Tuesday 30 October 2012

Wildlife Explorer of the Year 2012

Congratulations to Keira Gunning of Bristol. She earned over 120 points in our wildlife quiz packs, along with 2 other people, and her name was drawn out of the hat to become our Wildlife Explorer of the Year 2012. Well done Keira! Here she is wearing the prize T-shirt.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Beinn Bheigier Circumnavigation

Last Monday I did a walk I'd wanted to do for a while - I circumnavigated Islay's highest mountain anticlockwise, starting at Ardtalla and finishing at Claggain Bay. There were glorious views down Gleann Srath nam Bothag on the northern side of the mountain, and Gleann LeĆ²ra on the south side, which made up for the dearth of flora and fauna. I did hear the Red Deer rutting, however, and saw these two types of fungi on the same log just before dragging my feet the last few steps back to the car at Ardtalla!

View of Beinn Bheigier from SE at beginning of walk near Ardtalla

Beinn Bheigier's south-eastern summit

Glas Bheinn and Gleann Srath nam Bothag with Abhainn Phroaig from north flanks of Beinn Bheigier

Beinn Bheigier's north-western summit

Beinn Bheigier and Claggain River from the south

Fungus on log

Another fungus on the same log, possibly Honey Fungus?

Thursday 25 October 2012

Laddie Machrie Minis

Miniatures of ten year old Bruichladdich made for The Machrie Hotel around ten years ago featuring a ringtail Hen harrier. They are quite unusual now and were given as gifts to folk attending INHT 'Welcome to Islay' evenings during the summer.  Whisky afficionados will appreciate that this is ten year old Bruichladdich from the 'ancien regime' that is non-chill filtered and bottled at 46%.

Monday 22 October 2012

Autumn Gentian

Pauline Yates has sent this lovely photo taken at Ardnave yesterday. This delightful late-flowering plant grows in short turf in several parts of the island, especially on the dunes, but also on some limestone sites.
Thanks Pauline.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Two moths

The recent cooler nights have meant that moth-trapping can result in nil catches, but last night I caught four moths, three Angle Shades and one Autumn Green Carpet, my first and Islay's fourth. The latter is quite well-named as its main flight period is September to November, though those that survive hibernation can also be found flying in March to May.
Angles Shades

Autumn Green Carpet

Tuesday 16 October 2012

The Strand this evening

Barnacle geese - Bridgend Merse

Lawyers wigs - (Coprinus comatus)

Two shots of lawyers wigs on the putting green at Bridgend.

An inversion

The smoke from two bonfires at Foreland (burning grubbed-up gorse bushes) has risen in the still air this morning until it has reached the level at which the smoke temperature matches that of the air and, because it is no longer warmer than the air, it cannot continue upwards, but has spread out horizontally. What has happened is that there is a layer of warmer air sitting on top of a layer of cooler air which was chilled by the ground temperature last night, which was quite a cold one. Normally, air temperature drops as the altitude increases, but here, with no wind to mix the two layers together, the warmer air is above the cooler, which is known as a temperature inversion. It will only last until the layers have mixed, usually by the wind, and indeed one plume has already broken through.

Monday 15 October 2012

Rock Garden - Coull

Sunset at Saligo - yesterday

Big sky - Coull Point yesterday

Intrusion (quartzite?) sill - south of Saligo

Loch Indaal this evening

Peter Roberts at Gortantaoid

Thanks to Peter for this splendid report of a day out up north with Pia.
Since UK & Ireland has been experiencing a bumper autumn for extreme rarities in large numbers, I woke this morning and thought I'd try and put Islay a bit more "on the map" while giving the new dog a decent walk. On the map the little patch of native scrubby woodland up at Gortantaoid, beyond Killinallan looked exactly the right sort of spot to attract and maybe hold a migrant or two - one of the most isolated and NW bits of cover on Islay - so off we went - Pia myself and the dog. Amazingly this one-off effort on my part to finally get off my arse and do some birding worked rather well:
Yellow Browed Warbler - (photo: St Abbs Birders)
Little groups of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers (5-10 of each) were around the old steading up there and, after a lot of standing and watching, some goodies in the thin woodland itself. First off there was a delightful little male Firecrest watched closely on several occasions - lovely almost black and white striped head, bright green mantle and lots of bright orange on the crown. Then a single Brambling appeared, feeding voraciously on the abundant Rowan berries. An odd slightly nasal, fairly high-pitched call struck me as odd and after a bit of further searching and a false start when a drab Chiffchaff showed up, I came across a lovely little Yellow-browed Warbler . It was a really bright and classic example, well pronounced double wing bars, broad, long supercilium etc. As Hume's Leaf Warbler is now split from Y-B Warbler and has occured in UK I paid special attention to it - the brighter, better marked plumage and the distinctive contact call (checked out again on CDs on getting home) definitely rules out this much rarer species.

It is just a pity that Gortantaoid is such a long way from anywhere otherwise I'd be keen to visit regularly - how much more of "our share" of rare migrants have gone by unnoticed here and in large more dense tracts of woodland?

(For the record, the ref. for Firecrest and Yellow-browed Warbler is NR338733 and birds seen about midday).

Thursday 11 October 2012

Barley Harvest 2012

The Islay barley harvest, much of which is for Bruichladdich Distillery, has now been completed - and the final total looks like being over 900 tonnes.  This is much better than last year, despite difficult weather keeping the combines off the fields.  Islay did better in that respect than the mainland where yields have been generally poor.

Rain clouds over Bruichladdich pier this morning

Bruichladdich Burn at lunchtime today

Machir Bay - Sunday afternoon

Port Charlotte yesterday morning

Seaweed garden in a sand pool - Machir Bay

Wednesday 10 October 2012

NFU Scotland is calling for a moratorium on species reintroduction in Scotland.

A National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) press release.....

NFU Scotland is calling for a moratorium on species reintroduction in Scotland.

In its response to the Scottish Government consultation on the 2020 challenge for Scotland’s biodiversity, NFU Scotland stated that there should be no further reintroductions until current species related impacts are resolved.

Based on experience, it believes a moratorium should be put in place until assurances can be given regarding the long-term management and funding of new reintroductions. Issues relating to funding and managing the impacts of other species on economically vulnerable farms and crofts also need to be resolved.

The comments are made in light of member concerns over the reintroduction of species such as beavers and sea eagles, the illegal release of beavers into the wild and reduced funding levels being offered to those managing Scotland’s growing geese populations.

Jamie Mellor, a member of NFU Scotland’s Environment and Land Use Committee and the Union’s representative on the National Species Reintroduction Forum said:

“Given the symbiotic relationship between biodiversity and farming, there is an urgent need to take stock of the impact that existing re-introductions and species management schemes are having before any further steps are taken.

“NFU Scotland firmly believes there should be no further reintroductions until current species-related impacts are resolved and assurances can be given regarding the long-term management and funding of new reintroductions.

“In recent times we have had members worried over the loss of lambs to sea eagles; the official trial looking at the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland has been undermined by their illegal release in Tayside and funding levels to those asked to manage goose numbers have been cut. That has happened at a time when goose numbers have soared and their impact on farmland increased.

“The biodiversity consultation also refers to a code for re-establishing species. We recently welcomed the publication of a report, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), at the request of the Scotland’s National Species Reintroduction Forum, to help inform debate about the future management of reintroduced species.

“That report should form the base around which any code is developed. It would be essential that it takes account of the interests of land managers and sets out clearly the criteria around how these reintroduced species should be managed.

“Funding issues also need to be factored in to any such plans. Restrictions on public finances have meant insufficient budget to properly support land managers affected by existing legal and illegal reintroductions, as well as those affected by other species, such as geese. It is fair that appropriate and accessible funding is made available to vulnerable farms and crofts to manage the impact that species can have on their livelihoods.”

NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller added:

“It is appropriate to take a long term look at how we preserve and maintain Scotland’s biodiversity. Experience suggests we need a more sophisticated conservation effort in the future, focused on securing balance between Scotland’s ecology and land management. The days of exclusively focusing on a flagship species should be left behind if we are to protect our iconic heritage and fragile rural economies.”

Tuesday 9 October 2012

A tiny fungus

This tiny (2-3 cm tall) fungus has a long scientific name Trichoglossum hirsutum, and the English name of Hairy Earthstar. I found it growing on a grassy bank beside a track near Foreland. It has a scattered distribution in Britain, with a bias towards the west, and has been found in several localities in western Scotland, but with a conspicuous gap between Kintyre in the south and Moidart and Skye in the north. This gap began to be filled when Becky had the first record for Islay, near Kintra, in August 2011 (with a photograph posted on this blog), but at the time I don't think it was realised it was a first for Islay. So, now we do, and here's the second record!

Sunday 7 October 2012


As seen from Bruichladdich, 7.40 am, 7th October 2012

Saturday 6 October 2012

Two moths

Having not trapped for several nights because of poor weather, I caught just four moths last night, which actually isn't bad for a cool night in early October. The four included two Angle Shades, which I hadn't previously caught this year, though they actually fly for much of the summer, and one Large Wainscot, which was also my first for the year, and only the third I've caught in five years trapping. This is a late-flying species, not flying until August, but staying around throughout October.