Friday 31 July 2015

A great afternoon of sand art!

What a great afternoon, such fantastic weather perfect for time on the beach and the numbers of cars parked at Machir Bay is testament to that.  Our activity was all about getting creative and bringing the sand to life with our wildlife creations. Our group of locals and visitors created fish, whales, crabs, squid, turtles and other imaginative sculptures.
Busy diggers

Whale of a time

Super Squid

Life size Leatherback turtle

All the participants had the chance to vote for their favourite sculpture.
Proud winner with most votes

One of three runners up rightly proud of her turtle
Our next family event will be next Tuesday, it will be good low tides so on Tuesday we will be on a Seashore Safari on the shore west of Bowmore (meeting at the High School playing fields car park 2pm).  On Thursday 2pm we will be exploring the seashore at Craighouse on Jura. 
Come and join us - looking forward to it.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Lime-Speck Pug moth, Islay's 3rd and 4th

Over the last month we've been watching Cinnabar Moths emerge from their pupae from a tray full of soil housed in a little butterfly 'pavillion' in our Sea Tanks room at the centre. This in itself has been fascinating, but for the last 2 weeks or so no more Cinnabar moths have emerged, meaning that all the ones that were coming out are out. However, last Wednesday when I was still checking as usual, I saw 2 moths in there that looked very different, and a quick look in one of our library books revealed them to be Lime-Speck Pugs (Eupithecia centaureata). Apparently they overwinter as a pupa in loose earth or among plant debris, similarly to the Cinnabar moth which overwinters as a flimsy cocoon just under the ground. Very nice little critter the Lime-speck Pug, and one I've never seen before. And it seems that, although they are common in England, they are much scarcer in Scotland, and there are only two previous records of them for Islay on our database, both caught in Bowmore last year. You never know what the day will bring! Mandy

One Lime-speck Pug

A second Lime-speck Pug

Monday 27 July 2015

Sand sculptures and castles - Next free family activity on Thursday afternoon

Our next fun family activity will be at 2 pm Thursday 30th July at Machir Bay (known locally as Kilchoman Beach) for Art on the Beach! Here we'll be making sand sculptures and sand castles so come armed with your buckets and spades - see how creative you can be! All these Thursday afternoon 'Mini-wildlife Adventures' are funded this year thanks to the Islay and Jura Toy Library and funding from Foundation Scotland, so they're free for families to come along. Look out for an extra one on Tuesday 4th August too! Details to follow. See you there!

Soggy Sanaigmore - time for coffee and cake! Next: Currie Sands.

Well for once we were beaten by the weather - our rAmble at Sanaigmore yesterday afternoon was a wash-out, with no takers on a particularly soggy Sunday. It was however a good excuse to go in to the Outback Gallery for delicious coffee and cake, and talk about what rAmbles we'll have on in August! We start next Sunday the 2nd with a visit to Currie Sands near Portnahaven, where we'll have a wander round to spot any interesting wildflowers like Sea Holly, and have a look at the crevices where the waves come crashing in, as well as what might be along the shoreline. We're not too far there from where the LIMPET wave generator was, and you'll see the power of the waves along the rocks there. Also nearby is Frenchman's rocks which is usually good for sea-watching. If you fancy coming along, meet at the Currie Sands parking area for 2pm; it's just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's only£2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. Hope to see you there!

Sunday 26 July 2015

Flower Power - Killinallan family activity 23rd July

Red Soldier Beetle on Frog Orchid
Despite the wind and the rain cloud that skirted to the north of Loch Gruinart, it stayed dry and sunny.  Our band of mini explorers set off for flower heaven.  They found lots of lovely colours amongst the petals and leaves of the bountiful carpet of dune flowers.  Including many orchids - Northern Marsh; Frog; Pyramidal; and Fragrant which we all had a good sniff at.  Other plants with good sniffs were Meadow Sweet and Thyme.  Colours: yellows from Buttercup, Lady's Bedstraw; pinks from Red Clover, white from Eyebright and Daisy; blue from Milkwort; purple from Self-heal.

Colour pallets filled

Beetle larvae

Fun finding mini-beasties
After filling our pallets with colour, butterflies and other beasties were on the agenda.  Armed with nets and bug pots, the children were expert at finding and catching butterflies, moths and a whole array of other mini-beasties.  Meadow Brown was the main butterfly, also Six-spot Burnet Moths, we discussed how to tell moths and butterflies apart (wing folding and antennae).  Spiders, flies, slugs and beetle larvae were our discoveries.

All these great 'Mini-wildlife Adventures' are funded this year thanks to the I&J Toy Library and funding from Foundation Scotland so are free for families to attend.  Next Thursday we are having fun on the beach creating sand sculptures, time to get creative - join us at Machir Bay, Kilchoman at 2pm.

Friday 24 July 2015

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

One of these migrant moths from North Africa was spotted in Bowmore two weeks ago, though news of it has only just reached me. No, it is not a hummingbird, but a moth which behaves like one, hovering, its wings just a blur, in front of flowers so that it can extend its long tongue and suck up the nectar. Apparently, this is a very good year for sightings across Britain, so keep your eyes open. They've turned up here in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009, though not apparently since. Please report any you see. The photo is courtesy of Butterfly Conservation.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Next events - Thursday Family activity and Sunday rAmble!

Join us on our next two events, starting with a free 'mini wildlife adventure' for families this Thursday afternoon (23rd July) at 2 pm when we'll be discovering the 'Power of Flowers and Butterflies' at Killinallan! There'll be carpets of colour in the dunes, with frog orchids and fairy flaxes visited by butterflies and bumblebees - lots to discover! Follow the signs for Killinallan and meet at the locked gate at the end of the track.

Then on Sunday 26th July we'll be re-visiting Sanaigmore to see more Orchids, Butterflies and other Dune Delights. Meet at 2 pm at the Outback Gallery (turn at the telephone box and follow the road to the gallery) or earlier if you want to factor in tea and cake! Which I can highly recommend ;-)

Small charge for this walk: just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's just £2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. Hope to see you there!

One view of Sanaigmore
Northern Marsh Orchid

Marsh Samphire - it just goes to show....

Well it turns out that the Marsh Samphire, or Glasswort that we saw on our Sunday afternoon rAmble at Gartbreck is only the third time it's been recorded on Islay! It has previously been found at Saligo and at Lower Killeyan (by a visitor in 2012), and before that there's an older record (1906) from Colonsay. Thanks Malcolm for the info and well done to Fiona for spotting it and bringing it to the attention of the lucky people on the rAmble. So it just goes to show, always report sightings to us, whatever they may be - it might just turn out to be a rarity! Mandy

Marsh Samphire - first record for Gartbreck and third record for Islay!

Monday 20 July 2015

Yesterday's Gartbreck shore rAmble

There was lots to see along Gartbreck shoreline yesterday afternoon, as our group of 10 found out over an enjoyable 2 hours - the time just flew by! Aided by two telescopes we had a good look at the Common Seals on nearby rocks (including a pup!) and two beautiful Turnstones in summer plumage just in front of the seals, and saw Shelduck and Eider on the sea too.

The group at Gartbreck

In the rockpools, on the sand and under seaweed we found many treasures, including a sea anemone, shore crabs, a hermit crab and lots of different shells.

Teeny shore crab

Bigger shore crab

Sea anemone on a Sand Gaper shell
To and from the shore we also saw many different wildflowers, including the Bird's Foot Trefoil and the origin of its name - the seedpods that look like a bird's foot!
Bird's foot trefoil seed pods

Also seen was Marsh Samphire, or Glasswort, a new one for me.


All in all, a happy Sunday afternoon!

Plants: Red bartsia, silverweed, bird's foot trefoil, yellow rattle, creeping thistle, spear thistle, red clover, white clover, knapweed, hogweed, marsh samphire (glasswort), thrift, thyme, english stonecrop, ox-eye daisy.
Shore life and shells: Limpet, starfish, shore crab, hermit crab, common whelk egg case, saddle oyster, needle whelk, clam, greater scallop, hunchback scallop, keel worms, barnacles, baltic tellin, Leathesia deformis, carpet shell, sugar kelp, common periwinkle, grey topshell, sand gaper
Mammals: common seals  
Birds:  Starlings, sedge warbler, pied wagtail, dunlin, ringed plover, oystercatcher, shelduck, eider, herring gull, meadow pipit, skylark, turnstone, sparrowhawk

Insects:  Soldier beetles, leaf hopper, ringlet butterfly

Friday 17 July 2015

Kilnaughton - family activity: Miniature shells, flowers and beasties

A group of over 25 keen explorers came for a mix of activities.  We set off to find various scavenged articles from the beach: hard and soft, lived in, colourful, made a sound, smelled of the sea.  Then the challenge was who could find the smallest/tiniest shell.

I think this was the winner!

We then we set off to explore the dunes for the colourful flowers, making a pallet of the colours.

We searched amongst the grasses and flowers armed with magnifiers, bug pots and nets to see what insect beasties we could find.  Common blue and Ringlet butterflies were caught and six Spot Burnett Moths.  Flies were caught in nets and snails in the grass and red Soldier Beetles visiting the flowers.

Despite the dulling weather the rain did well to hold off whilst we all enjoyed our mini wildlife adventure.


Wednesday 15 July 2015

Next Sunday's rAmble - Seashore, Shells and Seals at Gartbreck

Why not join us for the next INHT rAmble this sunday 19th July when we'll be exploring the seashore to see what treasures we can find! We'll be looking out for seals too, as well as any other wildlife including plants and birds that we may spot. The walk itself starts at 2pm from the parking area at the end of the track before the farm (where the new distillery is to be built), but we'll also be meeting first at 1:50pm at the village hall in Bowmore (on the corner of Main Street/Jamieson Street) so we can car-share. The walk is just £4 per person or £10 per family (2 adults plus children), and if you're a member of the Islay Natural History Trust it's just £2! Don't forget to wear stout footwear and dress for the weather; sorry no dogs. Hope to see you there!

Ancient forts - last sunday's rAmble to Dun Nosebridge

Sunday's weather was kind to us yet again for another enjoyable rAmble in good company.

Some of the group on the way to the Fort
This walk combined different habitats with great views, and shortly after the start we saw a Spotted Flycatcher in the woodland trees lining the path. Also seen a little later was a beautiful male Stonechat which we first heard, making it's distinctive sound like stones being knocked together. Nearby was a juvenile Stonechat too which was nice to see, both of them sitting on a fence bordering a field.

We also saw lots of different plants and a few insects (see list at the end), and some of us were lucky enough to see a Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly flit past over the bracken. Their flight season lasts until September so hopefully there'll be more sightings. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the youngsters, catching insects to look at more closely in the pot - here's one of the beetles that we looked at.

Dor beetle - it's a big un!
And then we got to climb Dun Nosebridge itself, a (probably) Iron Age fort whose name derives from Scottish Gaelic ('Dun' meaning 'fort') and Old Norse ('knaus-borg' meaning 'fort on the crag') or Norse ('hnaus-bog' meaning 'turf fort').

Dun Nosebridge

 From the top we got to see some great views, along with an amazing array of wildflowers.

This is certainly a walk I'll be doing again! Mandy

Insects: Ringlet butterfly, Small Heath butterfly, Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly, Grasshopper, Pond Skater, Water Spider, Dor Beetle, Mirid bugs, Soldier Beetle, Dascillus cervinus,

Plants: Tufted Vetch, Self Heal, Heath Bedstraw, Thyme, Eyebright, Hawkbit, Mouse-ear, Tormentil, Silverweed, Bird'sfoot Trefoil, Red Bartsia, Hard Fern, Sea Plantain, Cuckoo Flower, Water Avens, Butterwort, Lady's Bedstraw, Yarrow, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Fairy Flax, Milkwort, Cat's ear, Perforate St John's wort, Red Clover, White Clover, Daisy, Buttercup, Wild Strawberry, Common Sorrel, Common Spotted Orchid, Heath SPotted Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Sessile Oak tree.

Birds: Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinches displaying, Male Stonechat and juvenile.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Join us for a rAmble up to the hill fort of Dun Nosebridge 2pm Sunday 12th July.  We can arrange a car share to site at 1:50 meet at the Bridgend woods car park.  No dogs on this walk. 
Expect ancient woodland, and rich grassland.

Magic Moorland - Jura

Beaten by the nice weather this time! Everyone must have decided the weather was too good to miss and so make the most of the beach.  No takers for the 'Magic Moorland' session on Thursday.  The sphagnum mosses were a pretty carpet not spoiled by dry weather and the little cute sundews were on the point of flowering, with lots of little midges stuck to their sticky leaves.  There were many butterwort along the nearby ditch, still flowering, they are also partial to the odd insect stuck to their leaves - added nitrogen for growth.  The Bog Asphodel were just displaying the first of their star shaped flowers and the bog cotton heads danced in the breeze.

Next Thursday (16th - 2pm) we are at Kilnaughton Bay so if it be good or not all activities can be combined in one afternoon so come along for a good mix of beachcombing, flower delights and minibeast hunts.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Intrepid explorers brave the rain

An intrepid band of c.25 explorers big and small arrived for a seashore safari at Port Mor on Monday all eager at 2pm. Just as we armed everyone with a net ready, we watched the wall of water approach from the west. Undeterred we ventured down to the rocky shore and did our best to look for creatures under stones and seaweed. some hermit crabs and anemones, one small fish and sea snails were found but the druichid weather took its toll and the band of explorers gradually dwindled.  I may have taken pictures if I dared expose my camera, but wisely thought better of it - the camera lives to snap another day, my jeans however are still attempting to dry!

Better weather is forecast for Thursday when we will be on Jura, looking for the small and beautiful plants and creatures on the peatbog - 'Moorland Magic'.  We will venture a short way along the track to Inver farm, just above the Feolin ferry terminal.  Ferries are at 13:10 or you can easily catch up with us off the 14:15 ferry from Islay, no need to bring the car if you don't want to.  See you there.

Geology Walk at Kilchiaran

The forecast wasn't promising on Sunday 5th July but the rains stayed away and our group of 11 had a great walk around Kilchiaran Bay. The tide was very low - and so we got a rare opportunity to scramble and paddle round to explore the cave on the left-hand side of the bay - where the 'billion-year gap' is well exposed.
The rocks on the right are 1.8 billion-year old gneisses of the Rhinns Complex in sheared contact with metasandstones of the Colonsay Group on the left which are probably a billion-years younger. We discussed the formation and break-up of ancient continents (Columbia/Nuna and Rodinia), deltaic sedimentation, slate formation, quartz veining, the opening and closing of the Iapetus ocean, 200 million-year old Mesozoic faulting, Cenozoic dyke intrusions related to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean about 55 million years ago, as well as much more recent Ice Age features such as ice-scratched rocks, glaciomarine gravels and the flint pebbles they contain which were so important to Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. All this in one bay!
Dave Webster

Friday 3 July 2015

Seals, Hermits and Little Fishes - Family Seashore Specials

Our family activity at Killinallan yesterday was amazing, 13 children and 10 adults had a mini adventure, skiddling about on the seashore, turning over seaweed and swishing the nets to discover lots and lots of hermit crabs of all sizes and styles of mobile home! We had lots of little fishes, sand shrimps and little boggle eyed Opossum Shrimps. Two shy butterfish, and a blob of jelly that turned out to be a Sea Hare. There were shore crabs the size of your finger nail and ones the size of your hand, brandishing defensive nippy claws! Various types of sea snail were plucked from the weed, some had barnacles on their backs and a lovely sea anemone attached to some seaweed opened out nicley in our tray. We investigated the signs of lugworms that were buried under the sand and explained the worm casts were really worm poo, the result of feeding on the particles attached to the sand. The Grey seals were basking on the sand bank across the water opposite us and sang their songs. The tide eventually decided it wanted to come in and would lift the trays, so we set all the creatures free and headed off for tea! For those of you who missed this fun session come along to Port Mor (Port Charlotte campsite/football pitch) on Monday (6th) 2pm and meet us in the car park for some rockpooling down on the shore. Fiona

The Oldest of Rocks & the Billion Year Gap!

Our next Sunday rAmble (nature walk)(5th July) is heading for ancient rocks, some of the oldest in the world, who could fathom that within a few metres is a billion years of geological history. The walk will be lead by David Webster who's knowledge of Islay's rocks will enthuse and leave you in awe. We are meeting at Kilchiaran at 2pm, please park resonsibly either in layby by the old chapel or by the farm track with the information board (please do not obscure access). The walk will last c.1.5-2 hours, there will be plants and other natural delights.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Orchids galore at Killinallan

Common Twayblade
An amazing array of wildflowers was seen on our walk over at Killinallan on Sunday on a sunny but windy day. Not only did our hardy band of 12 see the recently-recorded narrow-leaved orchid, but also frog orchid and common twayblade, not to mention early purple, pyramidal, heath spotted and early and northern marsh orchids. There were lots of 6-spot burnet moths about too, as well as a beautiful marsh fritillary butterfly.
Marsh Fritillary
There were so many different flowers around that I'll just list them at the end rather than pick any specific ones out. As ever, a very enjoyable few hours ambling about - thanks to everyone who came along, and to our experts Fiona and Malcolm for their wealth of botanical knowledge. The nice thing about these walks is that it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about nature, you're bound to learn something new, and you can share the knowledge you do have! Hope to see you on the next one, which will be a geology walk! Details to follow.
Sea Milkwort
Six-spot Burnet Moth Cocoon
Six-spot Burnet Moth on Pyramidal Orchid
Marsh Cinquefoil
Plants: cuckoo flower, silverweed, thrift, ragged robin, marsh marigold, sea milkwort, sea plantain, sea arrowgrass, narrow-leaved marsh orchid, northern marsh orchid, early marsh orchid, early purple orchid, heath spotted orchid, frog orchid, common twayblade, pyramidal orchid,germander speedwell, lousewort, lesser meadow rue, fairy flax, thyme, bird's-foot trefoil, eyebright, lady's bedstraw, marsh bedstraw, common milkwort, meadow buttercup, daisy, sea plantain, burnet rose, carnation sedge, mouse ear, hawkweed, marsh cinquefoil, marsh lousewort, valerian, meadowsweet, yellow iris, marsh thistle, knapweed, marram grass, black bog rush, tormentil, pennywort, tufted vetch, dog violet, bracken, spear thistle, adder's tongue fern, common nettle, ribwort plantain, tormentil, red clover, white clover. Birds: skylark, swallow, sand martin, rock pipit, hooded crow, herring gull, redpoll, meadow pipit, redshank, oystercatcher. Insects: 6-spot burnet moth, marsh fritillary butterfly. Mammals: grey seals.

Thanks to Hazel Cunningham for most of these photos.