit

Green-veined White, Dor Beetle, Leafhoppers, Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder Bee), Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee), Caddisfly sp.

Fungi sp., Physcia adscendens, Xanthoria parietina, Caloplaca flavescens (orange dots on stone)

Mouse-ear sp., Forget-me-not sp., Common Milkwort, Water Cress, Marsh Lousewort, Wild Thyme, Self-heal, Lesser Spearwort, Creeping Thistle, Spear Thistle, Marsh Marigold, Silverweed, White Clover, Red Clover, Daisy, Eyebright, Ragged Robin, Bog Pimpernel, Yorkshire Fog, Perennial Rye Grass, Foxtail, Common Spiked Rush, Jointed Rush, Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Common Storksbill, Marsh Willowherb, Marsh Bedstraw, Lady's Bedstraw, Water Mint, Common Nettle, Bracken, Common Hawkbit, Grass of Parnassus, Square-stalked St John's Wort, Sweet Vernal Grass, Knotted Pearlwort, Marsh Pennywort, Red Bartsia, Lesser Water-plantain, Harebell, Brooklime

Caddisfly sp.

Looking at lichen


Basking Sharks

We've not had many reports of Basking Sharks yet this year, but here's one from some visitors - received by email with thanks.

On our first visit to Islay, we saw two basking sharks in the channel between Port Wemyss and Orsay Island on Saturday 13th August 2011. Wonderful experience, wonderful place.
Jackson/Wodrich Family

Bumble Bee Foray

My latest thing is bumble bees but, despite the fact there's relatively few species found on Islay, I'm still finding it difficult to identify them! Yesterday I went for a bit of foray along the road to the Machrie Hotel. The verges abound with Black Knapweed and the air was full of the gentle buzzing of bees. I snapped away happily and managed to photograph two species of bumble bee. I've printed off some credit-card sized ID guides if anyone is interested or download from

Bombus pascuorum - Common Carder Bee

Male Bombus lucorum - White-tailed Bumble Bee

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Pond Dipping

It was pond dipping yesterday and it sounds like they had great fun.
Fiona writes:
A very good pond dipping activity today, 9 children, 2 families (visitors and locals), despite inclement weather. Some great catches, mainly from one lad who managed to catch two Greater Water Beetles and a fabulously sizeable Horse Leech which we had looping over our hands (see photos). Lots of water scorpions, greater water boatman, lesser water boatman, pond snails and right at the beginning a lovely little toad which was spotted before anyone trod on it!
We observed all the beetles and boatman breathing through their bottoms and baby leeches sticking to the white trays.
A very enjoyable afternoon with very enthusiastic youngsters.