Thursday 31 July 2014

Butterfly Fun Day 2014

We had the best turn out ever for our indoor activities at our annual Butterfly Fun Day, but the poor weather put budding counters off for the big butterfly count at Killinallan. Those that did turn up were keen however and the final scores revealed that, for the first year in 3, the Meadow Brown came out as our most numerous butterfly, beating the previous years' contender (Common Blue) by about 15 to 0!

At the Centre we made delicious butterfly cakes, designed butterflies and made caterpillars and learnt about the lifecycle of a butterfly, aided by the Cinnabar Moth caterpillars which are growing well in our pavilion, having been bred from last year's chrysalises!

Many thanks to all for coming and especially to Niall and Lynda and Maggie for baking, enthusing and clearing up!

Counting butterflies at Killinallan

Caterpillars and butterflies

Unknown species of caterpillar - any suggestions?

Friday 25 July 2014

Swallow-tailed Moth

Only the fourth record for Islay (one each in 2000, 2001 and 2003), this beautiful moth with a 3-cm wingspan entered my trap last night, and, after being photographed, was released back into the garden.

Geology Ramble - Kilchiaran 20th July

A small band of budding geologists gathered for an insight into Islay geology, super old rocks and a fascinating explanation of how they were formed and how they got here, once formed over the South pole! David Webster provided the answers and managed to make confused brains understand how it all fitted together. A million years difference in the geology of the rocks south of Kilchiaran Bay and those to the north.

Sand martin burrows in glacial moraine deposited in the sea

Explaining the lines in the rocks

Chough beak marks in thyme covered ant hills

Basalt sill holding back a splash pool, full of sticklebacks and whirlygig beetles

Rare forms of basalt and understanding how it formed.

Basalt inclusions, slates, mud and siltstones, gneiss and rare flint stones, how they got here and the effects of glacial erosion and deposition.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

A new moth for Islay

In my trap last night was a Scallop Shell, an attractive moth which has not turned up on Islay before, while the only previous record for any of the three islands is one caught on Colonsay in July 2013.
With my thanks to Danny Arnold for correcting my original incorrect identification!


Monday 21 July 2014

Kilnaughton flora and hoverflies

How come I've never really explored Kilnaughton dunes before? I was overwhelmed by how beautiful they are and found the most gorgeous display of Meadow Cranesbill and Meadowsweet I've ever seen. What a delight it was to hear the constant humming of bees and hoverflies enjoying the rich nectar of the bountiful flora of these dunes.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Sanaigmore rAmble - 13th July 2014

Last Sunday's ramble was a bright and sunny afair with a sociable mix of members and visitors. We did not roam far but enjoyed a host of flowers and butterflies. There was a broad spectrum of knowledge amongst the group, with botany, birds, invertebrates, inc. butterflies (which were enjoying the heat of the sun), fungi and geology.
Flowers: Monkey Flower; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Eyebright; Self Heal; Common Centaury; Autumn Gentian; Frog Orchid; Field Thistle; Fairy Flax; Hawkbit; Devils Bit Scabious; Bog Pimpernel; Lady's Bedstraw; Lesser Meadow Rue; Thrift. Invertebrates: Soldier Beetle; Dung Beetle larvae; Common Blue butterfly; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Tortoiseshell; Dark Green Fritillary. Birds: Gannet; Chough; Oystercatcher; Arctic Tern; Rock Pipit; Ringed Plover. Geology: Flint; Gneiss. Looking forward to today's geology walk at Kilchiaran at 2pm. Fiona MacGillivray (Chair) This is the first time I have managed to get access to blog to post (via my old computer, new one doesn't like it) so apologies to those who like hearing about the rambles. This has taken an age to post so hope it works!

Thursday 17 July 2014

A Pond of Wonders

So a slightly delayed post about our pond dipping activity day at Bruichladdich. last Friday we met down at the Bruichladdich pier before traveling up to George's pond, a great little spot which became a great pond dipping experience. Before nets even got wet a few keen eyed pond dippers spotted some tiny froglets just in the grass around the pond, followed swiftly by a tiny toadlet, sparking discussion about the difference between the two, unfortunately these little fellas made an escape attempt whilst we were distracted by the other wonders we found. The activity started slow as the weather was hot and all the mini-beasts headed to the deeper regions, but a few clouds saved the day and with a few keen eyed netters we soon had trays over flowing with key species and a few monsters of the pond.

So our first finds were the typical water boatmen, mostly greater water boatmen but these were soon overshadowed by the first water scorpion of the day, after which we would find a handful more including this monster specimen who probably should of had his own bucket as these veracious predators see everything on the menu including tadpoles fish and even our tiny froglets. This one soon made quick work of one of our damselfly nymphs another top predator of the pond with the alien like hinged bottom jaw similar to their dragonfly cousins, they hunt by ambush grabbing anything that strays too close.

One of my personal favorites from the day was this brilliant water beetle, One of my favorite things to find in ponds; their larvae rival the water scorpion for top dog in most ponds. Alongside the usual groups of beetles and insects this was already a good haul until a shout went up for an eel. A great find Immediately followed by another great find, a leech, these two together where unexpected and we were incredibly luck.

These capped our pond dipping day and after releasing the critters back to the pond it was back to the centre to return some very muddy nets, and to let clean some very muddy wellies.

Monday 7 July 2014

Down on the shore in Port Charlotte

I have often been too pushed for time to properly get down on my hands and knees and delve in to the rocky exposed shore next to Port Charlotte beach. However, one sunny day last week, the opportunity arose. Apart from finding an abundance of  Dahlia Anemones, and releasing a deadly looking jellyfish into the open sea, we uncovered many exciting creatures, photographed below.

Mum's favourite, the Broad Clawed Porcelain Crab. Both these individuals were missing a claw each, testament to their fragile nature. Not often seen, this species is found at very low tides often under rocks under rocks! They are very good at clinging onto surfaces with their back legs, including your hand when it is time to return them!

Not two, but one Piecrust Crab which has recently moulted, leaving its old, paler armour behind. Be careful when handling crabs at this time of year, as moulting is in full swing and the shells take a while to harden, making them very vulnerable.

Sea Lemon. We found two on this occasion, both feasting on Breadcrumb Sponge, their favourite food.

Sea slug, possibly Grey Sea slug, which along with many other sea slug species, are busy laying eggs under rocks and seaweed at this time of year.


Tuesday 1 July 2014

Camping and caves at Bagh an Da Dhoruis

Wow! What a trip this was! Two days away from toil and trouble; days when you have to pinch yourself to know you're still human and living on earth and not on some amazing Paradise. Of course, Islay can be utopian, or almost (there are always midges and clegs and tics to remind us of its earthly status). Those aside, however, and you're left with something so idyllic you want to invent a new word for the occasion. Walking from Bunnahabhain northwards and inland, we descended very steeply to the beautiful Bagh an Da Dhoruis where the sunshine and clegs welcomed us and the caves beckoned. Armed with a good torch and the gung ho attitude of our youngest two members, we set off to explore Islay's inner core. The intrepid need not read on. It was a belly crawling experience in parts with the wonder of stalactites and stalagmites, spiders, dead goats and cave pools bathed in sunshine. We went in about 200 metres to the rear of the cave's chamber where you could stand up in complete darkness and be afraid - very afraid! We emerged from the cave's birth canal onto sun-kissed sand and sea, gathered wood and had a banana BBQ before hitting the pillow. Of course we saw lots of flora and fauna en route:

Cross-leaved Heath, Bell Heather, Bog Asphodel, Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Heath-spotted Orchid, Wild Thyme, Thrift, Sea Campion, Flag Iris, Milkwort, Lesser Spearwort, Meadow Buttercup, Bog Myrtle, Self-heal, White Clover, Red Clover, Bracken, Marsh Bedstraw, Eyebright, Marsh Thistle, Creeping Thistle, Spear Thistle, Common Nettle, Common Cottongrass, Round-leaved Sundew, Butterwort, Foxglove, Bilberry, Wild Strawberry, St John's Wort sp

Pheasant, yellowhammer, Redpoll, Blackbird, Wren, Stonechat, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Shag, Kestrel, Peregrine, Buzzard, Grey Heron, Black Guillemot, Fulmar, Gannet, Swallow, Arctic Tern, Hooded Crow, Cuckoo

Grey Seal, Red Deer, Common Frog, Common Lizard, Rabbit

Sea Gooseberries, Dung Beetle, Large Heath, Small Heath, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Ringlet, Peacock caterpillars, Forester Moth, Elephant Hawk Moth, Emperor Moth (caterpillars), Green Tiger Beetle, Carabus glabratus, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Large Red Damselfly, Pond Skaters, mating Bumble bee sp

A fantastic trip!

Bagh an Da Dhoruis

Emperor Moth caterpillar - final instar

Forester Moth

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Mating Bumble Bees

Peacock caterpillars

Sun-kissed sand


Into the grim grotto!