Tuesday 25 October 2016

AGM and film presented by Gordon Yates Weds Nov 2nd

All are welcome to attend our AGM next Wednesday 2nd November at 7pm which will be followed swiftly by Gordon Yates presenting his last film entitled "Birdlife over 40 Pennine years". There are some unique sequences and surprises in this film so don't miss this rare opportunity to see it! Please come along to this free evening which includes tea and cake ;-)

Friday 21 October 2016

Next talk at the Trust - Insects!

Please join us this Monday evening (24th Oct) at 7:30 pm, when Hunterian Honorary Research Fellow Geoff Hancock will be talking about why insects are so successful and why they are so abundant. He'll also tell us about some of the project work he has been involved in to unravel complex insect life cycles, from Scottish woodlands to South American forest systems. For what promises to be a fascinating illustrated talk, come along to the INHT Centre in Port Charlotte - £1 for INHT members or £3 for non-members, including tea and cake!

Sunday 2 October 2016

Red Sword-grass

I caught this moth last night giving a remarkably good impression of a dead twig. The Red Sword-grass has two flight seasons, the main one in September to November and then some adults overwinter and re-emerge in March to June. This is just the third record for Islay (with none for Jura or Colonsay), the previous two being in 1999 and 2013.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Big skies at the Big Strand

What looked likely to be a washout turned into a lovely walk under blue skies along the Big Strand on Sunday for our last rAmble of the season. Our group of three (we who don't take any notice of the weather forecast ;-D) set off along the beach toward Knockangle Point to see what we could find, and we weren't disappointed.
Sunshine after the rain

Under the big blue sky
The best part (besides the cake at the half-way point) was looking through all the tiny shells to be found on the rocky shore, including Arctic and European Cowries, Sting Winkle, Hungarian Hat and Tortoiseshell Limpet (to name but a few!). The range of colours and shapes is incredible - if you've never sifted though a seashore of shells, I'd highly recommend it :-D



More treasures
A very pleasant afternoon's stroll in good company - looking forward to next season's rAmbles already!

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Snowball Earth rAmble at Port Askaig and Bunnahabhain

Another rainy geological walk. Five hardy souls braved the weather to join Dave to look at Islay's classic 'snowball earth' deposits. First up was the world-famous Port Askaig Tillite - a sequence of silty rocks with a large number of varying sized 'stones' - mainly of granite - embedded in it. Dave explained the two competing theories about its origin: either it was deposited on land as a melt-out of an ice sheet (or a series of ice sheets) or it was deposited in the sea from dirty floating ice. We looked at some alleged 'dropstones' near the lifeboat station - it could be that these did in fact drop off the base of the floating ice and penetrate into the sediment - or that the laminations wrapping around the stones are diffracted cleavage planes (i.e a later metamorphic event).

The jury is still out, but nevertheless there is a considerable thickness of undoubted glacial deposits which are about 650 million years old and it is possible that they correlate with similar deposits in other parts of the world and - if they are of the same age - they could be evidence that the Earth was indeed entirely ice-covered. Again the jury is still out because we can't date these tillites here very accurately but we do think that Islay was probably in the tropics at this time so so much ice deposit would be unusual!
Then onto Bunnahabhain to look at the Bonahaven Dolomite - a sequence of carbonates that overly the Tillites and are purported to be a 'cap carbonate' which is quite typical of these glacial deposits in other parts of the world and are believed to be evidence of dramatic changes in ocean and atmospheric chemistry as the world recovered from the snowball event. The rocks contain stromatolites - evidence of bacterial activity in (probably) warm water - ie the usual conditions you'd expect in the tropics - they were the coral reefs of their day (before corals were invented!).
Then back to Dave and Isobel's van for lashings of tea, ginger cake and whisky to warm us up!

Wednesday 7 September 2016

A pleasant Ardnave rAmble 4th Sept

It was a lovely afternoon, gone the morning showers and a bright afternoon unfolded, perfect for a Sunday rAmble.  9 enthusiastic visitors keen to explore.  We marvelled at the scenery, Loch Gruinart had been emptied of the sea and the distant haze of cloud gradually lifted through the walk. We stared out viewing north east to the islands of Jura and Scarba, Oronsay and Colonsay were in plane view, the sun shining brightly on the farmhouse on Oronsay.  Mull gradually became visible and to the north west the lighthouse of Dubh Artach.

Our aim was primarily birds, and the chough flock did not disappoint, about 25 birds in a loose flock probed the dune slopes and searched through cow pats.  A look over a  well worked pat revealed large juicy dung beetle larvae, perfect chough food.  We were able to get good views through the telescope and clearly see their red legs and bills, and their scolding calls highlighting their presence.

A pair of Buzzard soared over the cliff on Knave Island and the song of seals could be heard and on closer scanning we saw many hauled out on the low tide rocks west of the island. A Great Northern diver was spotted flying high.  During our walk back we took in the neat beauty of a couple of Wheatear and a Skylark only a couple of meters away oblivious or just not bothered by our group on the path ahead.

Birds: Chough (c.25); Raven; Starlings; Gannets; Great Northern diver; Skylark; Meadow Pipit; Shag; Greylag Geese; Buzzard; Wheatear; Oystercatcher

Flowers: Grass of Parnassus; Self Heal; Ragged Robin; Autumn Hawkbit
Mammals: Seals (Grey/Common); Hare; Rabbits (lots of Myxamatosis)

All in all a pleasant walk in pleasant company.
Fiona MacG

Our next Sunday outing takes us on a Fungi Foray with Alistair to Skerrols Loch, Bridgend.

Sunday 28 August 2016

A most adventurous nature Ramble to the Giant's Grave archaeological dig.

A keen band of 24 adventurous souls set about the long walk through the forestry with the guidance of Steve Mithen to the archaeological dig of the Neolithic burial tomb known on the OS map as the Giants Grave. 

A nice rest after the climb
In previous talks many of us had heard about the findings from last year and this was an opportunity to see the dig in progress.  The large megalith slabs of stone which make up the remaining structure are impressive and to think were moved into position by ancient peoples without the modern lifting devices of today.  The painstaking work of the staff and students removing the peat and soil debris of thousands of years to uncover the clues of the ancient past and the ability to read these and surmise and predict what went before is an impressive undertaking.

The views which once could be seen from the site and the impressive nature that the original structure would have afforded on the landscape is now obscured by a forest of Sitka Spruce.  Deer move along the rides and bright red toadstools (The Sickener - Russula emetica) grow under the thick canopy.  Goldcrest and Coal Tit could be heard in the canopy and the late flowering Devil's Bit Scabious provided a peppering of intense purple/blue. 
Devil's Bit Scabious
The Sickener (Russula emetic)

Lichens and mosses have taken hold on the Megaliths too.

It is not until the decent out of the trees and the view south across Laggan Bay that you can appreciate something of what the views from the site might have been like.
Thank you to all those who came along and hope the footwear dries out soon!

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Two new fungi for Islay?

Our intrepid Fungi finder Alistair has been out and about, spotting fungi amongst Islay's undergrowth - and may have found two new species for Islay!
The first is the Peppery Bolete (Chalciporus piperatus) which he found on the 17th July and again on the 20th August at 2 separate locations at Loch Skerrols. Its key ID feature is a yellow stem base.

Peppery bolete

Peppery bolete

The second is the Spotted Toughshank (Rhodocollybia maculata) found on the 18th August in the Finlaggan plantation. Both ‘new’ finds have been referred for confirmation to the British Mycological Society - watch this space! 
Spotted Toughshank

Also found at Finlaggan were a host of Birch Knights (Tricholoma fulvum) and The Blusher (Amanita rubescens) and the area has yet to be fully searched.  

Birch Knights

The Blusher

Thursday 18 August 2016

Manchester Treble-bar

We're not very close to Manchester, but this attractive small moth (winglength c.12-15mm) has a scattered distribution across Scotland as well as northern England. Until last night, there had been just three past records from Islay, between 1987 and 1996, and two from Colonsay, in 1961 and 1964. I was therefore quite surprised this morning to find no less than three in my moth trap in Bruichladdich. Their habitat is wet moorland where their food plants of cranberry, bilberry and cowberry grow. I'm not that close to wet moorland, though perhaps they were happy with a wet garden after the recent rain.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Seashore safaris - next, Scorpions and Dragons!!

We found lots of interesting stuff during last Thursday's free family activities, run jointly with the Islay and Jura Toy Library. Firstly in the morning on Jura, where we found shore crabs, hermit crabs, a flat fish, opossum shrimps, sand shrimps, limpets, a sea anemone and chitons:

And then at Killinallan in the afternoon we found shore crabs and hermit crabs, a flat fish, scorpion fish, butterfish and lots of shrimps:

And a random caterpillar...(identity to be confirmed!)

The next free activity is tomorrow, Thursday 18th August, pond-dipping for 'Water-Scorpions and Dragons'! Meet at Bruichladdich Pier at 2pm for onward direction to the pond ;-)

Thursday 4 August 2016

Super afternoon at Currie Sands

It seemed like Currie Sands was the place to be last Sunday afternoon as our group of 9 headed out for the INHT rAmble.

Heading down to Currie Sands
It was a mixed bag of weather, being mostly dry with spells of sunshine that brought some butterflies out - you can even see shadows cast in the photo below! Fiona lifted a rock to unearth a little colony of yellow meadow ants, complete with the odd egg, and on the way down we saw lots of different wildflowers (full list at the end).

You never know what you might find...
Some of the plants seen are specially adapted to the seashore, being thick and fleshy so they retain as much moisture as they can, like Sea Holly, Sea Rocket, Sea Plantain and Sea Sandwort. I guess the clue is in the name... ;-)

Sea Holly
Moving off the sands and over the grasslands towards Frenchman's Rocks, different plants were thriving here, including Devil's Bit Scabious which was seen flowering here in abundance - good news for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly whose foodplant it is.

Devil's Bit Scabious
We also spent some time watching the grey seals in the sea below - or was it more like them watching us? A group of 6 seemed to be synchronised in suddenly all diving at once and reappearing to watch us some more. Can you spot them in this photo?

Watching the seals
Let's have a closer look...

Ah there they are!

We saw a few Fox Moth caterpillars around and about too, including this beauty:

And last but not least, a few of us were lucky enough to see an adder slither off through the undergrowth. Quite a haul! Join us for the next rAmble on Sunday 7th August where we'll be looking at what's about at Killinallan. Meet at the road-end gate, east side of Loch Gruinart for 2pm. INHT members £2, non-members £4, family £10. Sorry no dogs

Plants: Sea Sandwort, goose grass, sea bindweed, sea holly, sea rocket, spear-leaved orach (TBC), mayweed, eyebright, bird's foot trefoil, scots lovage, marsh woundwort, silverweed, ragwort, lady's bedstraw, knapweed, thrift, wild thyme, yarrow, red bartsia, red campion, buddleia, hedge woundwort, angelica, creeping buttercup, tufted vetch, cotton grass, sea plantain, grass of parnassus, daisy, bog pimpernel, self heal, pennywort, red clover, tormentil, ling heather, cross-leaved heath, heath spotted orchid, devil's bit scabious, marsh thistle, creeping thistle, spear thistle, ragged robin.

Insects: Yellow meadow ant, grasshopper, common blue butterfly, ringlet butterfly, meadow brown butterfly, fox moth caterpillar, slug, garden snail.

Reptiles: Adder

Birds: Great black back gull, gannet, linnet, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, stonechat (adult and juvenile)