Sunday 30 June 2013

A walk to Proaig

Last Tuesday several of us ventured to the east of the island for a walk from Ardtalla to Proaig. We saw lots of wildlife en route.

Emperor Moth caterpillar - 1st instar

Herb Robert (Robertiella robertiana)

Peacock Caterpillars near Proaig

Reed Bunting

Six-spot Burnet moths mating

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - an unusual sighting for Islay

Small Copper

Saturday 29 June 2013

More orchids

I make no excuse for posting more orchid photos. I like these plants!
Greater Butterfly Orchids

A fine display of Northern Marsh Orchids with Heath Spotted Orchids on the bank behind

Thrift on the merse

The Thrift, or well-named Sea-pink, on the Gruinart merse is looking particularly fine just now. This photo was taken below Craigens farm.

Friday 28 June 2013

Wild Garlic

There is a fine display of Wild Garlic in the woods at the moment. Its familiar strong smell can often be detected from many yards away even before the plants come into sight. The leaves are milder in taste than you might expect from the strength of the smell and make a good substitute for spring onions in a salad. Try it chopped finely and mixed with cream cheese in a sandwich.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Centre activities

Lots has been happening at the visitor centre. Apart from finding two escaped crabs this morning, the ladybirds are either in the pre-pupa instar or have already pupated! In less than two weeks we will have newly hatched two spot ladybirds. I'm excited about watching their elytra (wings) gain the familiar red and black colouration which can take hours, and will deepen with age. We also have the highly anticipated 'big fish', which this year is a Ballan Wrasse - the UK's largest in the wrasse family. To add to the excitement, on a recent walk to Proaig, mum (Becky) found loads of tiny peacock caterpillars, so brought some to rear here. They have already grown from the teensy lines they were on Tuesday.

Pre pupa ladybirds with one pupa in the centre.
Ballan wrasse and company!

Feasting peacock caterpillars

Updated ladybird display with 'Pull my leg' and lifecycle.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

An Carn, lost village on Jura

On my last day on Jura we visited the ruined village of An Carn. It's a long way from anywhere - 4 miles from Barnhill and about 20 from Craighouse. Park at the road end and head across tussocks, scrubby woodland and bog to the coast. You will be rewarded for your exertion, as we were, with fine views of the Sound of Jura and a poignant reminder of life gone by in the form of several ruined houses and some excellent cup marked rocks. It was a day full of both social and natural history. What a wonderful place Jura is!

An Carn village, Jura

Cup-marked Rock, An Carn

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, An Carn

Pregnant Lizard

Reed Bunting

Scaly Male Fern  (Dryopteris affinis) at An Carn
Forester Moth (Adscita statices)

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Jack and Tim's wildlife holiday

Jack and Tim, two young visitors to Islay recently thrilled us with their passion and enthusiasm for wildlife - craneflies and all! They traversed through bog and midges, seeking out some of the island's finest gems including the rarely encountered Narrow bordered bee hawkmoth, hundreds of Marsh fritillaries, hunting Hen harriers, and even the Osprey!

"Just when we thought it couldn't get any better we found 2 Narrow Bordered Bee Hawkmoths feeding on the flowers and Jack had another flyby!"

Whooper swan at Gruinart- only a handful stay over the summer.

Thank you both for sharing your stories and photos, and see you the next time.

Baby Stonechat

Marsh fritillary - It's encouraging to hear of this rare species finally on the wing after slow caterpillar growth this year.

Narrow bordered bee hawkmoth

Monday 24 June 2013

Sea slugs and Sea squirts

The spring tide means the biggest difference between low and high tide creating the perfect environment for keen rockpoolers such as myself and mum (Becky). This weekend was such a time, and our morning (and neglected lunch) were consumed with a thorough exploration of the sub littoral zone at Bruichladdich. This area, the very low shore and shallows, is a treasure trove for tiny gems often overlooked in rockpooling expeditions. These include sea spiders, sea slugs, sea sponges and sea squirts, all of which we found (with the exception of the sea spider this time). You may also remember 'Benny the Blenny' from last year, who I am pleased to report returned to our bucket and can be visited in the visitor centre sea tank once again! Here are some photos of our finds. I will post sea slug photos upon identification, and also add a species list in the mean time.
Orange lights sea squirt

Star ascidian. These come in beautiful variations.

Unidentified sea squirt

Ascidiella scabra

Unidentified sea squirt


Ramble at Kilchiaran, 24th June 2013

Well, the highlight of today's ramble has to be the otter, spotted by Malcolm and seen very well by everyone present, the first ever on a ramble! The sun came out more and more and we stayed out longer and longer - all 12 of us! Another great ramble - thanks everyone!

Watching the Otter at Kilchiaran Bay

Herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Hooded Crow, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Sand Martin, Common Sandpiper, Eider Duck (with 3 ducklings), Fulmar, Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit

Field Forget-me-not, Germander Speedwell, Marsh Marigold, Heath Bedstraw, Water-cress, Water Mint, Ragged Robin, Early Marsh Orchid, Marsh Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Common Nettle, Spear Thistle, Meadow Buttercup, Daisy, Cat's-ear, Kidney Vetch, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Wild Thyme, Foxglove, Star Sedge, Black Sedge, Common Spike-rush, Yorkshire Fog, Crested Dog's Tail, Lesser Spearwort, White Clover, Bracken, Greater Burdock, Sea Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Broad-leaved Dock, Thrift, Tormentil, Cuckoo Flower, Yellow Flag, Common Milkwort, Marsh Pennywort, Meadowsweet, Common  Sorrel, Chickweed, Common Mouse-ear, Meadow Vetchling, Lesser Trefoil, Tufted Forget-me-not, Water Avens, Sea Arrowgrass, Marram Grass, Soft Rush, Field Speedwell, Hemlock Water-dropwort

Otter, Rabbit

Click Beetle, Dung Flies, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Green-veined White

Sunday 23 June 2013

Beetle duo

It's wonderful to see beetles again after such a long time without them! Lorna and I saw these two on a trip to Bunnahabhain yesterday (where we also collected caterpillars - hurray!)

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)

Red-breasted Carrion Beetle (Oiceoptoma thoracicum)

More photos from Jura

Some more photos from my recent trip to Barnhill, Jura.

Carabus arvensis - a beautiful bronzey-coloured ground beetle

Cow Wheat (Melampyrum pratense)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Saturday 22 June 2013


Also known as the May Bug (this one was a bit late, being out in June), and capable of creating quite a 'bang' as it flies into windows at night, seemingly without hurting itself. It sat still while it was photographed both on the grass and then on my hand but sadly didn't open the tips of its antennae which can have six (female) or seven (male) branches. Most illustrations show its prothorax (the part in front of the wings) as being blackish, but this one was reddish like the wings, which I have seen in some other photos.

Friday 21 June 2013

More photos from Sussex

More photos from the Sussex birding trio with thanks.

Common Sandpiper at Kilchiaran

Corncrake at Ardnave

Roe Buck

Thrift - we've had a splendid display this year all over the island.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Beautiful Demoiselle and Star of Bethlehem

It's not often you see two rare things in a day, or in the space of ten minutes even, but such was our luck on Sunday when Lorna and I walked a way I'd never walked before. No, it wasn't in the middle of nowhere, far from it; it was simply the track linking the 'high' road to the 'Glen' road via Mulindry Farm. Looking for caterpillars we went up to a sort of tractor park bit and Lorna called out excitedly, "Mum, is that a Beautiful Demoiselle?" not only was she right, but it was a male and it was perched obligingly on a caterpillarless nettle (nettles being the reason for our detour in the first place!). Wow! Was I excited! I've seen them on Islay before, but never to photograph. I'm surprised I stood still long enough to get the photo.

Then we walked a few more yards and a Swallow flew out of an old ruin which drew our attention to a patch of woodland near the farm. We investigated and straight away I saw a flower I'd not knowingly seen before, the beautiful Star of Bethlehem, an escape which has probably grown there as a result of garden compost having being dumped there at some stage.

Later, a Marsh Fritillary walked onto Lorna's hand, looking rather weary. So it was a very productive couple of hours.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Fantastic display of Cottongrass near Gartloist

Diving beetle sp.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum angustifolium)

Marsh Fritillary

Ladybirds and Spider crabs

Who says crabs aren't cute? It's hard to resist with our recently arrived spiny spider crabs. They possess 2 'horns' inbetween their eyes, just visible beneath the various seaweeds pinned to their shells for camouflage. Their carapace also hosts a mini sponge garden where sponges take up residence, as well as barnacles which make full use of this moving 'rock' as they filter for food. Fascinating! All day yesterday the two spider crabs were clasped together, seemingly fighting (they are both male), so we have released one. The remaining crab is called Spongebob!
Our ladybird larvae are growing bigger every day! I expect they will pupate within the next few days, where they will metamorphosise, emerging as yellow adults 6-8 days later. The familiar red with black spots pattern will appear after several hours, once the shell has hardened.