Tuesday 24 September 2013

The mackerel are in

Colossal shoals of herring fry, known locally as "shielachan" have come into Loch Indaal following the big blooms of plankton and in their turn are  are being chased by shoals of mackerel and saithe (locally called puchie).  The shielachan are being driven up onto the beaches and getting trapped in the rock pools.

Bob Paget has seen it all before - and knows exactly how to cook the shielachan.

One scoop of an INHT net caught enough of the little fish to feed a dozen people. on Sunday. And Monday too.  We dipped them in egg. rolled them in flour and deep fried them in rapeseed oil for about five minutes.  Delicious.

Lots of people gathered on the beach in Port Charlotte to share in the bounty from the sea.

The mackerel were very easy to see and to catch - they were shoaling right next to the shore and could easily be seen.

2013 Design a Butterfly winner

Congratulations to Daniella Murray, age 6, of Bakewell who is our 2013 Design a Butterfly winner. Paul Kirkland, Director of Butterfly Conservation Scotland, was this year's judge of our competition. He said he was very honoured to judge the competition and that it was a difficult decision but he thought this 'party' butterfly was 'great fun'. A Greenbug Production Scottish Wildlife Colouring Book is winging its way now to Daniella. Well done!

Mauve Stinger bioluminescence

Thanks to John Cameron for bringing in these jellyfish which he subsequently released. He had been watching these jellyfish with Ethan Maceachern, who was fishing at the slipway in Bowmore with his Dad Robert around 8.30pm on Sunday and they observed them 'glow in the dark'. I was very interested to hear his story because Lorna and I had spent some time trying to 'rescue' numbers of this jellyfish on Tiree which had been or were being washed up.

They are known as Mauve Stingers or 'Nightlight' Jellyfish because of two properties they possess: one - a painful sting, not only in their 8 tentacles, but also in their speckles, two - because of their ability to glow in the dark by producing luminous mucus from surface cells when they are knocked or disturbed by waves. This jellyfish can grow up to 10 cm in diameter and is very variable in colour. It can be stranded in great numbers on beaches, as observed by Lorna and I on Tiree.

Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca)

Ramble at Kilchiaran 23rd September 2013

I'm pretty sure that yesterday's ramble consisted of the most widespread bunch of ramblers we've ever had: one couple from Switzerland, one from Australia and two from Yorkshire! We started the ramble in glorious sunshine and finished just as the mist which prevented our service plane from landing descended! The spring tides meant the tide was farther out than I've seen it here before but, a month since our last ramble, the flora was much depleted. A Stonechat family greeted us and later bade us farewell and a small flock of Choughs offered a conversation point as Claud and Brigitte are familiar with the Alpine Chough which lives at much higher altitudes on the continent. A wonderful last ramble. Sadly I forgot to put my card in my camera so don't have any photos! Thank you to all for coming.

Stonechat, Chough, Raven, Hooded Crow, Starling, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Twite, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Gannet, Rock Dove, Cormorant

Small Copper, Peacock, Crab Spider sp, Garden Spider, Drinker Moth caterpillar, Millipede

Self-heal, Common Nettle, Creeping Thistle, Thrift, Yarrow, Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Meadow Buttercup, Water Mint, Devil's-bit Scabious, Ragged Robin, Hawkbit, Red Clover

Xanthoria parietina, Anaptychia runsinata, Ramalina siliquosa, Ochrolechia parella, Yellow wax cap and various other unknown fungi spp

Monday 16 September 2013

Bottle-nosed Dolphins in Loch Indaal

Thanks to Kevin Wiggins for these excellent shots of Bottle-nosed Dolphins which he has seen several times in Loch Indaal.

No ramble today Monday 16th September

Due to adverse weather conditions we have regrettably had to cancel today's ramble at Killinallan. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Sea spider at Salum (Tiree)

Sea spider at Salum_2 a video by Odd Wellies on Flickr.
Although Lorna and I found this last week on Tiree, this wonderful sea spider could be seen on Islay. We have been looking for them here for years. Having found one on Tiree, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss posting!

Saturday 14 September 2013

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

There's little point in photographing mists, of which we've had quite a lot recently, but the mellow fruitfulness of autumn is well to the fore. Here are hawthorn and rowan berries waiting for the thrushes to arrive. But don't anyone dare try and say that they are forecasting a hard winter as some country 'lore' pretends. The berry crop is a reflection of past growing conditions going back a year or even more.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Tracking invasive non-native plants

A new (free) app for smartphones (iPhone and Android) has recently appeared, called PlantTracker. It has been developed by the Environment Agency, Bristol University and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to help plot the distribution of 15 highly invasive non-native plants in the UK, including the very well-known (?notorious) species like Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, Giant Hogweed and Rhododendron, but also some that may be less familiar but no less potentially damaging like Water Fern, Floating Pennywort and Piri-Piri Burr.
There are images and descriptions of all 15 species and, when you encounter one of them, you can get the location using your phone's inbuilt GPS (you don't need a phone or internet connection for this, only the automatic satellite link), add details of how much there is and any further relevant information like habitat, take a photograph if you feel confirmation is needed, and then, when you've got the necessary connection, you can e-mail the information to the organisers. You can also enter records manually on their website at: planttracker.naturelocator.org.

Here's a Himalayan Balsam plant I found today. I shall not only be submitting the location, but I shall probably talk to the landowner about getting rid of it. There were quite a few more plants and the potential for them to spread where they are is high.

Friday 6 September 2013

Invertebrates galore!

It's been such a good year for butterflies on Islay and with the return of the sun, mum and dad and I had a walk to the ruined village of Olistadh and then on to Kilchiaran and what some insects we beheld! Here is a selection of the bounty of the day. I've never seen so many Small Coppers all in one place, but the highlight had to be the Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar slowly crossing the path on its way to find somewhere to pupate. The first I've ever seen!

4-spot Orb Weaver spider - we watched anxiously as a bumble bee, caught in its web, fought for freedom. Not wanting to intervene, we watched the spider approach its prey, the bee struggle, the spider get closer - and finally breathed a sigh of relief as the bumble bee extricated itself and found its freedom. Phew!

Black Darter

Buff Ermine larva

Common Darter

Drinker Moth larva

Elephant Hawk Moth larva

Rosy Rustic

Small Coppers mating

White Ermine larva

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Foreland Brick and Tile Works

Upon Malcolm's suggestion months ago (!) I was keen to visit this former works, once an important industry for making drainage tiles on the island in the nineteenth century. It was a short (and wet) walk, but we saw lots of insects, including this impressive male Common Hawker and a hoverfly I later identified as Sericomyia silentis. Alan Silverside has an excellent page on his website about this species, and I quote therefrom:

With a body length generally of about 16mm, Sericomyia silentis is one of our largest hoverflies (family Syrphidae).
Hoverflies are classic Batesian mimics – harmless but closely resembling bees or wasps (order Hymenoptera). S. silentis is a magnificent but rather fearsome-looking insect that could easily be taken to be a large social wasp (Vespa species). As shown below, it hovers, but it also has a rather 'busy' manner as it moves from flower to flower, again like a bee or wasp.
It is a species primarily of peatland areas and its distribution in Britain matches the distribution of its habitat, i.e. it is most common in the north and west and is much more local and scarce in central and south-east England.
The larva is of the "rat-tailed maggot" type, so called because it has a long, rear, tail-like, extendable breathing-tube, enabling it to live submerged in deoxygenated aquatic sediments. Larvae of S. silentis evidently occur in the rotting vegetation and semi-liquified peat of moorland ditches and flooded peat-cuttings; Verrall (1901) quotes correspondance recording the discovery of larvae that proved to be this species, found where vegetated peat turves had been thrown back into a pool in the cut area.

For his webpage, see http://bioref.lastdragon.org/Diptera/Sericomyia_silentis.html

Foreland Brick and Tile works remains

Sericomyia silentis   

Male Common Hawker

Monday 2 September 2013

Old diary entry

Here at the visitor centre, we possess a few lovely old diaries, full of people's observations and comments about their Islay holidays. Glancing through them, I found this entry dated September 3rd-8th 1990 which is relevant to today's date, so thought I would share this extract:

'Arrived on another glorious Islay day. Islay will always have a special place in my heart. Its beauty especially when the sun shines never ceases to amaze me. Fourteen years I have been coming to Islay and I intend visiting for another fourteen years and more!
         It has been quite a wet week on Islay but the quiet peaceful way of life is so relaxing that the weather never really matters. It is so good to drive about at your own speed without the hustle and bustle of the city traffic. The beaches are still as beautiful. '

There are also numerous lists of flora and fauna encountered, which I will perhaps share another time.