Monday 30 July 2018

Come and Visit Our Nature Centre!

If you are in need for a plan for the day, pop along to the Islay Natural History Trust for a good look around our detailed displays on Islay's natural environment, and even gain some inspiration for your daily adventures around the island. We are open from 10:00 am to 16:00 pm from Monday to Friday and tickets allow valid free entry for a whole week!.
We have an array of locally collected wildlife skulls, skeletons, shells, geology and more, all kindly donated to the trust. There is something for everyone!
Up to date wildlife sightings are also available within the centre, and our staff are more than happy to answer any queries or questions that you may have. Get a hands on experience in the centre, not only with our variety of natural objects, but with our marine touch tanks, where we hold fresh water species such as sea anemones, star fish and our newest member...the Spider crab!
We also have a variety of activities for all age groups to take part in whilst having a wander round the exhibits. Our extensive library collections are also accessible throughout opening hours and a great place to go for reference when undecided about a tricky species!
Feel free to have a look round the shop on your way out, which caters for all ages. We stock all things nature including wildlife packs for our beginner wildlife enthusiasts and a variety of Field Studies Council identification guides. We are currently stocking a select supply of unique craft, jewellery, art and photography pieces from our local artists, so come along and have a look and see if anything takes your fancy!

Wednesday 11 July 2018

The Pollinator Initiative Verges Project

The Project
            As the sky remains blue over Islay and the spring rolls on into summer, the fields are now speckled with vibrant colours and abuzz with insects.  The non-stop sunshine, lack of rain and light winds have provided the perfect conditions for pollinators to dine on the island’s banquet of flowers.  Both the plants and animals are in full swing, and so to is the INHT’s Verges and Pollinator Project, requiring the team to bring out the high-vis waistcoats and lather-up on the sun cream. 
            The initiative aims to gather data on Islay’s pollinator-plant community this summer.  Naturally, it consists of two parts: (1) identifying the butterflies, bees and flies which are present and on which plants they are feeding and (2) recording the number of plant species and the density of flowers along the 112km of road currently chosen for survey.  Knowledge of where certain plants are flowering can, through management, encourage more plants along the road verges.  Increasing the diversity and abundance of food resources available to pollinators can increase their chances of persistence.  This is particularly relevant since some pollinators are declining globally.
The Botanist
            The initiative requires a botanist (unfortunately, not the one brewed in Bruichladdich, but The Botanist Foundation are funding this project) to survey the road verges for flowering plants.  This is left to me, Rowan Hookham, a recent graduate from the University of Glasgow to search the island’s damp roadside ditches for illusive plants – a task which I oddly enjoy.  Although I graduated with an M.Sci. Zoology, I spent my final years of education researching plant-insect interactions, where I learnt floral identification.  The Islay Verges and Pollinator Project is a great way for me to spent the summer brushing up on these botany skills and to explore the island and its community a little better.
            As a child I explored much of the Hebrides with my family and I have always loved the exposed island wildernesses.  Islay especially has a mix of different habitats: dunes, heathland, salt marshes, grassland pastures and cliff edges making it the perfect place to study plants. 
            So until August I’ll be wandering the roadside gazing into the vegetation.  Many people already have been curious and have stopped to ask what I’m up to; this is one of the best parts of my the job as I get to discus with both locals and tourists as to what they have seen.  Some even believed, with the strange equipment I had, I must have been looking for oil or using it as a divining rod; however, I am not interested in the black or the blue, just the greenery.  So, if you see me on the road give me a wave or stop for a chat.