Monday 23 November 2015

Wildlife Crime talk this Thursday 26th November

Join us this Thursday 26th November at 7:30pm for what promises to be a fascinating talk by Gary Turnbull on Wildlife Crime, at the INHT Centre in Port Charlotte (next to the youth hostel). Admission just £3 (£1 for INHT members) including tea and cake!

Thursday 5 November 2015

All done for another season

The centre was a hive of activity on Saturday morning, finding all the creatures in the tanks and putting them back into the sea.
Careful searching for every last beastie

The tanks and sand were emptied and a good general tidy up.  Great work from all our helpers.

Fishes and crab ready for release
Lobster ready for the sea
The season has been a good one with over 1600 visitors and sales and admissions up on the previous season.

We will be back open in the Spring

Thursday 29 October 2015

Last chance to visit the sea creatures this season

Our monster - Edible Crab

There is just one more day left of the season for the Islay Natural History Centre, your last chance to see the crabs, lobster and Topknot flatfish before we release them back into the wild.

We will be emptying the tanks on Saturday morning so if you can come and visit tomorrow (Friday 30th) between 10.30 - 4.30 we would love to see you.
Don't mess with me! - Velvet swimming crab

'Greedy guts' - Long-spined Seascorpion 

Cute - Topknot flatfish
Also, .....I can barely bring myself to mention it, but ....if you are already considering Christmas stocking fillers, then we have a great range of cool kids stuff here in the shop!  There I said it ... and Halloween isn't yet passed.

Come see us on our last day!

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Coast to Coast talk tomorrow evening 29th October

Join us tomorrow evening (29th Oct) for what promises to be a fascinating talk on the  Coast to Coast walk by Sandy Taylor and Chris Abell - with refreshments, a picture quiz and even a prize! £3 (£1 for INHT members), 7:30pm at the INHT Visitor Centre, Port Charlotte (next to the youth hostel).

Thursday 22 October 2015

Our Topknot flat fish

A rare underside view
A more unusual view of our big tank resident.  It usually hides upside down tucked up in one of the tubes but yesterday decided to venture out and show us its underside, which Mandy managed to capture on camera at the end of the day!
Our usual view

Seashell ID Workshop - this Sunday 25th October (2-4pm)

I think I may have chosen well looking at the weather - an indoor rAmble this week!

Well be sure to have a gander along a beach before hand and collect up some interesting shells and beachcombing finds of mystery and bring them along.  Our seashell identification workshop this Sunday will aim to give you hints and tips on how to identify your beach treasures.  There will be an array of specimens to compare against, I have collected shells from all of Islay's beaches and have amalgamated records of some 134 species so whether large or small I can help with identification.

There are some interesting stories behind some of the species and what they get up to when living.

Here are some good places to go looking:
Uiskentuie Strand - for big clam species - occasional piddocks and some smaller gastrapods
Black Rock can throw up some interesting smaller specimens, particularly after this recent storm
Big Strand, nr. Knockangle Point - the currents collect a lot of interesting species, Cowries and other sea-snails.
Pheasant Shell
Kilnaughton - look for small and miniature species, and some not found regularly elsewhere
Killinallan and Ardnave - can have a whole range of different species, although you may have to walk further between finds.
Gartbreck - a whole array of medium to small sea-snails gather and wash ashore with the currents, many rarer and more fragile, so a great place for more unusual specimens.
Goose Barnacle

Sea Squirt
 Any west coast beach after the last days winds may throw up Goose Barnacles on floating logs and 'By-the-wind Sailors' at this time of year.

Come and join me on Sunday, only £2 for INHT members; £4 non-members
Fiona MacGillivray

Autumn Woodland Wonders

Autumn Woodland Wonders activity last week was a great experience, the weather perfect, the leaves all changing colour and very enthusiastic little people ready for some woodland exploration.  We set out looking for all the interesting leaves, nuts and seeds, looking for all the signs of Autumn.  The leaves of Sycamore just now are covered in black spots, evidence of the presence of 'Jerking Disc Sawfly'.

The children enjoyed a spell of fun on the rope swing before a game of Poo Sticks off the bridge over the River Sorn and then a hunt for minibeasts amongst the leaf litter and rotting logs.

All keen explorers.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Islay Dolphins

Fantastic sighting of dolphins on way to work today, a pod of 8 - 10 dolphins in Loch Indaal. As I was approaching Port Charlotte lighthouse I saw several animals break the surface heading northwards close into the shore.

On continuing to watch I realised that there was a pod of dolphins spread out close to shore. Pity the film crew working at the lighthouse didn't see it they had better cameras than me.

These maybe the same animals that have been in Kilnaughton Bay for the last two evenings. This is a good pod of mixed animals with large adults, sub adults and small younger dolphins.

There have been great images on local social media pages of the dolphins in Kilnaughton Bay and surrounding area.

So keep a look out for them and enjoy the sights of these beautiful animals.

Sorry no images couldn't zoom my tablets in close enough.


Monday 19 October 2015

Birding at Carnain yesterday

Gary led a small group of dedicated birders yesterday to see what was about the shore of Loch Indaal at Carnain.

Beautiful calm conditions
Out on the loch were a raft of scaup, with a couple of slavonian grebes in amongst them and a couple of red throated divers nearby. Nearer in to the shore between us and Blackrock were numerous red breasted mergansers, and behind us between us and the road a kestrel was hovering. Nearby on the gorse we saw a pair of stonechat, and on the strandline several pied wagtails were trotting around. Also active on the shore was a great black backed gull which had just caught a very large starfish!

Out towards Bridgend were many barnacle geese, ringed plovers and oystercatchers, and many smaller waders that had been pushed further away by the crossing cattle making identification difficult, but there was a large flock of golden plovers over on the shore towards Bowmore that looked beautiful in the sun.

Highlight of the afternoon though was the sight of these two long-tailed ducks, looking beautiful on the calm loch.

Long-tailed ducks, photo by Gary Turnbull
Sightings list 18/10/2015 Carnain:
Mute Swan; Red Throated Diver; Great Northern Diver; Grey Heron; Cormorant; Shag; Common Gull; Herring Gull; Black headed Gull; Red breasted Merganser; Scaup 35; Eider; Mallard; Teal; 
Common Scoter; Long tailed Duck 2; Slavonian Grebe; Kestrel; Curlew; Oystercatcher; Golden Plover; Ringed Plover; Bar-tailed Godwit; Turnstone; Pied Wagtail; Meadow Pipit; Goldfinch; Starling; Stonechat

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Saligo's super geology

15 people joined us on Dave's geology walk at Saligo on Sunday, which turned out to be a fascinating and informative afternoon. Dave started off by a quick resume of basic geology including the 3 categories of rock - igneous (has cooled from molten rock), sedimentary (formed in layers) and metamorphic (changed from one form to another) - which in itself was a good start for a novice like me! We then headed down onto the beach for a closer look at the amazing rocks down there.

Dave pointing out the chilled margin of a 55 million year old igneous dyke. This is made of dolerite and trends NW-SE and probably originated in the Blackstones Bank volcanic centre about 40 miles to the NW. These dykes are part of the process of the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Throw it! THROW IT!

The rocks to the south of the beach dipped to the left (SW), the ones to the north dipped right (NE), indicating that the rock layers had folded due to compressive forces (like when continents collide). Dave taught us that a convex-upward fold is called an Anticline (like and Arch) and a convex-downward fold is called a Syncline (like a Saucer).

The rocks here were turbiditic sandstones deposited by turbidity currents in deep water, and Dave reminded us of the school experiment we might have done, filling a jam jar with water, mud and rocks, shaking it up and letting it settle. The bigger bits sink to the bottom and the fine mud setlles out slower - leaving a deposit that 'fines upward'.

A small anticline fold in bedded turbiditic sandstones of the Colonsay Group (deposited about 750 million years ago and folded about 470 million years ago).

another smaller dyke

Many thanks to Dave for a fascinating talk/walk, and to all those who came along!

Thursday 8 October 2015

A migrant moth

I caught this small, 19-mm-long, moth last night. It is a Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella which is an annual migrant to Britain from southern Europe, sometimes in large numbers. This the first I've caught and the first on Islay since one was caught at Gruinart in July 2009. There have been 14 earlier records, 9 of them in July 1996 which must have been a good year for them.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Geology walk at Saligo this Sunday 11th October

Next in our series of Sunday afternoon rAmbles is a Geology walk at Saligo Bay on the 11th, and if the previous geology walks are anything to go by this should be a cracker! I love looking at the rock formations at Saligo and am looking forward to hearing, amongst other things, how they were formed and what they're called from our expert Dave Webster who'll be leading the walk. Co-author of the recently published and fascinating book "A Guide to the Geology of Islay" (available in the INHT shop, now open until end October!), Dave has a wealth of knowledge to share so this is one not to miss! Meet at the gate for 2 pm - parking is limited in this area so please park responsibly. There is a small charge for this walk of £4 for adults, £2 for INHT members, and £10 for families. Sorry no dogs. See you Sunday!

Monday 5 October 2015

October opening!

We're pleased to say that this year we're open throughout October during weekdays, so why not come along for a visit? Lots to do and see here, including a new poster on the Drift Bottle Project, as well as the newly-moulted shell of our Velvet Swimming crab! We'll be running more rAmbles and talks too, so keep and eye for more details to follow. See you soon!

Tuesday 29 September 2015


After a poor summer for butterflies in my garden - none appeared on the flowering buddleia earlier on - it was good to see three species today on the michaelmas daisies.

Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Wednesday 23 September 2015

A wealth of fungi waiting to be discovered...

Thanks to Alistair we found many different fungi on our INHT rAmble last Sunday at Loch Skerrols. The area itself is beautiful, with the loch looking picturesque in the calm conditions...

...and we headed into the woods to see what we could find.

The range of size, colours and smells of the fungi was amazing, and the more we looked the more we found, as is ever the case when looking at nature. Here's Alistair describing what he's seen to the group...

One of my favourites was Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune), the name describing how underneath the gills are split (that's what I love about mycology, there's always a clue in the name!) - I think they look like tiny white furry paws! AND it's a relatively new record for Islay so well done to Alistair for finding it.

Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune)

Another interesting one for me was the Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) - the fungus rather than the mammal! Again the name comes from what it looks like underneath, which is this...

Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)

 As you can see it looks quite spiky, which you can see in this photo too...

Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)

I find identifying fungi quite difficult due to their changing appearance throughout their life cycle, and it seems I'm not alone, as suggested by the name of the next one, the Deceiver (Laccaria laccata), so called because it changes so much it can be mistaken for other things. 

Deceiver (Laccaria laccata)

At least another one, the Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina), is lilac coloured, making it a little easier to identify.

And then there was the Earthfan (Thelephora penicillata), a strange-looking fungus that forms rosette-like clusters among mosses on the forest floor. One feature of them is that however good a specimen it is, it always looks like it's been trodden on!

Earthfan (Thelephora penicillata)

It often pays to look really closely at the forest floor too, and you may see something like this Stagshorn fungus (the yellow one)...

Calocera spp.

...and this one which could be Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica).

Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica)

Here's a list of what we found on the day, with more photos to come no doubt! Many thanks Alistair for hisvexpertise, to Fiona for taking the photos and to everyone for their pleasant company on our fungi foray! Mandy

Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva)
Bay Bolete (Boletus badius)
Stagshorn (Calocera spp.)
Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus)
Webcap (Cortinarius spp)
Ganoderma (possibly Ganoderma applanatum or Artist's Bracket)
Hoof Fungus / Tinder Bracket (Fomes fomentarius)
Common Rustgill (Gymnopilus penetrans)
Poisonpie (Hebeloma spp)
Wood Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)
White Fibrecap (Inocybe geophylla)
Laccaria spp
Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
Deceiver (Laccaria laccata)
Mild Milkcap  (Lactarius subdulcis)
Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum)
Bonnet (Mycena spp)
Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica) or Tan Ear (Otidea alutacea)
Porcelain Fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)
Deer Shield (Pluteus cervinus)
Brittlestem (Psathyrella spp.)
Pink Brittlegill (Russula)
Winecork Brittlegill (Russula adusta) or Crowded Brittlegill (Russula densifolia)
Yellow Swamp Brittlegill (Russula claroflava)
Charcoal Burner (Russula cyanoxantha)
Sickener (Russula emetica)
Geranium Brittlegill (Russula fellea)
Beechwood Sickener (Russula nobilis)
Ochre Brittlegill (Russula ochroleuca)
Splitgill (Schizophyllum commune)
Urchin Earthfan (Thelephora penicilliata)
Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)
Birch Knight (Tricholoma fulvum)
Soapy Knight (Tricholoma saponaceum)
Velvet Bolete (Suillus variegatus)

Thursday 17 September 2015

A Fun Fungal Foray! Join us this Sunday at Loch Skerrols

This Sunday we're running our next rAmble at Loch Skerrols near Bridgend, to see what different kinds of fungi we can find! If last year's rAmble is anything to go by, we should be in for an interesting afternoon - see here for last year's posts.

If you fancy coming along, meet us at 2 pm beside Loch Skerrols. There is a small charge for this walk: £4 adults, £2 INHT members, £10 families. Sorry no dogs. See you Sunday!

Tuesday 15 September 2015

This weekend is Great British Beach Clean weekend!!

Over the next few days (18-21 September) the Marine Conservation Society is organising the Great British Beach Clean throughout the UK, so here's their information on what's going on. If there isn't an organised event near you, why not help do our bit to keep our beaches and seas clean by picking up any litter you see whilst you're on the coast? It'll make a big difference to marine life, however small a piece you pick up! Good luck and enjoy.

Great British Beach Clean 2015
Calling all beach lovers - Your beach needs you! 

We are aiming to make this year's Great British Beach Clean the biggest ever and we would love to invite you to join in! 

Throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK there will be events going on over the weekend of the 18th-21st September and we hope to see you at one of them! 

Beachwatch is the Marine Conservation Society’s national beach cleaning and litter surveying programme - helping people all around the UK to care for their coastline with the Great British Beach Clean being the flagship event.  

Whether you want to become a Beachwatch Organizer for your local beach or just come along to one of our registered events we can help you make it the most educational and fun day out at the beach in your calendar!
For more information and to sign up please go to
Contact: Catherine Gemmell

Ardnave wader walk

Four visitors to the island joined Martin and myself for a short walk on Ardnave on Sunday 13th September to look out over Loch Gruinart for passage and resident waders.
We walked across the Machir and dunes and over looked the loch and we were straight onto a small group of waders on the shore line this included Curlew, Black tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Sanderling.
This sighting gave the visitors a great view of the size comparison of the birds.

There were a good number of the gull species about with 3 Kittiwakes flying up the exposed river on the loch.

One of our visitors was the raptor spotter for the walk finding us several Buzzards and two cracking ring tail Hen Harriers. We had great views of one of the birds as it passed in front of us passing a darkening cloud and we could clearly see the white rump patch and tail feather detail.

We walked across one of the larger sandy beaches near the tideline and on nearing the rocks we observed several small waders, we got the scopes onto them and watched two Sanderling and a Dunlin working the tideline together. Again we were able to show the visiting birders the differences in these small waders, the feather colouring snowy white on the Sanderling and the fading browns of the Dunlin coming into its winter finery.

A juvenile Ringed Plover dropped in nearby by and all birds moved together and again due to the light conditions we had great views of the birds and the feathers patterns. It also helped that the birds were obliging and no more than 30m away from us.

During the walk we had a fly by of two Chough and several Raven nearby. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtail were about in good numbers and we also had a juvenile Wheatear soaking up the sun on the grass.

Who said birding was hard work, this was a nice walk with us being able to show visitors to Islay the best of what it has to give as a wildlife hot spot.


Monday 14 September 2015

Scientific Research Washed Ashore

Scientific Research Washed Ashore

During a cold morning of beachcombing back in March, a rather unusual object was discovered. This was something that is usually associated with stories and tales, but in this instance it held much more scientific value. On the 4th March, Fiona uncovered a message in a bottle washed up on Machir Bay here on Islay. On closer inspection it was evident that this message was of great importance.

Along with a hand written greeting message, the typed information introduced The Drift Bottle Project.  It explained that this project was launched in summer 2014 to look at surface circulation in the North Atlantic ocean, in the wider context of global ocean circulation. The project is run by the Students on Ice (SOI) Arctic Expedition and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with involvement from international high school students, world-class scientists, explorers and educators.  

On the 17th and 18th of July 2014, a total of 142 bottles packed with personal messages and recording sheet scrolls were dropped into sea on a trip between Canada and Greenland across the Labrador Sea. It is predicted that a typical path of these bottles would travel south to the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland and across to Europe, carried by the North Atlantic Drift as an extension of the Gulf Stream. They are then assumed to reach the coasts of Ireland, the UK, Iceland and Norway.

This was a great find and The Drift Bottle Project has been contacted with the details of our discovery! The Islay Natural History Trust is working on putting together a display to represent our finding where you can find details such as the proposed path our bottle took across the ocean and how fast it got here. Come down and visit to hear more about the project and where other bottles have been found - although many more are still presumed to be afloat and awaiting discovery! 

If you think you have made a similar discovery and haven't acted on it, don't keep it bottled up - let us know! 
Lorna Archer

Thursday 10 September 2015

Sunday 13th rAmble - Ardnave

Sunday 13th rAmble - Ardnave 
Join us this Sunday 13th on our next rAmble along Ardnave dunes and shore for seashore and waders. This will be birding on the edge when we will be looking out for autumn waders on their southwards migration. Have an enjoyable Sunday filled with the sights and sounds of this beautiful area of Islay!
Meet at Ardnave Loch car parking area the end of Loch Gruinart west side, 2pm.
£4 person; Family (2 adults +children) £10; INHT members £2

Wear stout footwear and dress for the weather. Sorry no dogs.

Monday 7 September 2015

The Flowers' Final Fling

A passing shower before we set off but it stayed dry and sunny for our rAmble through the flowers at Killinallan.  This visit was a carpet of blue and yellow with Harebells and particularly Devil's Bit Scabious in the prime of their seasonal flowering.  Autumn Hawkbit heads were bobbing and the white heads of Grass of Parnassus in the wet flushes at the top of the shoreline floated to and fro in the light breeze in profusion.
Devil's Bit Scabious

Frog Orchid
Despite many species fading off the flowering scene, many still provided examples of their blooms with late flowering stems.  Most of the orchids were completely finished but a few Frog Orchid spikes eluded to flowering, although mostly the bracts remained.

Mountain Everlasting

Grey Seals bobbed in the receding waters, although none emerged onto the sand bank or decided to sing for us.  Our only butterfly of the day was a Meadow Brown.

What we saw:
Meadow Brown;

Grey Seal

Autumn Hawkbit; Grass of Parnassus; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Lady's Bedstraw; Fairy Flax; Red Clover; Black Bog Rush; Frog Orchid; Twyblade (leaves); Thyme; Devil's Bit Scabious; Harebell; Autumn Gentian; Eyebright; Self Heal; Knapweed; Milkwort; Tormentil; Silverweed; Ragged Robin; Meadow Rue (leaves); Meadow Sweet; Bog Myrtle; Yarrow, Tufted Vetch; Angelica; Mountain Everlasting; Water Mint

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Sunday 6th rAmble - Killinallan Dunes

Join us this Sunday 6th on our next rAmble along Killinallan Dunes. This will be The Flowers Final Fling as the last flowers of the season bloom. Have an enjoyable Sunday filled with colour and glorious flowers on our gentle nature walk!
Meet at Locked Gate at the end of Loch Gruinart East side, 2pm.
£4 person; Family (2 adults +children) £10; INHT members £2

Wear stout footwear and dress for the weather. Sorry no dogs.

Walking Back In Time

A wonderful afternoon on Sunday's rAmble where David Webster led us on a geological path through time. Down at Kilnaughton Bay, we learnt about the underlying natural processes which have shaped Islay as we see it today, whilst identifying tell-tale rock formations that illustrate the past. 

The walk began with Jura Quartzite, where the rock layers noticeably dip in a South East direction - meaning we were walking in the direction of younger days ahead! Here a rare form of kyanite mineral can be found. This Quartzite is what makes up the Paps of Jura.
Jura Quartzite layered rock
Moving on, as well as examples of compressed sedimentary rock squashed to form slate, we were introduced to a new rock type - conglomerate - seen down by the lighthouse, identifiable by the small pebbles embedded in the layers. 

David Webster pointing out the curvature in the conglomerate rock layers

Pebble remains of raised beach

Further along, groupings of isolated pebbles around 20m higher than today's coastline tells the story of the past where sea levels were higher, perhaps due to glacier melt water from the last ice age. These pebbles represent raised beaches bordering the sea cliffs which now sit inland from the shoreline. Similarly, large sea stack rock columns along our path would have once been surrounded by sea.

Fault rock alignment 

The last rock feature lead us down on to the Singing Sands. Here we were able to see an alignment of rock along the sand and out to sea, representing the underlying fault line. The dyke rock feature stands out on the sands and can often be identified by its honeycomb stacking structure and rough sandpaper texture.

 An incoming rain shower towards the end was in fact exactly what we needed to allow the group to get their feet scuffing and hear the Singing Sands "sing" - or squeak to be more accurate! The erosion of the Quartzite rock creates these sands and along with the combination of shell deposits and added moisture, you can enjoy a tuneful stroll on the beach.

Our group making tracks down at the Singing Sands

Thanks to David Webster for this wonderful walk and helping us get our heads around all the geological terms and timescales! A fascinating walk discovering Islay's ancient landscape. - Lorna