Thursday 29 September 2011

Last day at Centre and Butterfly Competition Winner

Today is my last day at the Centre for this season. I've really enjoyed working here again this year and always feel a bit sad when we release the sea creatures. I wish to announce the winner of the butterfly (adults) competition. Fanfare!!!!!!! The winner is ............ Martin Collinson. Congratulations Martin. Well done also to the other all-correct entries: Melinda Bell and Mark and Sally Johnson. Everyone else did really well too, so well done to Hazel Rose, the Lawson family, Jeny Waitt, Trevor and Gill Guy, Shirley White, Mark Nelson and Lorna Williamson, Mike Drew, John Bubbers and Elaine Richardson. Better luck next time!

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Gordon Langsbury FRPS

Many of us will be saddened to hear of the sudden passing of the photographer Gordon Langsbury FRPS, who has been a great friend of the Trust over many years.  He is pictured here on the Islay stand at the recent Birdfair in Rutland Water with Paul Watchorn. 

Malcolm Ogilvie, Gordon's great friend and co-author of the book 'Birds of Islay - a Celebration in Photographs' is currently out of the country but I am sure he will wish to pay tribute to Gordon on his return.
Carl Reavey

Mute Swan - James Deane

Three lovely shots of a Mute swan in flight from the archives of James Deane - Thanks James!!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Bulrush - Typha latifolia

A gloomy picture of Bulrushes taken on the Bridgend Merse this evening.  Apparently archaeology suggests their roots are edible and were eaten, but I believe even Ray Mears has had difficulty proving this a practical proposition in the real world.  Also known as Reedmace or Cattails.

The old clearance village of Olistadh

We took a group of Port Charlotte Primary P6 and P7 pupils up to the old clearance village of Olistadh this morning.  It is about a mile from the Kilchiaran road and accessed along a forestry track.  We had an interesting time imagining what it must have been like to live up there.

The village was probably abandoned as a settlement when Port Charlotte was built in 1829.

Deer at Dawn over Loch Indaal - Les Wilson

Thanks to Les for this shot taken on his phone early in the morning as he was walking back to Port Charlotte from Bruichladdich. 

Getting the image off the phone at a decent resolution has proved beyond our combined technological expertise thus far, so I thought it best to post this blown up postage-stamp sized version just in case it never happens.  It is a great shot.  Les said that he could see the deer moving along the coastline, and hoped that they would move into the perfect position if he waited a while - which they duly did.  Nice one.  I will re-post at a decent resolution if we ever get it sorted....

Monday 26 September 2011

Milly Duncan is our Butterfly Winner!

Congratulations to Milly Duncan of Glasgow, aged 7, who has won our Design a Butterfly Competition. Fiona found the task of judging very difficult as we have had some beautiful, imaginative entries. Well done to everyone who entered. We hope you had fun designing your butterflies. Milly has won one of Green Bug Production's excellent activity packs. Well done Milly! Here is her winning entry. To see all the entries, why not pop in to the Centre this week? We close for the season on Friday 30th September at 1 pm.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Seaweed as fertiliser

Duncan McGillivray was on the beach at Blackrock at first light yesterday, grapeing seaweed that has piled up after the recent stormy weather.

The box on the back of Duncan's Massey Ferguson (an old 1960's machine that he restored himself) holds about two tons.  Any more and the front wheels come off the ground....

The seaweed is destined for the Islay House Community Garden at Bridgend for use as fertiliser.  Duncan has delivered about 15 tons so far....

It will be barrowed onto the potato patch and dug in...  Best potatoes in the world next year...

Friday 23 September 2011

Flora and Fauna at Ardnave, 23rd September 2011

The rain held off for the six of us this afternoon at Ardnave. Most of the wild flowers have now finished, but fungi is springing up all over the place and the waders are passing through.The highlight today was the flock of Wigeon that landed on Loch Gruinart just as we left to walk back to the cars. We also saw a flock of about 20 Ravens flying low over the Loch. Thanks for everyone's contributions. Next Monday will be our last ramble for the season, so join us if you can at Kintra (booking required).

Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Raven, Meadow Pipit, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Rock Dove, Starling


Xanthoria parietina (yellow foliose), Anaptychia runsinata (Brown foliose turning green when wet), Ramalina sp. (grey/green fruitose), Lecanora sp (crustose with black 'jam tarts'), Physcia adscendens (with 'eyelashes'), Caloplaca flavescens (orange with 'fingers'), Ochrolechia parella or Fish-eye Lichen (white crustose with 'dents' in apothecia (fruiting bodies))

Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumble Bee), Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder Bee), Unknown tiny black bug, Leafhopper, Froghopper

Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Common Storksbill, Jointed Rush, Common Spiked Rush, Daisy, Dandelion, Hawkweed sp., Ragged Robin, Grass of Parnassus, Lady's Bedstraw, Devil's-bit Scabious, Marsh Lousewort, Water Mint, Water Cress, Mouse-ear sp., Chickweed, Forget-me-not, Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), Common Nettle, Spear Thistle, Marsh Thistle, Self-heal, Lesser Spearwort, Silverweed, Red Clover, White Clover, Prickly Sow Thistle, Red Bartsia

Prickly Sow Thistle - Sonchus asper

Watching the poor White-tailed Bumble Bee cling to a Scabious

Red Bartsia - Odontites vernus

Thursday 22 September 2011

Biological records database updated

David Redshaw has kindly undertaken a major update of our Biological Records Database with new records supplied from a variety of sources. Most species groups now have more records, some of them considerably more. David has helpfully added totals to the species groups, so that we now know we have no less than 98,994 bird records and 8,785 records of moths and butterflies. New, or greatly enlarged, groups include beetles (59 records), freshwater fish (196) and spiders (648).
So, click on the link above and you'll now find a significantly larger number of records to browse than before. A further update, including records of birds, butterflies, plants and animals from 2011, will follow hopefully next month.
Thanks to David, but thanks also to all the very many people who contribute their records, our knowledge of Islay, Jura and Colonsay wildlife continues to grow apace.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

SNH publishes new reports on the effect of beavers on woodland and fish

Two new reports on the Scottish Beaver Trial in Argyll, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), show that beavers are changing some of the woodland structure but so far having little effect on fish in streams.

Beavers were reintroduced to Knapdale forest near Lochgilphead in May 2009 as part of a five year scientific trial run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, hosted by Forestry Commission Scotland. After an absence of more than 400 years, the effects of beavers on the environment are being closely monitored by SNH in partnership with a number of other independent organisations. The reports will help inform future decisions on whether the European beaver should be permanently reintroduced to Scotland.

The woodland monitoring has been carried out by The James Hutton Institute, who surveyed land around the edges of the lochs where the beavers live. Nearly a year and a half after their release, about 10% of trees in the survey area were showing signs of beaver activity. Most of these had been felled, with many trees also showing signs of gnawing. As well as feeding on bark, twigs, shoots and leaves, beavers use felled trees and branches for building their lodges and dams and store them underwater for food in the winter. Beaver activity is concentrated in particular areas – the majority of trees affected (72%) were within 10 metres of lochs and streams, with the most intensive felling within 350 metres of beaver lodges.

The average size of trees gnawed or felled was 5cm across, but beavers often felled much bigger trees. Most were less than 20cm in diameter but a few were up to 30cm.

Results to date show that beavers are showing a strong preference for willow and rowan, and that they avoid alder. One striking observation was that beavers will travel a distance from the water’s edge to find willow. Other trees at Knapdale are used in proportion to their availability. Birch is one most often used by beavers but this is because it is the most commonly found tree in the survey area.

However, most trees will not die when they’re felled by the beavers. Of the trees affected, new growth had already been found on 44% of stumps and partially-felled trees. Trees which have been felled later on in the summer may not start to regrow until the following spring.

As well as their effect on trees around the lochs, an area of woodland has been flooded by a beaver dam at Dubh Loch. While the willow and alder may survive, other species may die but remain standing as dead wood for some time. Ultimately this particular area may change to very wet willow woodland or even wetland.

The second report, produced by the Argyll Fisheries Trust, showed that so far beavers are having little observable effect on freshwater fish in streams in the trial area. This is because beavers aren’t using streams as much as might have been expected - most beaver activity is taking place on the lochs. However this may change as the beaver numbers increase. The streams will continue to be monitored and the fish and fish habitat in some of the lochs will also be studied.

The fish species found in the survey include brown trout, European eel, stickleback and flounder. Minnow were also found. They are probably not native to this region of Scotland but are likely to have been brought in by anglers, using them as bait.

Martin Gaywood, who leads the independent scientific monitoring of the trial for SNH said: “These annual reports are vital to the beaver trial, because they’ll show us how beavers influence the environment in and around these lochs. Beavers have complex effects on other wildlife, and measuring these changes is essential. This trial will give the Scottish Government the information it needs to decide whether beavers should be reintroduced on a wide-scale in Scotland.”

Photo: -

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Taking pictures in the rain is quite tricky

I am sure everybody is bored looking at nice sunny pictures of Islay, so I have determined to try posting a few grey rainy ones.  Taking pictures in the rain is actually quite tricky for a number of reasons.  We will have to see how the project develops...  :-)

A flight of Teal got up from Smelly Corner at Carnain this evening as I stopped the bike to put my wholly ineffective raincoat on.  A couple of minutes after this picture was taken your correspondent was absolutely soaked...  The showers were mixed in with a few brighter spells and the odd rainbow, but shots of those would be too cheerful for this posting so they will have to wait for another day...

BBC Autumnwatch to visit Islay

Back in May/June 2007, BBC Springwatch was broadcast from Islay over a period of three weeks, bringing marvellous wildlife film not to mention the island's scenery to the watching millions. There was a marked and very welcome boost in visitor numbers later that summer and the following year(s) as a result.
This year, Islay will feature in the series of weekly Autumnwatch programmes being shown in October and November. The format will have the programme's presenters, Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan, based at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, but each week there will be film (edited rather than live) from different wildlife meccas around the country. Islay should appear in early November (probably Friday 4th), with the wildlife cameramen and recordists on the island the week before. "Targets" include the masses of geese (shouldn't be too difficult!), the assemblages of the great variety of wildfowl and waders that live on the RSPB's Loch Gruinart Reserve and in Loch Indaal, the flocks of linnets and twite that the RSPB feed with birdseed crops at their Oa Reserve and, quite probably, the Merlins that regularly make these finch flocks their feeding stations, and (of course) otters.
Three researchers were on the island last week making contacts and checking out possible locations and wildlife to film. I suggested to them that they might like to include film of our House Sparrows. I had over 70 at my bird table last winter - there can't be many places in England that can achieve that!
Keep an eye on the Autumnwatch website: And let's hope for some of the fabulous weather that made Springwatch here such a terrific success - not least in comparison with the rain-soaked presenters (and wildlife) broadcasting at the time from the Devon HQ!

Saturday 17 September 2011

Barley Harvest at Rockside Farm

There was a short window of good weather on Thursday which allowed a start on the barley harvest on some of Islay's farms.  These pictures were taken at Rockside near Kilchoman.  It poured with rain again yesterday though which stopped the work.  Many fields are still too soft to take the combine harvester, and in any case the crop is not fully ripened in some....

Birds in the Barley Crop

Starlings and Rock Doves

Grey-lag geese.  Note the, probably feral, bird with a white neck.

There has been a large increase in the Grey-lag population in recent years.

The wild bird population is helping itself to a large proportion of the barley crop on Islay as the farmers wait for the right conditions to bring in the harvest.  Much of the barley is being grown for Bruichladdich Distillery.  Growing grain crops is always going to be a marginal, high-risk activity on Islay.  Seed cannot be sown until late in the spring because of the geese.  This means the crop ripens late and faces difficult weather - and these days even more geese...  Red deer are also doing significnat damage.  They come down at night to feed from the forestry plantations where they hide out during the day.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Otter at Bunnahabhain

Thanks to James Deane for sending us these three lovely shots of an otter at Bunnahabhain.  They were taken by James' friend Paul Murphy who is visiting Islay...

Hedgehog at An Gleann

Thanks to Jane Mitchell for sending us these pictures of a young hedgehog, originally posted on Facebook under the title '101 things to do with Bruichladdich boxes'.  Jane says the hedgehog weighs just eight ounces and will need looking after if it is to make it through the winter.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Please help raise funds for the Trust

Another appeal for supporters of the Trust to help us raise funds at no cost to yourselves....

All you have to do is register at the easyfundraising site via the link below, and then remember to click on it before you buy anything at on-line retailers such as Amazon, or Ebay or John Lewis etc.  The retailers then make a small donation from the purchase price to the charity of your choice, which in this case we hope you will nominate as the Islay Natural History Trust.

It really is very easy.  At the moment we have a Magnificent Seven who have signed up.  I really hope we can add to this total before long...

Thanks for your help - Carl...

Cattle on the Strand at Blackrock

It seems like an eternity since we had a decent day to celebrate.  Even these cattle were looking relieved as I pedalled home this evening...

Next event at the Natural History Centre

This will be Mick Durham's third presentation here and well worth seeing. Check out his website at

Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Found in my peanut bin at Lorgba in Port Charlotte this morning when I went to fill up my feeders...

Monday 12 September 2011


I posted a photograph of a Red Admiral in my garden a couple of weeks ago. They remain very scarce but here's another one taken on Saturday on the Michaelmas daisies, joined by a Peacock.

Friday 9 September 2011

Flora and Fauna at Kintra 9th September, 2011

Yes, it was miserable this morning, but thankfully by the afternoon we had a glimpse of celestial yellow stuff for the ramble at Kintra. Didn't mean we didn't get VERY muddy! It was the third ramble for the three ramblers from down south and they've also joined Craig on Colonsay and Mark on Islay for the RSPB walks so, by now, they were reeling off the names of all the flowers and birds themselves! Goldcrest is a new one for our rambles list. Thanks Carol, Sandy and Phil. Here's our list!

Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Starling, Hooded Crow, Chough, Raven, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Grey Heron, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Swallow, Common Gull, Cormorant, Eider Duck, Red-throated Diver, Greylag Goose, Gannet

Red Waxcap, Yellow Waxcap, Clavulinopsis luteo-alba, lots of unknown species, Peltigera membranacea (Dog lichen)

Green-veined White, Emerald Damselfly (female), Red Admiral, Bombus pascuorum (Common Carder Bee), Common Hawker, Cranefly, Grasshopper sp.

Common Toad

Lady's Bedstraw, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Red Bartsia, Red Clover, White Clover, Ivy-leaved Crowfoot, Sheep Sorrel, Eyebright, Self-heal, Marsh Marigold, Flag Iris, Common Reed, Common Spiked Rush, Jointed Rush, Heather, Cross-leaved Heath, Bell Heather, Bog Pimpernel, Devil's-bit Scabious, Harebell, Daisy, Hawkweed sp., Marsh Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Spear Thistle, Tormentil, Meadow Buttercup, Lesser Spearwort, Silverweed, Mouse-ear sp., Ragged Robin, Common Cottongrass, Bog Asphodel, Bog Myrtle, Yellow Rattle, Yarrow, Marsh Pennywort, Common Nettle, Milkwort, Yorkshire Fog, Marsh Willowherb

Grasshopper - any ideas which species?

Clavulinopsis luteo-alba (I think!)

A little yellow is needed in our lives this morning.

Looking out of the window, I feel that I need to add a little yellow to my life this morning.  The view seems a little short of what is perhaps the cheeriest of colours...   I have therefore posted this picture of a field of Charlock taken up near Killinallan last weekend....

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Bumble Bee nest - Bombus lucorum

Alistair MacCormick of Craigens sent us this photo of a bumble bee nest he found in his garden. I'm pretty sure they're Bombus Lucorum - White-tailed Bumble Bees. Thanks, Alistair!

Fox Moth

These caterpillars are abundant in rough grassland at the moment...

Agaricus arvensis - The Horse Mushroom

I think these are Agaricus arvensis, the Horse mushroom, up beyond Killinallan.  They were really large - as are the boots in the picture...

Monday 5 September 2011

Flora and Fauna at Ardnave, 5th September 2011

Low on numbers today (only 4 of us), but still an enjoyable ramble, enhanced by the sunshine which came out the minute we'd all donned waterproofs for the brief shower! We took a left, instead of a right, turn once at the coast, just for a change and here's our list:

Chough, Hooded Crow, Raven, Mute Swan, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Linnet, Pied Wagtail (and White), Common Gull, Sand Martin, Starling

Physcia adscendens, Xanthoria parietina, Ramalina sp., Verrucaria maura and lots of other species; Red Waxcap, Yellow Waxcap and several other species.

Grey Seal, Rabbit

Orb Weaver Spider (in its silken home), Daddy-long-legs

Flat Periwinkle, Dog Whelk, Common Periwinkle, Common Cockle, Common Mussel, Purple Topshell, Turban Shell, Pfeiffer's Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans)

Lesser Water Plantain, Harebell, Daisy, Dandelion, Hawkweed sp., Mouse-ear sp., Forget-me-not sp., Water Cress, Water Mint, Grass of Parnassus, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Common Storksbill, Lesser Spearwort, Eyebright, Wild Thyme, Yarrow, Brooklime, Marsh Lousewort, Marsh Willowherb, Groundsel, Knotted Pearlwort, Square-stalked St John's Wort, Marram Grass, Self-heal, Creeping Thistle, Spear Thistle, Silverweed, Perennial Rye Grass, Yorkshire Fog, White Clover, Red Clover, Ragged Robin, Common Spiked Rush, Jointed Rush, Lady's Bedstraw, Lesser Meadow Rue, Common Nettle, Bracken, Marsh Pennywort, Flag Iris, Curled Dock

Although on coastal rock, this is a land, rather than a marine snail, not sure of species though.
Pfeiffer's Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans)


Here's a brief video Andy shot on one of his dives around Port Askaig recently. I've certainly never seen a Scallop swim before, so I think it's pretty cool. Apparently Scallops have 100 eyes, and swim by rapidly opening and closing their shells. They take some spotting too, as they will partially submerge themselves on the seabed.. The photo below shows one in hiding, just to the right of the big Sun star. Thanks again to Andy Ferrier!

Seashell Workshop

Fiona MacGillivray provided an excellent seashell workshop at the Centre yesterday afternoon. She gave a very informative talk about the seashells of Islay (she has found 110 species on our shores), providing easy (ish) tips of how to distinguish between similar species. Fiona had brought with her an impressive display of all her finds, all labelled, and we were able to look at them closely through the hand lens and microscopes. Sybil couldn't wait to get into the laboratory to find her own stuff so we sifted through some sand and gravel to find some tiny specimens of nut shells, trough shells and needle whelks. Thanks Fiona for making seashell identification more accessible. We look forward to the book!

Fiona's sketches of the underside of various bivalves

Part of the bivalve display

Sybil was first in the queue for the 'hands-on' activity

Sunday 4 September 2011

Sea trout leaping up waterfall in Gortantaoid River

There were much larger fish jumping too - probably salmon.  Tricky to photograph though...

Saturday 3 September 2011

Know your Anemone.

More of Andy Ferrier's underwater pictures, taken in the clear waters of the Sound of Islay. Here's some of the Sea anemones that are about down there.  Anyone know what they are?

The sea bed in this last shot seems to contain a huge amount of broken coral fragments