Wednesday 31 July 2013

Butterfly Fun day - Big Butterfly Count

Niall Oliver led the butterfly count again at Killinallan. It was part of Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count. The winner for the second year running was Common Blue, with a count of 9 butterflies. We were mildly distracted by the observation of an Emperor Moth caterpillar, a frog and several grasshoppers. We went on to discover the power of flowers and their importance to insects. Unfortunately we also discovered the power of the rain in putting a dampener on things. It held off until near the end of our activity, however, so a fun time was had by all. Thanks to everyone for coming and to Niall for leading the count.

Sheltering from the rain

Common Blue female

Emperor Moth Caterpillar


Butterfly Fun Day - at the Centre

The Centre was full of caterpillars and butterflies yesterday, some living, some edible and some eaten! Don't panic, the 'eaten' variety were the butterfly cakes and the edible variety were the much healthier carrot and cucumber caterpillars which, for some reason, were easier to resist! Fraser won the caterpillar competition. It was a fun-filled day. Niall Oliver took folk out for the big butterfly count and Amory found some Cinnabar moth caterpillars which are now resident in the centre. Thanks to Niall, Jane and Lorna for their time and to Lynda for providing materials for the butterfly cakes - and to everyone who came for making it such a fun day.

Icing butterfly cakes

Cucumber and carrot caterpillars

Isi with her carrot caterpillar

icing butterfly cakes

Keira with her painted face

Face painting

Charlotte with her butterfly cake

Cinnabar moth caterpillars in the centre

Islay with her lobster (a diversion from butterflies!)

Fraser the champion caterpillar maker with his prize!

Marsh Helleborines

For several species of orchids, this seems to be an exceptional flowering year. I visited the two Marsh Helleborine sites near Killinallan yesterday and found over 300 and over 200 flowering spikes, respectively, both easily record numbers (about double past highest counts in both cases). Considering that, in some years, I have found fewer than 50 spikes all told, there's little doubt both sites are flourishing. Although reasonably widespread in southern Britain, there are only three other localities in Scotland for this species.

Monday 29 July 2013

Ramble at Sanaigmore, 29th July 2013

All nine of us watched the grey cloud approach and I shook in my odd boots as it was the first time ever on a ramble that I hadn't brought a jacket. With everyone else prepared, however, we ventured forth into the heavy rain. Our ramble was curtailed but Ben spotted a Ringed Plover's nest just before we turned back and we were surprised that we hadn't been mobbed as a result. We quickly turned back round to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Outback Art and discuss our sightings in the warmth. Thanks to everyone for turning up and it was good to see Amory and Islay and their extended family back; they'd joined us for a ramble last year and decided to return for more rambling - even if it was in the rain!

Sand Martin, Swallow, Starling, Wren, Meadow Pipit, Redshank, Black Guillemot, Ringed Plover, Twite

Common Carder Bee, White-tailed Bumble Bee, Small Tortoiseshell

Bird's-foot Trefoil, Meadow Buttercup, Silverweed, Monkey Flower, Water Forget-me-not, White Clover, Red Clover, Lady's Bedstraw, Daisy, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Common Hawkbit, Eyebright, Spear Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Lesser Burdock, Common Nettle, Common Ragwort, Field Gentian, Common Centaury, Self-heal, Wild Thyme, Pineapple Mayweed, Red Bartsia, Marsh Willowherb, Yorkshire Fog, Harebell, Yarrow, Thrift, Bog Pimpernel, Black Knapweed

Ringed Plover nest

Sunday 28 July 2013

Overnight stay at Proaig

Proaig 'bothy'
Seven of us set off on Friday afternoon for the hike to the 'bothy' at Proaig. I have never stayed there before although I have visited several times before. Each of us carried our own supplies, including our two youngest members, Isi and Becca, both only 7 years of age. The clegs were worse than the midges by far and we were relieved to reach our destination after seeing an adder and lots of butterflies en route - Red Admiral, Dark Green Fritillary, Green-veined White, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Common Blue - all in abundance. The birds were not so much in evidence, but we still saw Lesser Black-backed Gull, Starling, Rock Pipit, Reed Bunting, Twite, Redpoll, Shag, Red-breasted Merganser, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail and Hen Harrier. We had a lovely stay, frying up lots of food and toasting marshmallows on the fire. Definitely to be recommended.

Becca with a Common Frog

Hoverfly Volucella bombylans

Isi and Becca at the start of the walk

Niall - fully laden!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Common Footman

No, nothing to do with servants, but the name of a moth which I caught last night and which is only the third record for Islay, the first two being in 1983 and 1999. It's quite small, about 15-16 mm in length. Unusually, instead of feeding on vegetation, the caterpillars feed mostly on lichens and algae on trees, old walls, rocks, etc., so it ought flourish here rather than be apparently very scarce!

Monday 22 July 2013

Nature ramble at Kilchiaran, 22nd July 2013

There were just two takers for today's ramble - another sunny one as well and full of butterfly life - perhaps the most ever species seen on any of our rambles. Despite 'Nettle City' we found very few caterpillars - why, I wonder, when this is the best bunch of nettles I can recall seeing on Islay? The highlight for today's couple though was the beautiful male Linnet which posed for quite a while. It was our Leicestershire's couple first ever Linnet and they were delighted.

Common Gull, Fulmar, Black Guillemot, Hooded Crow, Raven, Starling, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Sand Martin, Common Sandpiper, Buzzard, Ringed Plover, Pied Wagtail, Oystercatcher, Rock Dove

Bog Pimpernel, Water Mint, Marsh Bedstraw, Marsh Willowherb, Marsh Marigold (leaves), Flag Iris, Eyebright, Germander Speedwell, Water Forget-me-not, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Meadow Vetchling, Kidney Vetch, Wild Thyme, Thrift, Bracken, Common Nettle, Spear Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Lesser Spearwort, Red Bartsia, Harebell, Ragged Robin, Red Campion, White Clover, Red Clover, Lady's Bedstraw, Burdock, Hawkbit, Selfheal, Marsh Thistle, Yorkshire Fog, Tormentil, Daisy

Harvestman sp, micro moth sp, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Dark Green Fritillary
Harebells - my favourite flower

Harvestman sp - possibly Phalangium opilio male.

Nettle City - hunting for caterpillars

Mating Meadow Browns

More on sea squirts

Many of you know Lorna and I are particularly keen on rockpool creatures. On our last expedition at Bruichladdich we found many sea squirts which seemed to defy identification so I contacted the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth and spoke to the very helpful project officer who has provided some interesting information. I'll repost the photos here with the additional information.

The non-native species Corella eumyota. Distinguishing features are the smooth curve to the gut which you can see through the body, orange tips to the siphons and the second lower siphon is on the right of the body. 

Bortylloides schlosseri  with the large openings of a boring mollusc growing beneath the squirt. You can actually see the eggs. This photo had the experts puzzled for a while!

Sunday 21 July 2013

Insect Hunt

Having our own ladybirds at the Centre has made Lorna and I more aware of their existence and role in this world. On my annual hunt for the first Islay Purple Hairstreak we came across these two species and a pair of mating Ringlets but, despite (gently) bashing many Oak trees, not a PH in sight! The search continues . . .

Seven-spot Ladybird

11-spot ladybird

Mating Ringlets

Any Purple Hairstreaks up there?!

Friday 19 July 2013

Busy morning at the Centre

Arriving at work this morning, anticipating a quiet day in view of the sunshine, I was greeted by two bus loads of people at both ends of the age spectrum. "Oh yes," I reminded myself, "the toddler group are coming today." And then, as I saw the other group emerging I remembered the email about a group of adult students who wished to visit the Centre. Now what date in July did the email say? Today of course! So the Centre was full of excited chatter from 2 and 3 year olds and more restrained excitement from the group of 18 slightly older people. I think that's a record - about 34 people visiting the Centre all at the same time. Fantastic!

Toddler group at the Touch Tank

Thursday 18 July 2013

Lobtastic creations!

I am thoroughly enjoying my work at the trust this summer. Despite the sunny weather this week, many families have visited the centre, filling it with laughter and bundles of enthusiasm! Entries for our annual 'decorate a butterfly' competition have poured in, milk bottle top caterpillars are crawling the island, and googly eyed lobsters are emerging! Thanks to everyone who has been in recently, and we hope to see you again soon. 

Lobtastic lobster created yesterday!


Wednesday 17 July 2013

Grass Rivulet, second record for Islay

Ken Willets saw this moth at Kintra on 8th July this year. It is the second record for the island although he reported several more flying round the area. Thanks Ken!

Grass Rivulet (Perizoma albulata)

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Islay Alphabet Quilt

In 2012 INHT member Kitty Watt created this beautiful alphabetical quilt of all things Islay, including many pictures of the island's natural history. She has been kind enough to let us borrow it for a season, and it now graces the lecture theatre wall in the visitor centre - well worth a look!


Ramble at Killinallan, 15th July 2013

Nine adults, three children and one baby (Islay) set off on what turned out to be a breezy ramble yesterday at Killinallan. The Grey Seal colony were sleeping at first, but treated us later to their mournful singing. The dunes were awash with colour. "The only colour of the rainbow we can't see is orange!" one of our younger ramblers noted, at which point Malcolm willed (unsuccessfully) a Small Copper to fly by. Such enthusiasm enriches our nature rambles no end and, from the youngest to the oldest, each brought questions and enthusiasm to make this another very enjoyable ramble at what is one of the island's best botanical locations at probably its peak time of year.

Herring Gull, Oystercatcher, Eider, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Wheatear, Redshank

FLORADaisy, Meadow Buttercup, Grass of Parnassus, Black Bog Rush, Self-heal, Common Milkwort, Bog Myrtle, Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Cat's-ear, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Eyebright, Spear Thistle, Marsh Thistle, Lady's Bedstraw, White Clover, Red Clover, Bracken, Wild Thyme, Marsh Pennywort, Silverweed, Lesser Meadow Rue, Pyramidal Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Frog Orchid, Field Gentian, Forget-me-not sp., Cuckoo Flower, Marsh Marigold (leaves and seed heads), Ragged Robin, Iris, Meadowsweet, Yorkshire Fog, Soft Rush, Sweet Vernal Grass, Sea Spurrey, Thrift (only just), Harebell, Tufted Vetch, Sea Milkwort, Fairy Flax, Water Mint,  Marram Grass, Goat Willow, Marsh Bedstraw, Yarrow, Common Scurvy Grass, Common Knapweed, Devil's-bit Scabious, Bog Pimpernel, Corn Spurrey, Field Speedwell, Burnet Rose, Heath Spotted Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Adder's Tongue Fern, Sea Plantain, Sea Arrowgrass, Water Horsetail, Marsh Lousewort, Common Valerian

Common Frog, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Micro moth sp, Ringlet, Grey Seal, Shore Crab, grasshopper sp

Ramblers at Killinallan

Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride)

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Monday 15 July 2013

Rescuing a Wild Goat

Whilst at Bolsa last Sunday, Lorna and I came upon a sorry sight - a young wild billy goat entangled in a mass of fishing rope and nylon line. We spent a precious 15 minutes or so disentangling this poor creature which only had strength enough to bleat faintly in pain. During the process I dropped water (from my own depleting supply!) into its parched throat. After a few minutes Lorna heaved it onto its feet again where it stood slightly disorientated before trotting off to find its own pool of water. We felt rewarded for our small act of kindness, but were sorry we didn't have the means to take away the offending rope - a reminder (if we really needed one) of how dangerous marine rubbish can be.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Ladybird Update (Complete with Adder!)

I was cycling to Port Ellen yesterday afternoon when I spotted this slithering female adder right by the road side! It's a good job she wasn't any where near the middle as I wouldn't have been able to move her to safety. I did however pick up a big emperor moth caterpillar that was making headway for the cat's eyes. What a treat!

I promised an update on our ladybird project at the visitor centre, so here it is! As you can see from this picture, they have finally emerged! It is interesting to see the freshly hatched pale yellow individual on the right next to the colourful patterned one on the left. We have also had many colour variations, particularly ones that are inverted (black with red spots). We are hoping that with a plentiful supply of aphids and greenery, our hatchlings will breed. If this is successful the next generation will reach adulthood after around 8 weeks, and be ready for hibernation upon release.


Friday 12 July 2013

Family Activity Session Tuesday 16th July - change of activity

Please note, due to nesting Moorhens on our usual site, we have had to change the venue for our forthcoming family activity session. As advertised, we will still meet at Bruichladdich pier at 2pm, but will head up to Port Mor for a shorter bug hunt session. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust

An email from this worthy Trust reports:

"As you may have heard, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s project ‘Silurian: the Floating Classroom’ has been shortlisted in the education category of the National ottery good Causes Awards,  for projects that have received lottery funding in the past. In order for us to win, we need to gain as many votes as possible via the free online system (for those with an email address). Voting closes on the 24th July and the top 3 in each category will be invited to the awards ceremony where the winner in each category will receive £2000 towards their project, but more importantly to us is the opportunity to raise the profile of our little organisation on a national platform."

and watch their promotional video at:

Walk to Bolsa

Lorna and I went a fantastic long walk to Bolsa last Sunday and, apart from the already featured adder, we saw lots of wildlife (including a zillion clegs and midges!) The island was soaked in sunshine and by mid afternoon everything, including us, seemed to be labouring under the excessive heat. We're just not used to it! A fantastic day for butterflies though; even before 10 am we were accompanied by dancing Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Heaths. Here I have a confession to make so never let it be said I am not honest. I saw my first ever definite Large Heath today. Fanfare! Before anyone casts stones, let me say that I have spoken to enough other butterfly enthusiasts to know that not knowing whether you've ever seen a Large Heath before is not such an embarrassing state to be in as you might imagine. There are 3 forms of this species, so variable that they were once considered to be three different species. The form found in Scotland, subspecies Scotica has the appearance of a very large Small Heath, having almost non-existent spots. In north-west England, however, the form davus has richer, redder wings and looks a bit like a Ringlet as its spots on the underside of its wings are very distinct. One of the main reasons I like this butterfly is that it is one of the few species that do not reside in southern England! Hurray for the hardy heaths!

I made a list and lost it

Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Shag, Whinchat, Stonechat, Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Willow Warbler, Rock Dove, Song Thrush, Snipe, Coal Tit, Redpoll, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Skylark, Black Guillemot, Common Sandpiper, Wren, Mute Swan

Grey Seal, Red Deer, Wild Goat

Piecrust Crab, Worm Pipefish, Snakelocks Anemone, Beadlet Anemone, Shore Crab, Butterfish, Hermit Crab, Brittlestar, Chiton

Bombus lucorum, Bombus pascourum, Bombus monticola, Carabus glabratus, Dung Beetle, Grasshopper spp, Chimney Sweeper, Northern Eggar, Cinnabar Moth, Wood Tiger Moths, Dark Green Fritillary, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Small Heath, Large Heath, Ringlet, Green-veined White, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser, Large Red Damselfly, Keeled Skimmer, Wolf Spider, Orb Weaver Spider

Common Frog, Common Toad, Common Lizard, Adder

Bombus monticola - Bilberry Bumblebee - restricted to northern and western Britain

Carabus glabratus

Large Heath - much bigger than Small Heath. Its underside spots are definitely present, but rather indistinct

Orb Weaver Spider with prey - a Wood Tiger Moth

Red Deer at Bolsa with Colonsay in the background

Thursday 11 July 2013

Family Activity Rockpooling

Summer has truly arrived with soaring temperatures, and the sun ever shining down on Islay. On Tuesday I was treated to leading  the second of this year's family activity sessions for the rockpooling. There wasn't a slippy rock in sight (almost) and we delighted, adults, children and all, in discovering Chitons, Prawns and one seriously abundant Shore crab city! It was such a joy to see so much enthusiasm for the abundant Beadlet anemones as well. We also caught more 15 Spined sticklebacks than ever and 2  Father lashers. Thanks to all who came - keep up the great rockpooling!

Lepidochitona cinerea