Tuesday 31 January 2012

American Monument - Niall Colthart

Another impressive shot from Niall. The orange glow is Port Ellen.

Monday 30 January 2012

Tour of Entomology Stores at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

Glasgow Museums are organizing a number of specialist Natural History tours of the Glasgow Museum Store at GMRC. Amongst these is a tour of the entomology stores that will be lead by Jeanne Robinson, the curator of entomology. The tour is free but please contact Jeanne to book your place!

Specialist Natural History Tour: Little Marvels. 6th of March 2012
Come and glimpse behind the scenes at Glasgow Museums fabulous insect collection. Like in the wild, most of our 200,000 insects are hidden away rather than on public display. Come and marvel at the worlds most diverse groups of animals. See species from around the globe, from the extinct to common and from the bizarre to the beautiful. Find out about the people who collected them and see the tools of their trade.

Time: 14:30 -15:30
Place: GMRC (Glasgow Museums Resource Centre)
200 Woodhead Road, South Nitshill Industrial Estate, G53 7NN

It is FREE to visit GMRC and tour our stores, but all visits must be booked in advance. To book contact:

Tel: 0141 276 9300GMRCbookings@glasgowlife.org.uk
See http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/collections-research/online-collections-navigator/Pages/home.aspx for an introduction to their insect collections

See http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/glasgow-museum-resource-centre/Pages/default.aspx for further details about the museum store

Sunday 29 January 2012

Onyx at Bruichladdich pier

The fuel tanker 'Onyx' at Bruichladdich pier last week.

Dawn from Port Charlotte yesterday

Spectacular - however, about half an hour after this picture was taken the rain started - and I don't think it has stopped since....  Carl

Saturday 28 January 2012


Jura was snow capped yesterday, with the evening light illuminating the Paps for a few brief minutes.  All very attractive.  Carl

Friday 27 January 2012

White-winged gull update

The Iceland Gull total looks to be a minimum of 36 (just 5 adults) with a possible maximum of 49, but c.35-40 birds seems "about right"
The Glaucous Gull total is 20 minimum (6 adults) with possible maximum of c.25 birds.

Peter Roberts

Port Charlotte from Laggan - Peter Roberts

Thanks to Peter for this unusual shot of an undervisited part of the island.  The muddy field on the right of the picture held a flock of 51 Ringed plover and two Iceland gulls. 

Wednesday 25 January 2012

New Highland Approach to Rhododendron Control

Scottish Agricultural College News Release  - 25th January, 2012.
Event: Rhododendron & Gorse Management Workshops.
Date: Tuesday 7th February Wednesday 8th February, 2012.
Location: Tayinloan Village Hall, Kintyre; Luss Village Hall, Luss.

The march of Rhododendron ponticum across Scotland has been well documented. Over the years the exotic shrub, imported by plant hunters for country house collections, has escaped and spread. According to local SAC Conservation Consultant Helen Bibby, in many areas of Argyll it has become a major issue for farmers and land managers. “Rhododendron infestations can be very severe in some areas smothering all native vegetation over large areas, preventing access, destroying local biodiversity and limiting grazing”.
Now SAC is running two, practical, on farm workshops, one at Tayinloan and one in Luss, to explain the latest thinking on the options to control this very invasive shrub and the grant aid available. They include a new, environmentally friendly technique developed in the Highlands. Both events are funded by the Scottish Government as part of its Biodiversity and Conservation Advisory Activity.
The normal method of rhododendron control involves cutting the bush, burning the brash, and spraying the re growth. However there is an alternative “Lever and Mulch” method, of control, developed in the Highlands by Gordon French and Donald Kennedy of Morvern Community Woodlands.
It involves systematically dismantling the bush using nothing more than hammer, saw, body weight and various techniques. Most plants are uprooted, but any root crowns left in the ground are macerated with a hammer before being mulched with leaves and brash. It means no fires are needed and no herbicides required during the follow up period as re growth is very limited. This ensures the site recovers more quickly. It is a method that has been used with promising results on a number of sites and is now a recognised as appropriate for grant aid.
The first free meeting will be from 11.00am to 3.00 pm in Tayinloan Village Hall, Kintyre and then on Wednesday 8th February in Luss Village Hall between 12.45 and 4.25 pm. Those wishing to attend should come prepared for a local site visit.
Anyone interested in attending should contact Campbeltown SAC office (Kintyre) Tel 01586 552502 or Stirling SAC office Tel 01786 450964.
This event is funded by the Scottish Government as part of its Biodiversity and Conservation Advisory Activity.

Ken Rundle | Senior Communications Officer
SAC (Scottish Agricultural College)
0131 535 4196 
0771 007 9401
ken.rundle@sac.co.uk | www.sac.ac.uk/press

Sunrise over Loch Indaal this morning

Tuesday 24 January 2012

'Scotland’s health and prosperity depend on the quality of our nature and landscapes' - Andrew Thin of SNH

Scotland’s natural environment should be valued not just for its own sake, but because it generates wealth and can sustain and improve our health, lifestyles and culture.
This is the ambition outlined in a new three-year corporate strategy published this week by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
The strategy’s aims include encouraging more people to experience, enjoy and value nature and landscapes, and for the natural environment to contribute more to the Scottish economy.
Priorities include helping to halt biodiversity loss in Scotland, using nature more to help adapt to the effects of climate change, and providing valuable advice for the developing renewable energy sector.
SNH will also support the Scottish Government in marine planning and identification of Marine Protected Areas to improve environmental quality and guide decision-making for marine development.
Protected places will maintain and enhance Scotland’s best nature and landscapes, and deliver wider benefits for the local economy, jobs and tourism.
Other priorities in the document include effective and balanced wildlife management and supporting Scotland’s Land Use Strategy, as well as advising on the Common Agricultural Policy reform and renewal of the Scotland Rural Development Programme.
The strategy emphasises that all of this depends on SNH working closely with others. These include national and local government, MSPs, national park authorities and other public bodies. Relationships with land managers, businesses, voluntary organisations, community groups and individuals are also crucial.
Andrew Thin, SNH chairman, said: “Scotland’s health and prosperity depend on the quality of our nature and landscapes. It is crucial that we use this resource wisely and make sure we secure maximum public benefits from it in a sustainable way. The strategy sets out how SNH, as part of a smaller public sector, will work with others to deliver the Government’s outcomes.”
The SNH corporate strategy is available from the organisation’s website at http://www.snh.gov.uk/about-snh/what-we-do/strategy-and-priorities-2012--2015/

Iceland and Glaucous Gulls on Islay January 2012 - Peter Roberts

Iceland Gull And Glaucous Gull Sightings On Islay In January 2012
Since the severe storms in early January there has been an exceptional influx into the NW of the UK of “white-winged gulls”. Early estimates for Argyll suggest 96 Iceland and 36 Glaucous Gulls plus a scattering of Kumlien’s race of Iceland. Reports of national numbers suggest a conservative figure of 600 Iceland Gulls and 180 Glaucous Gulls – mostly in the NW of UK, especially Scotland. But these are early days, and if anyone manages to collate final UK data this figure may be much higher.
Apart from many individual and random sightings from observers resident on Islay, there were more concerted efforts to census numbers of both species from experienced and reliable birders visiting the island at the time. This has resulted in a mass of records over the middle two weeks of January.
 Birds have generally been “faithful” to location and seen in the same sites (including inland fields as well as coastal sites) over several days or more.
 The (data suggests) a minimum count of 31 Iceland Gulls (with) a possible maximum count of 45 individuals, though some records are quite likely to be of birds moving from one location to another. However there could well be 35-40 birds involved?
The (data suggests) a minimum count of 17 Glaucous Gulls (with) a possible maximum of 23 individuals is possible if all sightings were of different birds – though this figure seems unlikely.

Peter Roberts

Sunday 22 January 2012

Larus hyperboreus

Glaucous Gulls - Larus hyperboreus
I finally caught up with the two Glaucous Gulls at Uiskentuie this morning. Yippee!

For Christmas I got many wonderful books including one on lichens which I've yet to inflict on this blog, oops, I mean which I've yet to use to impart knowledge and joy to followers of this blog! Another was one which I shared some time ago - Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. This is a wonderful volume and I decided to look up the scientific names of our recent white-winged gull visitors. I discovered that Larus, the family name, means rapacious seabird (usually a gull).

Larus hyperboreus translates as 'rapacious seabird of northern parts'. (Huperboreoi is Greek for people of the extreme north.)

Larus glaucoides (Iceland Gull) translates as 'rapacious seabird of  blue-grey likeness.' Surely this would be a more appropriate name for the Glaucous Gull. Its English name is also a bit of a misnomer, given that this gull breeds in Greenland and northern Canada, but not Iceland!

Friday 20 January 2012

Another fencepost

I liked this fencepost at Laggan because it had heather growing out the top of it!

Thursday 19 January 2012

Port Charlotte beach this morning.

Wild snowdrops?

The snowdrops now adorning the banks of the burn in Port Charlotte are an altogether daintier version of the flower than those in my garden, or, I would suggest, in Bridgend Woods.  Carl


Daffodil bulbs pushing up through the moss that passes for our lawn at Lorgba in Port Charlotte.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Big Garden Birdwatch

"Around The World In 60 Minutes" - George Jackson - Thursday 19th January

George has travelled widely since he retired from farming at Coultorsay and is going to give us an illustrated talk from his visits to places such as Spitzbergen, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya and the Pacific.

The talk (at the INHT Wildlife Centre in Port Charlotte) will start at 7.30.  There is a charge of £2.50 for non-members with members FOC.  We hope to see you there.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Road casualty - Male Merlin

Jan found the body of this unfortunate male Merlin next to the road just outside Port Charlotte this afternoon.  We presume it had been hit by a vehicle.

Brent Geese

This little party of Light-belled Brent Geese were on the shore in front of my house this afternoon. It's not the best of photographs, but it is clear enough to demonstrate how you tell first-year birds from adults! The youngsters have narrow white edgings on their wings, which the adults lack. When they first arrive in the autumn, the youngsters also lack the white "collar" on the neck, but it soon appears, as it has done on these birds. So, from left to right: young, young, young, adult, young, adult, adult, young.

Early Primroses

Fiona MacGillivray sent me this photo of a Primrose which she saw last week in Gruinart Wood. As she remarked, it is incredibly early for these spring flowers - a sign of the mild weather we've had this winter.

Saturday 14 January 2012

85 Lapwings over Kilchoman Churchyard

The skies above Kilchoman Churchyard were full of birds this afternoon with flocks of Choughs, Jackdaws, Rock Doves and a couple of Buzzards sharing airspace with this flock of around 85 Lapwings.

The Kildalton Cross - Niall Colthart

Niall was out last night and has sent us this glorious shot of the Kildalton Cross.  Many congratulations to him - a remarkable picture.

Friday 13 January 2012


Shorefield Bullocks between Port Ban and Bruichladdich this morning

Ewes on Uiskentuie Strand this morning

High Pressure

Port Charlotte this morning
We have the prospect of a week with a high pressure system sitting over the UK.  That could mean days without rain on Islay.  Or perhaps that is being too optimistic?

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Iceland Gull

Happy new year everyone! It's been a while since my last post as I've been away and missed all the spectactular hurricanes on Islay. Just as the phone rang yesterday afternoon, this gull landed on the grass outside my window (and I've just checked and it's there again as I'm typing this). I had to hurry up my caller (Tracy from SNH) so I could go and take a photo. I have it on good authority that it's an Iceland Gull, although I know Carl saw a Glaucous Gull earlier in the year.

New Scottish code for deer management

A new Scottish deer code comes into effect this month, with a focus on cooperative and voluntary deer management across the country. The code, developed by Scottish Natural Heritage, is aimed at anyone involved in deer management, including lowland tenant farmers, recreational stalkers, crofters and upland deer managers.
As part of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (WANE) bill passed by the Scottish Government, the deer code sets out how those who have deer on their land can deliver sustainable deer management. The code puts new responsibilities on land managers and helps to identify what they must, should or could do to manage deer.
Alastair MacGugan, SNH’s wildlife management manager, said: “Wild deer are an important part of Scotland’s ecology, economy and culture. Deer are managed in certain parts of Scotland to protect crops, trees and protected natural areas, as well as to reduce road accidents. Deer stalking also provides an important source of income to many fragile rural economies throughout Scotland. Balancing these different objectives is sometimes a challenge, so the aim of the code is to provide guidance to land managers and their neighbours on how to co-operatively manage deer.”
The deer code supports voluntary deer management, but also sets out when and how SNH may become involved. Previously, SNH authority was confined to taking action when deer were causing damage to the environment. This has now been widened to include powers to take action when deer welfare is involved, or when there is damage caused by deer to social and economic activities.
SNH developed the code with input from a range of organisations and people involved in land management.
For more information, see www.snh.gov.uk.
Red deer hinds near Cattadale

Monday 9 January 2012


A couple of snaps of the glorious rainbow that straddled the sky from Bowmore at around 2 oclock this afternoon.  We had a little sunshine today, let us hope that this most traditional symbol of better times ahead is not pulling our legs...!

Sunday 8 January 2012

Goose barnacles - Kirsty and Robin

A rather splendid photo from Robin Cameron and Kirsty Wither of goose barnacles covering a stob washed up on an Islay beach.  Cheers!

Hurricane - Ruari Reynier

Dramatic shot by Ruari Reynier of his dad Mark with Badger and Mimi on rocks below Wester Ellister.  Nice one Ruari...


Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen

Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen

Frederick Crescent, Port Ellen

Trailor blown onto side - Auction Mart, Bridgend
The hurricane struck the shores of Islay at around 6am on Tuesday 3rd January causing significnat amounts of damage to property.  I have added these pictures for the record. most of which are courtesy of Alison Mactaggart.

Lichens in Bridgend

The fallen timber provides an excellent opportunity to examine the lichens up close.  many of the trees are absolutely festooned...  Definitely an opportunity for Becky...!!  :-)

Hurricane Damage in Bridgend Woods

Some of the trees that have blown over are very large indeed

They have not always blown over in exactly convenient locations.  This one is lying across the River Sorn.

The paths are still blocked in lots of places.  A saw would have been handy....

In some places it seems that there are more trees blown down than left standing....
The full hurricane that Islay experienced last week has brought down literally hundreds of trees in Bridgend Woods.  The work of clearing them from the paths is well under way (although is far from complete...).  The work of clearing them from the main body of the woods will of course take much longer.  We must hope that the work is not done too efficiently as there are few things better for improving biodiversity than lots of fallen timber...

Snowdrops in Bridgend Woods

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the snowdrops are out earlier this year.  They are not at their best yet, but are well on the way....

Glaucous Gull

Taken at near the burn mouth at Uiskentuie Strand this evening (in very poor light with a hand held compact at 1600asa!!).  Feeding on what I assume is a sheeps carcass.  I understand that this is a second year bird (although my grip of immature winter plumaged Glaucous Gulls is not that strong).  There were two birds there earlier in the day.

Friday 6 January 2012

Scotland's marine life in motion

Scottish Natural Heritage have just released some amazing "motion graphics" and photographs of what can be seen in Loch Sunart, a Special Area of Conservation just north of Mull.

See it at http://www.snh.gov.uk/__mpa/

 Using some special software, one is taken on a series of underwater explorations of the amazing animals and plants to be seen in the loch, including northern sea fans, white cluster anemones, feather stars and flame shells. There are six different "dives" to explore as well as over 70 colour photographs. You also have the opportunity to contribute your ideas on marine conservation round Scotland.
Highly recommended.


Wednesday 4 January 2012


Well, I said I liked the weather and we've just had another dose - and a half. It isn't often that Islay gets mentioned on the Radio 4 news as having had one of the strongest wind gusts across the country, but that's what happened yesterday morning. The photo shows the Islay Airport wind speeds yesterday morning every 20 minutes from 7.00 am to 8.00 am (taken from the Weatheronline website). The strongest gust was 97 mph (looks even stronger expressed as 156 kilometres/hour!) and was both preceded (between 6.40 and 7.00 am) and followed by gusts of 93 mph. The steady windspeed shown, of 73 mph, is just above the boundary between Violent Storm Force 11 (up to 72 mph) and Hurricane Force 12 (73 mph upwards) on the Beaufort scale. The Weatheronline website doesn't seem to bother with Force 12, stopping at Force 11 - perhaps it's too rare!
Needless to say, there has been quite a lot of damage to roofs, chimneys and trees, and also to our electricity supply. There was a complete island-wide power failure around 6.30 am - there had been some local ones before that - and the diesel generator in Bowmore was duly started up. However, on this occasion, while the supply to parts of the island (including Bowmore and Port Ellen) was immediately restored, this was not true for many other areas, some of which are now facing a second night without it. Here in Bruichladdich, it was restored this afternoon (at about 4.10 pm), the nearly 34 hours without being one of the longest outages we can remember. This one was made more tedious by being able to look across the loch to the lights of Bowmore!
And if anyone is wondering how I have a photograph taken after the power cut had started, I was checking the weather website on my mobile phone. Less than an hour later, the Vodaphone network went down and, at the time of writing (5.00 pm Weds 4th) is still not back! Ah the joys of island living. Did I mention that there no ferries until about 7.00 pm yesterday evening?  Oh yes, and it's been raining all day, too, and we had thunder and lightning on Monday evening for good meaure.
Malcolm (looking forward to a calmer spell - well, I can always hope)

Wind record, Islay Airport, 7.00 - 8.00 am, 3rd Jan 2012

Sunday 1 January 2012

It's been a wet year!

An automatic weather station was installed at Islay Airport in September 2001 and so, in 2011, a 10-year run of data was completed.
The rainfall figures are available online (e.g. www.weatheronline.co.uk and www.tutiempo.net) and I've been looking at these for the last 10 years, as set out in the table.

As can be seen, 2011 was the wettest year of the decade, by some distance, boosted by two very wet months (October - 247 mm, c.10 inches, and December - 222 mm, c.9 inches). December was particularly unusual as there was no really wet day (i.e. 25 mm, c.1 inch), but again there wasn't a single day without at least some rain (0.5 mm or more) which again (believe it or not!) is a rare occurrence - there were 3 days without rain in October.
Although local comment suggests Islay may be getting wetter, a run of 10 years is too short to be able to detect trends. And anyway, who now recalls that 2010 was the second driest year of the decade.
All one can really say is that, if you like weather in all its great variety, as I do, then Islay is the place to be - it definitely gets lots and lots.
And a Happy New Year to all our blog readers, whether it be a wet one or a dry one!