Wednesday 29 February 2012


A very loud rumbling noise with some shaking of the house occurred at 9.15 this morning lasting several seconds. I don't yet know how widely it was felt, but certainly in Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Kilchoman, and I assume right across the island. The trace below is from a seismological station in Northern Ireland and taken from the British Geological Survey website. There was a second, smaller, rumble, about 10 minutes later. The immediate thought of myself and those I have spoken to was of a very large truck rumbling past on the road or even crashing off the road! Or perhaps of a very large building close by falling down! Fortunately, neither of those have happened, but that was the impression we had.
According to the BGS website, the tremor registered 2.8 on the Richter Scale, and the second one 2.1.
We appear to be in a very active period, as several tremors have been registered this month with the two today making a total of six this month with five in the last 10 days. Quite a number of people felt the one at 5.35 am on 20th Feb, though I have to confess that it failed to wake me up!

Date                Time               Lat           Long   Depth (km)  Richter scale
2012/02/29     09:25:08.1     55.791     -6.348       9                    2.1          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE
2012/02/29     09:14:26.0     55.777     -6.326     10                    2.8          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE   
2012/02/27     08:20:47.3     55.776     -6.301     12                    1.6          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE   
2012/02/20     07:18:20.0     55.750     -6.317       9                    1.4          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE   
2012/02/20     05:35:48.9     55.780     -6.349     12                    2.6          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE
2012/02/05     15:15:03.3     55.801     -6.368       6                    1.5          ISLAY, ARGYLL/BUTE  


Tuesday 28 February 2012

Scarlet Elf Cap - Sarcosypha coccinea

David Clugston, a regular birdwatching visitor to Islay, had his eye caught last week by this bright red fungi growing in Bridgend Woods. You can see why he noticed it and why the vernacular name has arisen.
After seeing it, David called at my house and we identified it from a book and discovered it was probably a first for Islay. David went back and took some photographs of which I am posting two here. I have sent them off for a more expert identification but find it difficult to believe it is not this species as there is nothing else this shape and colour!
I've also done some further research and this is only the second record for the whole of the Hebrides (there is an old, and undated, record from Mull) and about the tenth locality in the whole of Scotland, with sites in Galloway, Ayr, Angus, Inverness and Caithness. There are a scattering of records in northern Ireland (the nearest to here), while it is fairly well spread in England though hardly at all in Wales. It is reported to be getting scarce.

Monday 27 February 2012

Tighnaspeur - a circular walk

It's not that I've not been out recently - I have, but my eyes have, by necessity, been more on the ground than in the air, due to the inordinate amount of rain we've had and the subsequent bogs. Bogs to surpass all bogs! Anyway, I've not seen much in the way of wildlife - plenty of Red Deer though so I'm posting an inferior picture of said animals, together with a photo of Tighnaspeur - Sky House, a delightful retreat for the weary walker.


Thursday 23 February 2012

Sightings reported to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

Gordon Yates - Raptors DVD

Gordon and Pauline Yates showed their magnificent new DVD 'Raptors' at the Centre this evening to an excellent crowd of nearly sixty folk.  Not a bad turnout for an AGM   :-)

To order your copy

Glaucous Gulls - Gordon Yates

Two lovely shots of a Glaucous Gull feeding on the carcass of a Barnacle Goose.

Sun - just for few minutes

There was a short period this afternoon when the sun came out, but once it had slipped below the horizon, the cloud came back and the mizzle has returned.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Gordon Yates presents new DVD "Raptors" - Thursday evening

Gordon will be showing his new DVD, edited by Pauline, at the Centre tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7.30.  We hope to see you there....

Sunday 19 February 2012

Frogspawn at Kilchoman

Margaret found some in her wee pond today.  That's spring here officially....

Moving sand

Wind erosion at Kilchoman has left thousands of shells and pebbles perched on their personal pinnacles. - Carl

Shifting dunes

The winter storms have remodelled the dune system at Kilchoman quite significantly.

The burn flowing down through the beach has been forced to devise an alternative exit for the umpteenth time.

Machir Bay - Kilchoman

Taken earlier this afternoon - Carl

Friday 17 February 2012


The sun came out into a blue sky for a couple of minutes yesterday - reason enough to post a few snaps taken at Carnain as I was pedalling past....

Roe Deer and Snowdrops - James Deane

Lovely shot of a pair of Roe deer in a carpet of snowdrops taken by James Deane in Bridgend Woods.  Thanks James!

Change of Date for Geology Field Trip

Unforseen circumstances mean that we need to change the date of one of Prof Alasdair Skelton's field  trips from Friday 16th March to Sunday 11th March.  He will now be leading parties to Bunnahabhain on 11th March and Port Ellen on Tuesday 20th March.  Click on thumbnail to the right for more details.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Bugs aboot

Loch Gruinart daffodils
I get the feeling Spring is on its way: the songbirds are singing, daffodils are appearing, and the bugs are out! Oh my favourite thing, the bugs! Here's a cheeky chap in my car, a 2 mm long weevil, possibly Protapion apricans from the look of it. Weevils in this genus feed on clovers and several of them are very common in Britain. In fact, weevils as a whole constitute the largest family in the animal kingdom, based on the number of recognised species. They feed almost exclusively on plants and plant material.   

You may have noticed some long-legged flies dancing about above your head last weekend? Perhaps they are St Mark's flies, or similar, I didn't manage to get a picture. They are so called because they usually emerge around St Mark's day, 25th April. These flies spend most of their lives as larvae, feeding in the soil over the Autumn and Winter. After emerging, they live as adults for about a week, the males doing a mating dance while the females look on from some nearby vegetation, (keeping scores). They die shortly after mating and laying eggs in the soil. The males have massive eyes compared to the females, all the better for sighting and catching the females in the swarm and chasing off other males. They are important fruit tree and crop pollinators and the larvae feed on decaying organic matter and grass roots.
Photo by Fritz Geller-Grim

This is another obliging creature I've had in the house recently, that's about the fifth small tortoiseshell I've had in the last few weeks. It looked pretty fresh, perhaps the mild temperature has tempted them out of hibernation early.



Tuesday 14 February 2012

Gartloist Farm

Gartloist in ethereal mood on Sunday morning.

Aren't Trees Great?

Trees really are wonderful things to look at....   Carl

Monday 13 February 2012

Next Presentation at Centre - a new Gordon Yates DVD - "Raptors"

Golden eagle by Gordon Yates
We are delighted to be able to welcome back Gordon and Pauline Yates (who are visiting Islay for the 91st time this month).  We have a real treat for us in store this time with a showing of their new DVD entitled "Raptors" which will feature no fewer that 16 birds of prey and owls, many of which were filmed on Islay. 
The showing will take place from 7.30 on Thursday 23rd February at the Natural History Centre in Port Charlotte and will immediately follow our AGM, which is usually legendarily brief. 
Everyone is welcome, as are donations to the INHT.  We will be rattling our bucket enthusiastically...
Hope to see you there...

New INHT Android App courtesy of

We now have our own App!  Many thanks to Ron Steenvorden who has developed this free app for our Android smartphones.  You never need to be out of touch....

Friday 10 February 2012

Geology Field Trips with Professor Alasdair Skelton

Following Alasdair's highly successful presentation to the Trust entitled 'Geology of Islay' in June of last year, he has kindly volunteered to conduct two field trips for the Trust, on Sunday 11th and Tuesday 20th March.

The exact details are still to be confirmed but the preliminary schedule indicates that on 11th, Alasdair will have one mini-bus available, and will conduct a trip to Bunnahabhain.  On 20th, there will be three mini buses available and the trip will be to the Port Ellen area.

Each excursion will take 5-6 hours, departing Port Charlotte at 10.00 with pickups potentially being possible in Bridgend, Bowmore and Port Ellen.  The buses would return to Port Charlotte at around 4.00pm.

Alasdair tells us that: "Participants will need packed lunches, sturdy footwear, Islay-proof clothing, a sense of humour and participate entirely at their own risk.  There will be no cost, but you are of course welcome to take donations for INHT".

All of which sounds like a couple of great days out.  Booking will be essential.  Please contact us at or call 01496 850288 to leave a message with your contact details.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Castlehill wind turbine - Islay Energy Trust

This photomontage shows the (limited!) visual impact of the proposed turbine as it would be seen from the High Road close to the junction with the link road at Glenegedale.

Islay Energy Trust have commissioned a selection of photomontage images as part of their recent visual assessment carried out for their proposal to erect a single community wind turbine near Castlehill. This project is still very much in the development stage as IET are in negotiation over the ground lease, but Scottish Natural Heritage, as site owner, has given interim permission to carry out various studies. This means that in addition to commissioning the visual assessment IET have been able to apply for a grid connection for the project, and have recently submitted a planning application for a met mast on the site so that the company can carry out the necessary wind speed assessments.
The project, which would see the installation of one 330kW turbine, could one day earn a considerable income for the community – but there are a number of hurdles still to clear, not least that grid connection application.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

More photos from Mark and Sally

 Thanks again to Mark and Sally Johnston for this selection of their recent holiday snaps from Islay.
Barnacle Goose

Paps of Jura from Bunnahabhain

Purple Sandpiper

Rock Pipit

Roe Deer

Slavonian Grebe - Loch Indaal

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Scotland first to map 'Wild Land' - SNH

In a first for the UK, a new map detailing Scotland’s wild areas is being published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Some of the country’s wildest landscapes are already identified and protected if they fall within national parks or national scenic areas. But many other wild areas are not identified in any way.
The Scottish public view wild land as an important priority: a recent SNH study found that 91% of respondents agree that Scotland’s areas of wild land are important and should be protected. Another study found wild land provides even more economic and employment benefit than agriculture and forestry combined.
These maps will help local authorities, and others involved in planning, make decisions about development and land use change, to safeguard wild land. The maps can also help the tourism industry promote Scotland’s wild landscapes to visitors and walkers.
Using a method developed by the Wildland Research Institute (WRi) at the,University of Leeds, a map was produced showing the relative wildness of all of Scotland’s landscapes.
Simon Brooks, SNH Policy and Advice manager, said: “These new maps will give valuable, detailed information to local authorities to inform decisions. Scotland is famous for its wild landscapes – these maps tell us where the wildest areas are and will help everyone when considering changes in these places. The maps don't mean changes or development can't take place in these areas, but they do give local authorities more and better information to base planning decisions on.
“Using the maps and information published today, future work will identify areas of particular high wildness value. This work will build on our earlier work to identify wild land, and will support the Scottish Government’s policy of safeguarding areas of wild land character.”
Dr Stephen Carver of the University of Leeds said: "It’s great to see the methodologies that we developed here at the University of Leeds and with our partners in the Wildland Research Institute being used across the whole of the country. Scotland has taken the lead here, and is the first country in Europe to produce a national wildness map at this level of detail, so it's very exciting to see these maps.
“Although we're not surprised by the broad patterns shown, as we already have a good feeling for where the wild areas of Scotland are, the key thing with these maps is the fine detail and how they were created using the latest data and mapping tools. This makes them robust and repeatable. Hopefully, England and Wales will follow suit and produce their own maps in due course."

To view the maps, see This spring, more detailed maps identifying wild land will also be developed.

Oban meeting to discuss future tree planting - Forestry Commission PR

A stakeholder meeting to be held in Oban aims to gather views on how to take forward woodland expansion across Scotland.
The meeting on Wednesday 22nd February is being organised by the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group which has been set up to identify the types of land for future tree planting.
The meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss and give feedback on some of the emerging conclusions being formulated by the Group.
Over 100 responses from across Scotland were received by the Group after it requested views on how to tackle issues surrounding woodland expansion.
Dr Andrew Barbour, chairman of the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group said: "From the outset we have been very keen to consult as widely as possible and receive views from a wide a range of interests.
"The Group is undertaking a series of seven stakeholder meetings across Scotland and we hope the proceedings in Oban will offer a lively and constructive debate.
"By February we will have a clearer picture of how we think the conflicts between tree planting and other land uses can be minimised. We will wish to share our thoughts with those being directly affected so that we can be confident that our end proposals will be realistic and practical."
The Oban meeting will take place on Wednesday 22nd February and will start at 1830 hours. All those who wish to attend and receive further details of the venue should register well in advance at

The Woodland Expansion Advisory Group consists of 18 members from backgrounds in farming, conservation, forestry, land use and community relations. For more information on the Group and its membership log on to

Monday 6 February 2012

Otter - Niall Colthart

Further lovely shots from Niall from earlier today can be found on his Facebook page!/profile.php?id=100002008889033

Buzzard at the end of a lovely day....

What a day that was...  I think we had almost forgotten what islay can be like.  This Buzzard was on wires at Carnain....

Blue Rayed Limpet (Patella pellucida) - David Wood

Dave on the Oa found a pellet near Stremnishmore a few weeks ago. It simply disintegrated when he tried to pick it up but he managed to bag most of it up and take some pictures. It's a mixture of rove beetles, weevils, wool, bone, and most interestingly, a blue rayed limpet, on which you can still see the beautiful electric blue lines! We're not sure who it belongs to, I suspect a crow given the composition and size of the pellet.  - Crystal

Sunday 5 February 2012

Port Ellen Memorial - Niall Colthart

The war memorial at Port Ellen by Niall Colthart - thanks Niall....

Saturday 4 February 2012

Chambered Cairn, Frachdale, Islay

I had a feeling Carl had posted some time ago about the ruined village of Frachdale and his trip there and his futile search for a chambered cairn. I can't find that post now, but, always up for a challenge, I went on an adventure yesterday. It wasn't really an adventure to start with, following an easy track through Cornabus forest, until the track stopped and the fun began. Glad of the partially frozen bogs, I trod cautiously through vastly flooded areas, nearly lost my welly, fought my way through dense forestry and was 'rewarded' by coming out onto a huge expanse of boggy moorland. Undaunted, I continued my quest west, round to Frachdale. I realised I was close to the aforementioned chambered cairn, but where exactly was it on the map and why don't they mark its exact location and why hadn't I checked for co-ordinates before I set off this morning? Despite my uncertainty, I checked all possibilities and found it. I don't normally have much success with these things, so I feel quite proud of myself! I attach photos and some info from Scotland's Places website.

NR 310 469 A Clyde group chambered cairns crowns a knoll (just below 250ft OD) at the side of a small valley. Only a small amount of cairn material remains around the chamber; its edges are impossible to define with any confidence. The cairn slopes down to the east in front of the chamber and merges with the knoll. On the north side two stones about 25ft from the chamber appear to revet cairn material and might be part of a kerb. Another stone about 20ft south west of the chamber may also be a kerb stone. Behind the chamber the cairn appears to have been robbed to the old ground surface. Beyond this a stony spread extends to 60ft from the chamber, but this seems to be derived from the scattered remains of a small building. It is unlikely that the cairn was much more than 50ft in diameter, its shape is uncertain. Three stones of the chamber walls, and a septal slab remain, about 1 1/2ft above the turf; the chamber axis lies just west of north to south of east, with the entrance at the latter end, where there are three large irregular blocks of stone, probably two portals with a stone either fallen from the chamber roof, or used to block the entrance, between them.
A S Henshall 1972, visited 1962.

This chambered cairn occupies a small knoll 500m W ofruins of Frachdale on the SW side of an unnamed stream. The cairn material has been severly robbed, but four possible kerb-stones, as shown on the plan (RCAHMS 1984), suggest a cross-measurement of about 15m; the original shape, however, is unknown. The chamber is aligned almost E-W, with the entrance facing E; in front of it the two massive portal stones now lie dislodged, with a third large stone between them. The three surviving side-slabs, which are exposed to a height of about 0.5m, indicate that the chamber measures about 3.5m by 1m internally; a septal stone divides it into two unequal compartments.
RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1979.

Frachdale just visible in the centre of photo.

Looking south-east towards Cornabus Forest

Looking east

Looking north-west towards Grasdale

View of the knoll on which the chambered cairn is situated. Taken from the north.