Wednesday 30 November 2011

Bird Flight Diverter

Following the unfortunate deaths of a number of Whooper swans and other birds this autumn passage due to collision with overhead power cables, particularly where these cables cross arable fields sown with barley, Rop from SSE has brought me examples of three different 'Bird Flight Diverter' systems that he has had experience of on Islay. 
Rop believes that the most effective device is that shown on the left of the picture.  It can be attached to the cables without 'powering down', using a pole handled from the ground.  The clamp is powerful and very good at not moving down the wire once in place.  The connector between the white flight diverter and the black clamp assembly uses a swivel bearing which spins in wind speeds upwards of 3 or 4 knots.  This is not only an additional deterrent, it also lasts longer.  The other, simpler systems break relatively quickly. 
The yellow and buff patches on the white rectangle are made from a special luminous material that absorbs light, which improves the systems effectiveness at night for up to ten hours.
Rop is proposing to do a test installation between Sunderland and Rockside with these flight diverters in the next  couple of weeks and has invited me along to see what happens and take photographs.  The plan is to do an assessment of the numbers required and the locations where they need to be deployed.  We will of course keep you updated...

Monday 28 November 2011

The Rinns Lighthouse

Photographed this lunchtime with some amazing sunlight well to the south shining beneath lowering clouds. And for those who like some natural history in the photographs on this blog, I've included a single Herring Gull!

Sea Foam - James Deane

Three lovely shots from James of his daughter Amelie playing in sea foam at Saligo over the weekend. 

Wikipedia tells us - "Sea foam, ocean foam, beach foam, or spume is a type of foam created by the agitation of seawater, particularly when it contains higher concentrations of dissolved organic matter (including proteins, lignins, and lipids) derived from sources such as the offshore breakdown of algal blooms. These compounds can act as surfactants or foaming agents. As the seawater is churned by breaking waves in the surf zone adjacent to the shore, the presence of these surfactants under these turbulent conditions traps air, forming persistent bubbles which stick to each other through surface tension. Due to its low density and persistence, foam can be blown by strong on-shore winds from the beachface inland...."

INHT blog passes 100,000 page views

Pages on the INHT blog have now been viewed more than 100,000 times, which seems a very large number to us and one that we can be rather pround of!  A big thank you to more than 28,000 unique visitors to the site from 137 different countries...  Interestingly, it would appear that fewer than 60% of our visitors reside in the UK, so we really are reaching out across the world.

A particular thank you to all our contributors who have provided such eclectic reading and viewing since we started out in May 2010...

Carl Reavey

Sunday 27 November 2011

Stormy weather

There's a lot of weather about at the moment. In the last few days, we've had gales with gusts up to 60 mph, lightning and thunder, hail, heavy rain squalls, drizzle, mist, low cloud, and occasional bursts of sun, and so all the usual components of late autumn/early winter on Islay.
The sun broke through just now (Sunday pm) and produced this rainbow while close by yet another squall was passing over Bowmore.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Wet days are great for lichens!

Something to cheer us all up today; Martin sent me two lichen photos from Lochgilphead which reminded me that this wet stuff is appreciated by some living organisms, if not all. The first species is abundant on Islay, but I'm not sure of the second. Both species grow on trees annd the first one is also known as Lungwort (hence its scientific name). I wasn't sure sure of the identification of the second one so sent it to one of the lichenologists who were here in May. I paste his reply to my query here:

"both are Lobaria.
As you say, the first one is Lobaria pulmonaria.
The second is Lobaria scrobiculata. Usually it is more of a brown-grey colour, but when very damp it goes slate-blue, as in the photograph. The network of sharp ridges over the surface is, however, pretty much diagnostic (of this and L. pulmonaria).
In Lobaria pulmonaria, the algal partner is a green alga (Chlorophyta), and so the lichen remains green when wet.

In L. scrobiculata, the "algal" partner is a blue-green alga (Cyanobacteria), and the blue pigment shows through when the lichen is wet."

Thanks for sending the photos Martin!

Lobaria pulmonaria

Lobaria scrobiculata

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Barnacle Geese - Loch Indaal

The village of Bruichladdich is in the background

A brace of Grey-lags

The Grey-lag goose population on Islay has risen very considerably in recent years and they are increasingly being targeted by farmers trying to protect their crops.  We are now well into the shooting season for the species.  I understand that most Greylags are shot on Islay using rifles, which have a much greater range than shotguns.
These two are about to have their large breasts removed.  They will be marinaded and flash fried after being sliced very thinly.  Grey-lag breasts have much more fat on them than those from Barnacle geese.

Common Scoter displaying - George Jackson

Two unusual shots of Common Scoter displaying close to the shore in Loch Indaal by George Jackson.  many thanks George....

Easyfundraising for the INHT at Christmas

Hello everyone...

We hope that you will follow the link above and help raise funds for the Islay Natural History Trust while you are shopping on-line, at absolutely no cost to you.  When you click through Easyfundraising to a retailer's website and purchase something on-line then the retailer makes a small donation to  the Trust.  It really couldn't be easier. 
A large number of well-known retailers are part of the scheme, M&S, eBay, Vodafone, John Lewis, Boden, Groupon, Tesco, the National Lottery, GAP, Bank of Scotland  etc. etc etc.

Imagine how much more fun buying all those Christmas presents would be knowing that you are raising money for your favourite Natural History Trust...

Hope you can help...
Best regards
Carl Reavey

The incomparable Saligo Bay

Taken yesterday evening.  Yesterday was a lovely clear day.  Today is rather different...  :-(

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Loch Indaal Lighthouse and the Paps

It has been a while since I posted a gratuitous photo of my favourite view, so, as it was a nice day, I climbed off the bike for long enough to grab this snap - Carl  :-)

Walk by Torra River

This lovely fencepost made up for a distinct lack of bird life on a very boggy walk along the Torra River on Sunday - the highlight being an unexpected and tantalising glimpse of a Dipper flying upstream. With the lack of anything happening above our heads, and the need to watch where every footstep was going, all heads were down and we noticed this disgusting stuff. Is it poo/vomit/slime mould? Any ideas?

Squelchy stuff - 1

Squelchy stuff - 2 (with lovely Cladonia lichen)

Monday 21 November 2011

Jura Hills

Small Isles Bay on Jura from above Keils.  We saw lots of Red deer up here, and even more when we were travelling to and from the ferry at Feolin after dark when herds appeared to be feeding on seaweeds on the shoreline.

There were, as ever, plenty of the ubiquitous Fox moth caterpillars

Cemetery at Keils on Jura

The cemetery outside Craighouse near the crofting community of Keils has graves dating back to the medieval period right through to the present day.  The 'building' in the centre of the picture is a Campbell mausoleum.

This is a Medieval grave slab

Ragwort was still flowering, just, next to the burn flowing past the cemetery.  There was no sign here either of the Grey wagtails that used to grace these burns.  I have not seen a Grey wagtail on Islay or Jura since the big freeze last winter.

Human effluent on remote Jura beaches

The amount of human detritus on the Jura beaches and the associated littoral was depressing.  The vast majority of it would presumably have been washed up from the sea.

The island of Jura

Corran Sands on the island of Jura yesterday
Large amounts of kelp had been thwon up onto the beach at Corran Sands, which was full of flies and other small invertebrates.  These were being fed on by small parties of waders such as these Ringed plover and Dunlin, but also large numbers of Rock pipits.

Thursday 17 November 2011


Crystal Maw's talk last night was disgustingly brilliant. It was the stuff horror movies are made of, but we all relished every moment as we watched  tiny creatures demolishing life forms twenty times their size. These diminutive animals may have tiny brains, but they sure are clever and the way they care for their young is amazing.

Crystal encouraged us to take a look at the charity Bug Life and specifically to get involved in the Oil Beetle Survey on Islay. These creatures may turn up on Islay, having hitched a ride from a bee, so take a look and think about getting involved.

Thanks Crystal for a wonderful talk (I for one didn't have any nightmares - yet!)


Foliose Lichens

It's one of those days again and I thought I'd rummage through my lichen photos to bring you more lichen joy!

These are foliose lichens - that means they can be peeled from their substrate (although obviously we would never do that!) and they're kind of leafy. I'm pretty sure of the identification of all of them, but am prepared to be corrected . . . Just look at the different colours!

Anaptychia runcinata - This beautiful bronze-coloured lichen turns green when wet.

On a stone at Ardnave - Physcia adscendens (white) amongst Xanthoria parietina (yellow). This beautiful lichen has 'eyelashes' or cilia visible through a hand lens. The Xanthoria is plentiful round Islay's coasts.

Physconia distorta (I think) with Physcia adscendens - on fence at Gruinart

Melanelixia subaurifera (I think) - same fence at Gruinart

Monday 14 November 2011

Dogfish and Fox Moth Caterpillar - Nyree Fearnley

Lesser Spotted Dogfish

Fox Moth Caterpillar
Thanks to Nyree Fearnley for these shots taken while on holiday to Islay recently...

Sunday 13 November 2011

Moths in November

Having not run the moth trap once in October - high winds and especially lots of rain are not conducive to trapping - I did so last night and caught a grand total of 2 moths. The first one is a Turnip Moth, the first record since 1983 - there were also records in 1972 and 1973 - and it wouldn't sit still to be photographed hence the slight blurring. The second one is a plume moth of which there are several different species. I am reasonably confident this one is Emmelina monodactyla which doesn't have a vernacular name. I've asked an expert to confirm it for me and to let me know if he knows of past Islay records. [Later: the species is confirmed and it appears it may be an Islay first.] As it is common and widespread in Britain, it is slightly surprising it hasn't been recorded here before.
Turnip Moth

Plume moth Emmelina monodactyla

Thursday 10 November 2011

Crustose Lichens

With a broken camera and not much sunshine (except for today when I was tidying my shed!) I decided it was time to post some lichen photos on here. During the nature rambles this year I found myself almost apologising for diverting everyone from the bigger, more 'in your face' flora and fauna in order to study the unassuming but bountiful lichens adorning fenceposts, boulders and stone walls. To my delight I discovered that, far from being bored, most people actually seemed to thoroughly enjoy this diversion (either that or they were good at feigning an interest!) Now I am far from being an expert, but I'm going to post some crustose lichen photos here. These are the type that are kind of 'glued' to their substrate.
Haematomma ochroleucum (with immature red apothecia (fruiting bodies)

Rhizocarpon reductum

Lecanora campestris

Ochrolechia parella or 'Fish-eye' Lichen

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Whooper Swans At Cruach - Dave Protherough

Or more properly Dave's Mum and Dad were here a couple of weeks ago and took this top sequence of  our largest passage migrants feeding near Cruach.  Many thanks to them for these lovely shots...

Monday 7 November 2011

Short-eared owls in the North Sea - Neil Brown

These amazing pictures of Short-eared owls were taken on the Helideck of Diving support vessel Rockwater 1 in Dutch sector of North sea by Neil Brown of Port Charlotte.  They have been feeding on the numbers of small birds which also inhabit the ship...  Many thanks Neil....

We believe they are all Short eared, although they do have very long ear-tufts.  Long eared owls have orange eyes (Short eared have yellow...).  The tufts on Long eared are also set wider apart.  The smaller birds are probably males.