Thursday 27 August 2015

Many Scorpions and not so many Dragons!

Our pond dipping session this afternoon fell between the showers, in the sunshine.  Nets were plunged into the murky depths of the pool and scooped out a multitude of strange beasties.
Lesser Water Boatman came first then the larger paler, red eyed Greater Water Boatman.  Pond Skaters skimmed the surface, midge larvae and the striking Water Scorpions were impressive in their oddness.  We had hoped for some dragonfly larvae but none were found a couple of Damselflies flew above the pond but no big fierce larvae.
Lesser Water Boatman

Pond Skater and Caddis Fly

Water Scorpion
On the grasses round about were many hopping froghoppers and leaf hoppers and a sweep of the big grass net revealed the grass was alive with Daddy-long legs, flies and bugs.
The children were extremely enthusiastic and in their excitement left a bit damper than they arrived!

This was the last of the summer activities and we are thankful for teaming up with the I&J Toy Library and funding from Foundation Scotland meant we could provide these activities for free this year, enabling many more families to benefit from the fun gained from discovering and exploring Islay and Jura's nature in the wild.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Investigating the Port Askaig Tillites

45 eager students in search of Tillites

Geology excursion to the Tillite features along the Sound of Islay with the Bolin Centre Climate Students. 
Alasdair Skelton explaining where the Tillites feature in the Islay geology

A beautiful day and some interesting rock formations. 

Could there be too many rocks?!

Granite, Limestone and Quartzite stones and boulders infused in rock the result of glacial till fused in geological time!

There was also a White-tailed Eagle on the walk back and a grey seal watching all the people on the beach. So the identification features provided on last nights 'Islay Wildlife Wonders' talk could be pointed out in the field: Grey Seal - Labrador face; Sea Eagle - big heavy bird just flapping along (no Soaring!)


Monday 24 August 2015

A pile of treasures discovered on our mini wildlife adventure to Uiskentuie

We scavenged the shore on Thursday for treasures - the beachcombing kind! Lots of shells were found, very big and small, things that were hard, things that were soft, things that were lived in, made a noise, smelled of the sea. 

Beachcombing along the strandline

The fascination with beachcombing is you just never know what the sea might bring you. Although most of our finds were local remains, we found the husk of a coconut (which might have travelled on the currents thousands of miles from the Caribbean!).

Not a hedgehog trying to get in...

...but a coconut husk!

Our lived-in finds were the most interesting - there were egg cases of Common Whelk, a mermaid's purse from a Ray, bivalve molluscs of all sizes and winkles and dog whelks.  There were many forms of seaweed, including the brain-like sea algae Leathesia difformis, and lots of the Eel grass (Zostera) had been washed ashore having been shed.

The brain-like sea algae Leathesia difformis
Eel grass
Some of our findings
A grand time was had by all. Join us next Thursday for our last family activity session of the season! Entitled 'Scorpions and Dragons', we'll be doing pond-dipping and mini-beast hunting at a local pond - meet us at Bruichladdich pier at 2pm on the 27th August for onward direction to the pond! See you there!

Thursday 20 August 2015

Next week is Geology Week!

In a major coup for the island, Islay is hosting a conference next week on the unique geology of Islay, run by the Bolin Centre, Stockholm University. In a full programme of events, some will be open to the public, starting with two Climate Change Geological Excursions, and a talk about 'Snowball Earth' in conjunction with the Islay Natural History Trust. Details are as follows:

Tuesday 25th August 2015, 1-4 pm: Excursion from the Lily Loch to the Sound of Islay - Tillite features. Meet at layby near Caol Ila junction.

Wednesday 26th August 2015, 8 am: Excursion from Bunnahabhain to Bolsa/Rhuval, a full day's hard walking. Meet at Bunnahabhain, option of boat transport back from Rhuval (£20).

Wednesday 26th August 2015, 7pm: Illustrated Talk by Prof. Ray Pierrehumbert on the Stones of Islay: Unraveling the mystery of the time when all Earth froze over. Islay Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte. Admission £3 (£1 INHT Members) including refreshments.

In addition, in conjunction with the Museum of Islay Life there will also be a talk as follows:

Thursday 27th August, 7:30pm: Talk by Prof Steven Mithen on Ice Age Hunters and Neolithic Tomb Builders on Islay. The Laddie Shop, Bruichladdich Distillery.

And then on Sunday 30th August, to carry on the geology theme, our afternoon rAmble will be at Singing Sands near Port Ellen, where we'll be answering the question "Why do the Sands Sing?" Meet at 2pm at the cemetery car park, Kilnaughton. The usual small charge applies for this - £2 INHT members, £4 non-members, £10 families.

Should be a great week!

Minor Shoulder-knot

This attractive small moth, with a long name and long feathery antennae, was caught in my garden trap last night. It is the fifth Islay record, with one in the 1970s, two in the 1980s and the last one in 1999. So, there's been quite a long gap since then. It likes damp places with willow as its foodplant and, in this so-called summer, I think my garden qualifies as a damp place and I do some have willows.

Monday 17 August 2015

A sunny Islay Show! Next, Kilchoman Gala on Sunday!

It was fantastic weather for last week's Islay Show, and what a great show it was. We had lots of people visiting the INHT tent, many of whom had a go on the Bird Race and Fishing games - always popular and lots of fun - and to guess which square the Otter might be in (won by Mr Bull). Many thanks to Bruichladdich for donating the prize - a bottle of Bruichladdich Islay Barley malt whisky! Here's a photo of the tent before it got too busy to take any more photos!

Nearly ready to go at the Islay Show!
To anyone who took photos, we'd love to see them - why not post them to our Facebook page here?

All in all we raised around £150, so thanks to everyone who came along and for supporting us, and thanks to everyone who helped on the day!

Next it's the Kilchoman Gala this coming Sunday the 23rd between 1 and 4pm at the Port Charlotte Playing Fields, Port Mor campsite. We'll have a stand there again instead of doing the usual Sunday rAmble, so please come and say hello, it'd be great to see you. More prizes up for grabs, more games and sales goods! And don't forget there's the procession of vintage cars leaving from Port Charlotte at 12:30. Should be another great event!

It's an Ard life....

What glorious weather we had for our weekly Sunday afternoon rAmble yesterday - blue skies, warm sun, calm seas....who needs the Med!

View from the Ard
We set off for a stroll round the Ard, which for anyone who hasn't visited yet is an area to the south of the bay at Port Ellen. And what a beautiful spot it is. The views are lovely, and there are wildflowers in abundance.

Swan Pool
Why it's called Swan Pool
Amongst other things we saw this Wood Sage, a new one for me, as well as various marsh wildflowers like Bog Asphodel and Marsh Cinqfoil - see end for full list.

Wood Sage
Plenty of insects around too, like this Grayling butterfly, and this beautiful Emperor Moth caterpillar.

Grayling - can you spot it?
Emperor Moth caterpillar
Lots of 6-Spot Burnet moths buzzing around too, including this one that looked like it might be newly emerged, as well as lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on ragwort.

6-Spot Burnet moth
Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort
All in all a lovely walk - thanks to Fiona for leading it and thanks too to those who came along for your very enjoyable company! Mandy

Plants: Greater knapweed, ragwort, red bartsia, yarrow, eyebright, self heal, tormentil, daisy, red clover, white clover, cat's ear, marsh pennywort, marsh ragwort, marsh thistle, sphagnum moss, bird's foot trefoil, ling heather, bell heather, willow, bramble, wood sage, buttercup, devil's bit scabious, ladies' bedstraw, scented mayweed, meadowsweet, marsh cinqfoil, marsh lousewort, bog pimpernel, bog asphodel, yellow flag iris, english stonecrop, blackthorn, goosegrass, reindeer moss, spear thistle.

Insects: Emperor moth caterpillar, cinnabar moth caterpillar, 6-spot burnet moth, grayling butterfly, common blue butterfly, ringlet butterfly, small heath butterfly, green-veined white butterfly, meadow brown butterfly, soldier beetle, carder or moss carder bee, ants' nest, cranefly,

Birds: Shag, greater black-backed gull, herring gull, swallows.

Mammals: Seals.

Beachcombing for Strandline Treasures this Thursday!

In our penultimate Mini Wildlife Adventure, we'll be meeting at 2pm on Thursday 20th August at the western end of Uiskentuie Strand to see what treasures we can find in the strandline! As always this family activity is offered free, so please come along to what should be a fun afternoon!

Goose Barnacles

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Next event and the Islay Show tomorrow!

Well the forecast is looking good for the Islay Show tomorrow, where we will be with our stand - come and find our blue tent! There'll be plenty to do, including entering our 'Spot the Otter' competition, so hope to see you there - should be a great day! Consequently the INHT Visitor Centre in Port Charlotte will be closed for the day, Thursday 13th August. Here's a photo from last year from the Islay Show's Facebook page

Islay Show 2014
On Sunday we'll be doing our afternoon rAmble around the Ard at Port Ellen! Should be a good one with an abundance of wildlife to discover. Meet by the Coastguard's hut on Frederick Crescent at the south end of the bay, £4 adults, £2 INHT members, £10 families. Sorry no dogs!

Monday 10 August 2015

Choughed with yesterday's rAmble!

Lots to be seen on yesterday's rAmble at Ardnave point, including a flock of around 30 Chough! They are so fantastic to watch, with their buoyant flight and their "chow!" calls. Wonderful.

Also seen were an abundance of wildflowers, including Grass-of-Parnassus, Common Storksbill and Harebells - see full list at the end of this blog.

Why it's called Storksbill

Harebell, or Scottish Bluebell
 A few butterflies around too, including a Grayling and a Meadow Brown, neither of which I managed to get a photo of! But a bee and a cinnabar moth caterpillar were more obliging, as was a Peacock caterpillar....

A beeeee
Cinnabar moth caterpillar

Peacock caterpillar
Great views out to Nave Island too, with Gannets, Arctic Terns and grey seals.

Yet another great walk on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Next week, the Ard! Details to follow.

Plants: ragged robin, red bartsia, red clover, white clover, smooth hawksbeard, selfheal, common mouse ear, chickweed, meadowsweet, purple loosestrife, silverweed, marsh ragwort, forget-me-not, marsh willowherb, eyebright, sneezewort, yarrow, marsh pennywort, water cress, bog myrtle, yellow flag iris, bog asphodel, daisy, bulbous buttercup, ladies bedstraw, nettle, common storksbill, spearthistle, dove's foot cranesbill, lesser meadow rue, harebell, bog pimpernel, butterwort, mint, wild thyme, glaucous sedge, ribwort plantain, birdsfoot trefoil, rough hawkbit, germander speedwell.

Birds: Hooded crow, starlings, buzzard, sandmartin, twite, chough, gannets, juvenile gannets, swans with 4 cygnets, herring gull with juveniles, oystercatchers, pied wagtail, linnet, jackdaw, arctic terns, meadow pipit, skylark, wheatear, swallow, shag.

Insects: unidentified bee, cinnabar moth caterpillar, peacock butterfly caterpillar, grayling butterfly, meadow brown butterfly, common blue butterflies, dor beetle.

Mammals: rabbit, brown hare, grey seals.

Sunday 9 August 2015

A Seashore Safari Week

Two visits to the seashore to try and make the most of good tides this week. 

A visit to the Battery shore west of Bowmore on Tuesday, a sunny but very blustery day.  The water didn't go out as far as it should have due to the winds pushing water up the loch, however, sandy shores and mussel beds were open and exposed. Various shrimps and fishes were caught and small shore crabs.  The highlight was a Sea Stickleback.

Jura on Thursday was contrastly a warm, calm, intensely sunny affair, many edible periwinkles were collected by one eager young lad filling his net, crabs (common shore and an edible), shrimps and sea anemones were collected and put in the bucket for closer inspection. 

Inspecting the finer features of the edible periwinkle

'Flappy' was missing one of its claws and a leg or two!

The star of the afternoon was a Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa), duly named 'Flappy', found in a small pool higher up on the shore than I would have expected!  I am of the opinion that this individual had bid an escape for freedom, possibly from the Hotel and some ones dinner menu!  It was returned to the sea at the end after many photo opportunities.

We have a break from exploration activities until Thursday 20th (when we will be beachcombing on Uiskentuie Strand) due to the Islay Show this Thursday.  We have a stall there so do come and see us, hope for fine weather!