Monday 31 July 2017

Getting close up with the creatures of the sea and mini-beasts

We have been very busy so far over the summer with lots of outside activities.  We enjoy taking people of all ages out to see the fantastic range of wildlife Islay has to offer.  

As well as the usual family activities we have been providing activities for other local organisation with special pre-5 sessions for the I&J Toy library including woodland minibeasts and trees around the Islay House Square plus a nice session on Uiskentuie Strand looking for crabs and sea snails.


We also had a session on the seashore with the Jura Kids club last thursday and will be back over on Wednesday morning (10am) to look at flowers and mini-beasts.  

I'm looking forward to a double dose of Killinallan this week as we will be there on Thursday afternoon for a bit of Flower Power with the mini-wildlife adventures at 2pm and then again on Sunday for out nature rAmble where we hope to progress a little deeper into the dunes for orchids and other dune flowers.

Fiona MacG

Thursday 27 July 2017

New arrivals!

Yesterday we had some new arrivals to the Sea Tank, including some Sea Squirts (Urochordata) on some rocks. They come in many colours, and they can be cylindrical, round or bell-shaped. They are filter-feeders, meaning they filter nutrients out of the water, including plankton and algae. They attach themselves to rocks when they are very young, and they're completely immobile!

Sea squirts can be seen on the rock in the centre behind the seaweed - they're translucent with orange tips.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Jura Seashore Safari

Our family activity this week is the Jura Seashore Safari, so don't forget to sort out your travel arrangements if you plan to attend! Suitable footwear for rockpooling is required, and the activity starts at 2pm so you can make it a day trip. Discover crabs, prawns and little fishes...

This Sunday, not so far afield, meet at the Currie Sands parking area at 2pm just north of Portnahaven for sea holly, rolling waves and heathland. We look forward to seeing you!

Friday 21 July 2017

Mystery bones and pond dipping delights

A busy morning this Friday, with a family bringing some bones to identify from Laggan Point, and having a look at some of the beasties caught during yesterday's pond dipping.

Water-boatmen found in the pond at Bruichladdich. 
Water fleas (daphnia) also found when pond dipping. Can you see the tiny dots? That's them!
Two sections of  the lower jaw of a seal found at Laggan Point.

The bone above the jaw bones in the picture was also found here, and appears to have the structure of the last vertebrae (sacrum) of a small cetacean, such as a bottle nose dolphin or porpoise which are often seen around Islay. Any other suggestions as to what this could be are very welcome!

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Water Dragons and Scorpions

This Thursday at Bruichladdich Pier, meet Steve and embark on a pond dipping adventure for water dragons and scorpions, mini beasts and much more! All ages welcome, free to all and starting at 2pm at the Pier for onward travel. Don't miss out!

Also, this Sunday also at 2pm, head to Loch Skerrols, Bridgend Woods, to enjoy a Summer Fungi Foray. Remember, fungi is not just an autumn event!

Monday 17 July 2017

Yellow Horned Poppy and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary sightings

A visitor sent us a couple of nice records for the island during their recent visit, a poppy and a butterfly.  One new and one rarely reported - Well done Tom Garner and thanks for some lovely photo's of them.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, seen on the slopes of Beinn Bheiger often reported on Jura but rarely seen on Islay.

Yellow horned Poppy found on a beach near Laggan Point. 

Malcolm commented: "Yellow Horned-poppy is new to the vice-county (Islay, Jura, Colonsay), which is always nice to achieve.  There are records from Mull and Kintyre, so its appearance here is not entirely unexpected, though as it happens the most recent of those records is as long ago as 2001. I also think it goes to show the value of walking relatively ignored stretches of our coastline."

There is a tremendous growth of strandline plants at the minute, Kilnaughton Beach has a prolific spread of Sea Rocket I saw when last down there for a mini-wildlife adventure family activity.

Port Mor - Nature rAmble 16th July 2017

Port Mor - Flower rAmble

It was a beautiful sunny day for a change and we were investigating our own doorstep, Port Mor playing fields in Port Charlotte if you investigate below the camp site has a great range of diversity of plants and the many birds along the shore.

Spear Thistle: a typical image of  the traditional Scottish thistle,
with radiating lanceolate leaves at the base from which each flower
stem has a single flower head

We started investigating the plants along the track to the beach and the first to stand out is the good number of thistles , flowering and producing seeds.  These large prickly plants are fantastic for providing nectar for insects and once the seeds ripen will be a bounty for the goldfinch that were investigating their food potential.  There were three species all side by side which was a great way to show the differences, Spear Thistle, Great Marsh Thistle and Creeping Thistle.

Creeping thistle: smooth stems, very jaggy leaves
with a neat flower head in an open cluster
Great Marsh Thistle: A gangly spray of heavily spiky
stems with clustered of flower heads

Down at the shore the family of Shelduck have been doing very well, they still have 5 half grown youngsters with them not a bad feat for these ducks.  Off shore we watched a Gannet diving repeatedly for fish.

A meander along the shore provides a whole host of dry and wet patches which give a range of small niche pockets across the site aiding the great diversity of plants that will grow here.  In the damp flushes: Sphagnum, Sundews, Bog Pimpernel, Butterwort, Bog Asphodel, Marsh Lousewort and Marsh Pennywort.  

Bog Pimpernel

Thyme draping over rocks

In the dry areas overlying rock outcrops: Calluna heather, Bell heather, Clovers, White and Red; Birds-foot Trefoil; Eyebright, Wild Thyme; Fairy flax; and then on the really thin soils, English Stonecrop and lichens.  Interspersed through there is Tormentil, Self-heal and Heath Spotted Orchids.

Although it was a bit windy for butterflies we did see some Ringlet and a Magpie moth hiding out of the wind.

Next weeks' walk is for those with a fascination for fungi, Alistair will be taking you through the woods at Loch Skerrols to find what fungi is fruiting at the moment, with this so far damp summer there should be much to find.  Fungi don't just fruit in the autumn Spring and Summer can produce a diverse range of species, so please go down to the woods next Sunday and discover the toadstools of Summer.


Seals, hermits and a little fishy

Mini Wildlife Adventures - Seashore Nature Safari

Killinallan is always a great place for sea creatures and it did not disappoint last Thursday despite a bit of rain.  

Under every patch of seaweed there were crabs, many were soft shelled having just molted, developing a new jacket after shedding their last ha
rd shell and were hiding waiting for it to harden up and once more protect them from predators.

Fishing for Opossum shrimps
If a sea snail shell was not inhabited by a sea snail (periwinkles mainly) it was now home to a hermit crab, they came in all sizes from the most 'diddy' to the largest periwinkle shell there was.  Some were of the species which cultures a growth over the shell to help camouflage it in.

Opossum shrimps were plentiful hanging in the lea of floating weed with sand shrimps darting about over the sand.


The best of the day was a small pipe fish (related to the seahorses). 

We brought some of our finds (hermit crabs and small shore crabs) back to the Nature Centre in Port Charlotte to join others in our tanks.  There are so many fascinating little beasties exhibiting lots of natural behaviour, it is a great place to bring the children and watch what goes on under the sea!

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Glasgow students' talk a hit!

It was an excellent night last night when 7 students from the University of Glasgow's Remote Islands Expedition presented the findings of their environmental projects to an enthusiastic audience. In a nutshell, whilst on Islay the students: 
- found the best way to trap and release small mammals for research projects;
- found flint in a location it has never been found before;
- tested out pollinator research methodology for the joint research that INHT and Re-JIG are doing;
- worked with Re-JIG to quantify plastic waste;
- updated bird records.
After the presentations the discussion continued well into the evening over tea and cake.
The students all enjoyed their stay on Islay and are keen for next year's expedition, to build on their work and the good relationships they have made. We look forward to having them back!

4 of the 7 students at the INHT Nature Centre

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Mini Wildlife Adventures and Nature rAmbles

Don't forget we have our kids' activities every Thursday afternoon at 2pm. This week join Fiona at Killinallan, Loch Gruinart to discover seals, hermits and little fishes 🐟
... Some have called it a sandy, seashore bonanza! Don't miss out! And as an added bonus, it's totally free.

Also feel free to come along to our Sunday Nature rAmbles, this week at Port Mor, Port Charlotte, "On My Doorstep." Have a wander around the playing fields at 2pm and explore a host of habitats, plants and insects 🐌 The cost of this fabulous walk is £5 per person, £10 per family and £2 for INHT members.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Geological Walk on the Oa

The forecast was rain between the showers but nine would-be geologists braved the weather to look at the rocks around Port nan Gallan on the Oa. After a briefing under the shelter of van's awning we descended to the bay and looked for fools gold (Iron pyrites) in the metamudstones near the waterfall while we were closely watched by a group of seals in the bay next to the 'submarine'. We also dropped acid on limestones and watched them fizz, saw breccias reddened by iron and manganese and boulders of granite in the 650 million year old glacial deposits of the Port Askaig Tillite under the cliffs of made of the Jura Quartzite. So much to see we forgot about the rain!
sheltering from the rain

fools hunting for gold!

on the Jura Quartzite

seals next to the 'submarine'

Thursday 6 July 2017

Geology on The Oa - 9th July 2017

Join Dave on an exploration of the geological features on The Oa this Sunday. Discover faults and folds, deserts and glaciers, and enjoy spectacular coastal scenery. Commencing at 2pm and lasting 1.5 - 2 hours, admission is £5 per adult and £10 per family. For INHT members the cost is £2. Meet us at RSPB Oa - American Monument car park. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Islay Expedition 2017: Talk by students from University of Glasgow University next Tuesday 11th July

Next Tuesday evening at 7pm sees the University of Glasgow students giving a talk about their current research expedition to Islay. Join us at the Centre to hear about the research and various projects being carried out on the island. We would love to see a mixture of ages and audiences come along to an evening full of fun facts: topics discussed will include Geological Research, Pollinator Research, Methodological Research on Small Mammals, Research on bird biodiversity in Moorland, Farmland, Woodland and Coastal Habitats, and Community Outreach. 

For almost 80 years, the University of Glasgow has been sending a team of students to conduct research on the diversity of species in remote locations on the western isles of Scotland. In October 2016, the University selected a team of eight students to conduct environmental research between the 2nd of June and 14th of July 2017 on the Isle of Islay. Each displayed a strong passion for environmental change and enthusiasm for the research proposed. Since arriving on the island, team leaders and members have been working hard to ensure the expedition is a success, and their positive relationship with the local populace on Islay is maintained and strengthened.

This year, the expedition aims to establish new research in co-operation with local NGOs and build on existing studies undertaken on previous expeditions to Islay.  More specifically, the expedition will undertake research to enhance local knowledge and understanding of native biodiversity and the threats it may face on the island.

Please join us for what will be a fascinating talk!

Seen a sea gooseberry?

Here's a photo of one of five tiny but beautiful scintillating sea creatures that a family brought into us here in the Nature Centre - a quick search through the library and a trawl of the internet identified them as Sea Gooseberries (Pleurobrachia pileus), described as a "solid ovoid, to 20 mm long, with plumed fishing tentacles up to 140 mm long". Of the 5 in the bottle, three had these tentacles which they use to catch food. They were found on The Strand where apparently quite a large number were in the sea there, and according to the book they're especially abundant in the summer. Thanks to the family for bringing them in, it's been great to show them to other visitors before releasing them back into the sea! :-)

Monday 3 July 2017

Sunday's Nature rAmble - Dune Delights

A Great Delight of flowers was had at Killinallan

A less than promising day weather-wise did not dampen enthusiasm for our dune excursion to Killinallan on Sunday, 13 keen adults and children enjoyed seeing the Redshank and Oystercatchers along the shoreline and counting all the Grey Seals bobbing about in the water intent on watching us and what we were doing.

Searching the pools for pond skaters

The brackish pools amongst the saltmarsh had small shoals of stickleback and pond skaters on the surface.  Amongst the saltmarsh vegetation were common spike rush, sedges and the corriander tasting Sea Arrowgrass.

As we crossed the moist threshold into the dryer dune grassland we had Ragged Robin, Marsh Lousewort and Grass of Parnassus, the beautiful simplicity of its flower, with its stem hugged by its single heart shaped leaf always a pleasure.  The dunes were a patchwork of species with Lady's Bedstraw; Hairy Thyme; Bird's Foot Trefoil; Eyebright; Mouse-ear Hawkweed; Daisy; Buttercup; White and Red Clover; Self-Heal.  These standard array of dune species were peppered with the small white flowers of Fairy Flax; the subtle blues of Milkwort; and the first mauve flowers of Devil's Bit Scabious.  

A chance encounter with a Frog

Where the ground was wetter Meadow Sweet, Yellow Flag, Tufted Vetch, Water Mint, Valerian, and Marsh Thistle all came into play. The damp conditions also favoured the occasional frog.

Burnet Rose
In a great marshy depression there is a host of other species, Burnet Rose spreads out in an extended patch alongside Black Bog Rush, upon which were the vacated cocoon cases of the Six Spot Burnet moth, which has now pupated and flying in profusion across the dunes.  Marsh Pennywort peppered the whole dune slack area and an occasional spike of Marsh Arrowgrass.  

Six-spot Burnet Moth on Tufted Vetch

We were all really looking forward to an orchid bonanza and as always Killinallan did not disappoint, our first encounters were Pyramidal Orchid on the dryer dune area alongside Common Spotted Orchid and the deep purple of Northern Marsh Orchid. The bold pinks and purples were easy to spot against the grassland but it was not long before the eyes began to pick out the subtle colours of the Frog Orchid.  Then we began to find Fragrant Orchid, getting on hands and knees to double check the scented nature of the flowers.  When we moved into the marshy dune slack area, those orchids which favour a more damp habitat were soon spotted - Common Twayblade, its two wide leaves enveloping the base of the stem.  This damp spring has meant that the moist nature of the slack has affected the conditions further than in a dry season and we were delighted to spot many specimens of the beautiful Marsh Helleborine, one of my favourite orchids.  So not bad for a few hours, seven orchid species all in great conditions.  41 plant species, named though we didn't delve deep into grasses.  We also had a good number of Shaggy Ink-cap mushrooms protruding for old cowpats.  
Marsh Helleborine
Northern Marsh orchid

Pyramidal Orchid
A cluster of Frog Orchid

We also had a good number of Shaggy Ink-cap mushrooms protruding for old cowpats.  
Shaggy Ink-cap

The conditions were not good for flying insects and the only six legged beasties we found were the Six-spot Burnet moths frequenting the flower heads and a single Common Blue male clinging onto the vegetation for fear of the wind whipping it away!

A wonderful afternoon in great company, thanks to those who joined us and please feel encouraged to join us over the summer, lots to see and lots to learn.  Next Sunday is a Geology special, the rocks on the Oa, meet at the RSPB American monument car park (2pm).

Fiona MacG