Monday 13 May 2019

Islay Natural History Trust Talk & News

Next Talk
Our next talk will be this Wednesday 15th May at 7.30pm, Louise Muir from Jura will be telling us all about 'The Wild Side of Jura' where a recent application for a fish farm has sparked greater appreciation of the wild nature of Jura, locally and far and wide.  Louise will discuss:
  • The Wild Side of Jura - its natural and cultural heritage and a global community in support of its wilderness
  • The fish farming proposal  - an unsustainable model for aquaculture in Scotland
  • Impacts a fish farm would have to the natural heritage of Jura and its surrounding seas
  • Alternative approaches

New Renewable-energy Heating System
Islay Natural History Trust are working with Islay Energy Trust to look at ways we can improve our heating system in the visitors centre, whilst minimising our impact on the planet.  GeoAtlantic Project Officer, Kirsten Gow, has been working with us to calculate the heat requirements for the building, and look at whether ground or water source heat pumps can provide what we need to make the building the warm, welcoming space we would like it to be.

Heat pumps work by collecting low-level heat from the air, ground or water and compressing this into useable heat which can provide heat and hot water. The systems use up to 75% less electricity than some other heating systems, meaning that they can help reduce our carbon footprint and keep our bills low.  There are several ground source heat pumps already in operation on the island at the moment – including the one at Islay Hotel in Port Ellen which provides all the heating and hot water then need for their guests.

We are still in planning stages with this at the moment, but hope that we might be able to go ahead with upgrading our heating system later on this year.  Watch this space for more information as the project progresses.

The Islay Nature Centre

After a slow start to the start of the season due to difficulty in finding staff to operate the centre we are pushing forward, and we are now open 5 days a week 10am to 4pm weekdays.

We have lots of new developments planned now that the youth hostel (Hostelling Scotland) have now offered us a 9 year lease. In conjuction with the new heating project we are putting together proposals for insulated the building and getting better access to the terrace and beach. We are revamping the displays but all this will take some time with major works anticipated next winter.

In the meantime the tanks have been filled (using our new pump) and are being populated thanks to the efforts of Steve Wrightson.  A new sea tank will hopefully be on its way later this month to replace the big tank - which will now be used for amphibians. We will be re-organising the structure of some of the displays - aiming to 'open-out' the main display room - with a work party on Saturday 1st June, if anyone is interested in coming along and helping please email and let us know.

We now have 'self-service' tea and coffee facilities for visitors - and are looking to source some soft chairs/sofas for visitors (and members!) to relax in/on whilst enjoying their visit. Please come along and see whats happening!

We have a development officer (Emma Baker), part time to help in organising new displays and encourage greater footfall into the centre.  Our development will involve some rearranging and redesigning of the displays, teaming up with other local groups and businesses to improve the look and wildlife knowledge provided.  Port Ellen Primary School will use their newfound understanding of the marine plastic problem to provide a display and Bruichladdich Distillery are providing skills and resources to help too.

The Trust has secured two survey contracts, one for Marsh Fritillary butterflies and another for upland breeding birds on SAC sites on the Rhinns of Islay through the CANN group which is targeting upland restoration of peatland sites. This will provide income as well as the opportunity for local people to train in environmental survey skills.  I will be holding a meeting for anyone interested in taking part in this work and joining the survey team, on Thursday 16th May 7pm, the day after our next talk.

Following a very successful couple of years undertaking the roadside verges project where we actively went out and gathered wildlife records (10,458 flowering plant and pollinator records for 86km2) we have a renewed desire to improve our reach, improve our data gathering and promote our charitable remit, so our Sunday nature walks this year will aim more on citizen science, teaching and promoting interest in learning skills in all manner of wildlife and geological identification to local people and visitors.  I will be drawing together a draft plan for the Sunday walks over the coming weeks, depending on the local or visiting knowledge base, if you have skills in nature ID, the more obscure the better please get in touch and let me know and we can perhaps organise to visit sites and bioblitz areas for wildlife records.

We are aiming on developing and nurturing an informal local group who can share their knowledge, get together and chat over their wildlife experiences each month I have had recent discussions with Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation, Bumblebee Conservation, Bat groups and the Whale and Dolphin Trust, (who are launching a whale trail around the islands) organisations which we may be able to tap into knowledge and bring experts over for training and diversifying interest and skills on the island.

Exciting times ahead, so watch this space and please do come and join in our activities and events.

d Webster
Secretary, Islay Natural History Trust