Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Kids have fun with flowers and butterflies


Last weeks mini wildlife adventure at Kilnaughton was a great afternoon. Lots of shells, big and small were found on the beach, and a whole range of strandline treasures, hard, soft, lived in, those which made a sound and those which smelled of the sea.
The smallest shell on the day

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We followed this up hunting colours for our colour pallet and with some minibeast hunting up in the dunes, where we found soldier beetles and four different types of butterfly along with colourful moths too.
Small Tortoiseshell

 

Six-spot Burnett Moth
Serica brunnea beetle

Butterflies in our pavilion for easy observation

Early Wax Cap fungus
 
This Thursdays mini wild adventure (28th July) comes with double helpings, we are off to Jura in the morning to join the Jura Kids club at 10am to look at flowers and the insects and butterflies that visit them.  Then in the afternoon we will go in search of more flutterby's and introduce the children to the wonderful spread of flowers and orchids at Killinallan dunes.
 
We will aim, weather permitting to undertake a butterfly count for 'The Big Butterfly Count' for Butterfly conservation too.
 
The activity is free to all
 Fiona MacG




Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Geology Walk at Kilchiaran 24 July 2016

   The rain stayed away until 4 and the tide was very low - a great opportunity to get into the 'billion year gap' at Kilchiaran Bay. 
   12 intrepid explorers engaged in a spot of coasteering to scramble into the cave on the left-hand side of the bay where the sea has eroded a gully along the 'Kilchiaran Shear Zone'. This fault zone separates the 1,800 million-year old pink gneisses and green metabasites of the Rhinns Complex from the younger (probably c. 800 million-year old) laminated metasiltstones, slates and cream coloured metasandstones of the Colonsay Group.
   The group also had a good look at some striated ice-sculpted bedrock dating back only about 25,000 years to the last Ice Age when Islay was covered in about 500m of ice and pebbly sands with flints deposited when the ice finally melted about 15,000 years ago.
   The group were excellent Mesolithic flint beach-pebble hunters and gamely enjoyed more role playing as Dave had them lined up in a time-line across the beach with various 'volunteers' playing the parts of the 'big bang', cyanobacterial green slime, dinosaurs and stone-age man along with the various rocks of Islay.





  

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Rambling around Ardnave Sunday 17th July - next, the Billion Year Gap!

The weather was kind yet again, despite our ramble occurring just before this week's heatwave! Our intrepid party of 11 set off clockwise around Ardnave point, encountering lots of wildflowers on the way, including Bog Asphodel, lots of Lady's Bedstraw and Pineapple weed. We investigated the smell of these last two, commenting on the pineapple-like appearance of the flower, as well as the smell of pineapple, and the ancient use of lady's bedstraw as a flea-repellent - in the past, the dried plants were used to stuff mattresses as the coumarin scent of the plants acts as a flea killer - hence the name. It obviously doesn't repel moths, as shown by this photo from the other week!
Small Elephant Hawkmoth on Lady's Bedstraw
Bog Asphodel

You'll find a full list of what we saw below.

Join us too this Sunday 24th July for a Geology rAmble at Kilchiaran entitled 'The Billion Year Gap', where we'll be looking at some of the oldest rocks in the world! You'll find that within a few metres is a billion years of geological history! Mindblowing. The walk will be led by David Webster whose knowledge of Islay's rocks will enthuse and leave you awestruck. Meet at Kilchiaran at 2pm: please park responsibly either in layby by the old chapel or by the farm track with the information board (please do not obscure access). The walk will last c.1.5-2 hours, and there will be plants and other natural delights to discover too. We have a small charge to help towards the running of the Trust: £2 for members and £4 for non members. See you there!

Plants: ragged robin, red bartsia, red clover, white clover, selfheal, meadowsweet, purple loosestrife, silverweed, marsh ragwort, germander speedwell, yarrow, yellow flag iris, bog asphodel, lady's bedstraw, common storksbill, spearthistle, marsh thistle, lesser meadow rue, harebell, bog pimpernel, mint, wild thyme, birdsfoot trefoil, mouse ear hawkbit, orchids.

Birds: Hooded crow, starlings, buzzard, sandmartins, chough, mute swans with cygnets, meadow pipit, skylark.

Mammals: rabbit, grey seals.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

INHT nature rAmble to Dun Nosebridge 10th July

It rained in the morning and threatened to be wet for the afternoon, but the skies began to brighten at lunchtime and the MET office radar images said the last of the rain had passed. All set then for another Sunday rAmble, so despite the weather prospects and the competition with a certain tennis match that afternoon, I went forth in anticipation - would anyone be interested in the walk?  Happy to say 3 folk were keen and so glad they were as it turned into a lovely warm afternoon, the sun appeared, the ground was moist and warm, and the butterflies were already on the wing and visiting the flowers.  Whilst waiting at the bridge my eye was caught by a bush/small tree on either side of the bridge tree with newly developing berries. I could not place the species (I do pride myself on knowing most of our native trees very well) so it was a puzzle.  On my return I checked through a number of tree guides and eventually found it to be a Himalayan Tree-cotoneaster (Cotoneaster bullatus), an introduced, naturalised species, and not recorded on our database!

Cotoneaster bullatus
Sessile Oak
The walk to Dun Nosebridge takes a route through woodland with a nice mix of tree species, hazel, birch, sloe (blackthorn) and some lovely mature Sessile Oak.  We chanced upon a small family party of Long-tailed tits, always a joy to see.  There were Speckled Wood butterfly, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Small Heath and one chance sighting of a still (but only for a split second) Dark Green Fritillary.  A few dragonflies quartered about with a Golden Ringed slow enough to identify.  There were many Six Spot Burnet moths, obviously the time of the season for them.  Plodding slowly but purposefully across the track were the occasional Dor Beetle heading in search of dung.

6-spot burnet moth
The ramparts of the old iron age fort held the most variety of flowering plants: Thyme (including some white flowering clusters), Birds-foot Trefoil, English Stonecrop, Sorrel, Tormentil, Lady's Bedstraw, Self Heal and a good look was had at the three main thistle species, Creeping, Marsh and Spear.  Amongst the spikes of the thistle heads were soldier beetles and harvestman spiders.  Great views from the ramparts down to the River Laggan below and nearby: Neriby Hill had Buzzard, Hen Harrier and Raven all flying over.


Beetle and harvestman - can you spot both?

The last puzzle species yet to be identified was a very large hoverfly feeding on the creeping thistle, a good look through the Trust library is needed.
 
large hoverfly - Sericomyia silentis
A very pleasant afternoon walk in good company, and still back in time to watch the end of the tennis :-)
Fiona McG

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Seashore family activity a hit - bring on the Moorland Magic!

Great fun was had on our first Mini-Wildlife Adventure of the holidays last Thursday, with a crowd of over 30 children and accompanying adults all joining our merry band of explorers on a Seashore Safari at Port Mor.  It was a good low tide too on which to look for the creatures of the sea. The children searched in rock pools, turned over seaweed and rocks on the lower shore  and scooped through the water with their nets. Any finds of creatures and beasties not fixed firm or attached solid to the rocks were put carefully in the trays for a better look. We got prawns, common shore crabs, hermit crabs, common periwinkle, smooth periwinkle, grey topshell,, limpets, barnacles, one solo Shanny and a small sea stickleback.

Seashore fun at Port Mor

Our next adventure (14th July) will take us to the magic moorland where the 'bleak' landscape will be viewed through enlightened eyes, to see the wonder of colour and form which make up this wondrous habitat. Insect-eating plants, and hopefully bright weather for butterflies and insects. Meet at 2pm in the RSPB hide car park at the Loch Gruinart reserve. Wellies advisable but not essential. 

Our family activities are running in conjunction with the Islay and Jura Toy Library again this season.  Funding for the activities has been sourced from Foundation Scotland so there is no charge, but donations are always welcome. Fiona McG

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Moths and orchids at Killinallan

Well compared to yesterday's weather, Sunday's wasn't bad at all! Our group of 15 hardy explorers headed out to Killinallan dunes to see what wildflowers we could find, and ended up seeing lots more besides! As we walked up through the marram grass we spotted a beautiful Small Elephant Hawkmoth on the adundant yellow Ladies' Bedstraw, and a lovely furry-looking Drinker moth:

Small Elephant Hawkmoth
Drinker moth


Also spotted were a Common Blue butterfly, plus numerous 6-Spot Burnet moths (including the cocoons from which they'd emerged).

6-Spot Burnet moth cocoon
6-spot burnet moths



Common Blue butterfly

On to the flowers then, and two species stood out as coming into flower early - Devil's Bit Scabious (the food plant of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly) and Autumn Gentian which is, as the name suggests, an autumn flower - perhaps our warm summery May followed by a cooler June has brought some plants on early.

Autumn Gentian

And finally, the orchids. Lots of Pyramidal orchids were seen, plus a variety of others - see list below for all that we saw. 
Pyramidal orchid

Fragrant orchid

Frog orchid

Twayblade


Orchids: Pyramidal, Northern Marsh, Common Spotted, Heath Spotted, Fragrant, Frog, Twayblade,  
Other Flora: Marsh cinqfoil, ladies bedstraw, marsh bedstraw, fairy flax, eyebright, grass of Parnassus, meadowsweet, mouse-ear hawkweed, autumn gentian, milkwort, marsh lousewort, sea milkwort, sea plantain, sea arrowgrass, lesser meadow-rue, ragged robin, ragwort, devil's bit scabious. bird's foot trefoil, tufted vetch, valerian, burnet rose, knapweed, wild thyme, black bog rush, red clover, white clover, self heal, common cat's ear, germander speedwell, marsh thistle, spear thistle, tormentil, harebell.
Butterflies: Small Heath, Dark Green Fritillary, Common Blue
MothsSmall Elephant Hawkmoth, Drinker, 6-spot Burnet
Birds: Oystercatcher, Twite
Other: frog, Garden Chafer beetle










Saturday, 2 July 2016

Walks, Talks and Mini Wildlife Adventures

There's so much on over the next couple of months:

 



Sunday rAmble this weekend: Killinallan ~ Orchid and Floral Dune Delights; meet 2pm just before the end of the road near gate, East side of Loch Gruinart.  Charge for walks £4 per person; families £10, INHTrust members £2


 
Monday evening 7pm the first of the regular summer talks 'Islay's Wildlife Wonders'.
these will run throughout July and August.  The aim is to give you a broad introduction to Islay's landscape and wildlife.  The cost of admission is included in the centre admission charge.  INHTrust members free. or pay on the door Ad. £3.50; Conc. £2.50; Child £1.50; Family £8
 
This Tuesday 5th July we have a specialist talk by local resident Steve Wrightson: 'Rivers of Life, One Man's Story' this will be a slide presentation of his previous award winning Water Life Conservationist work.  7.30pm at the Islay Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte. Charge: £3.50 (INHTrust members £1) included tea and cake refreshments.


Thursday afternoons will be our for Mini-wildlife Adventures specially for families.  Our first excursion will take us on a seashore safari in search of crabs, little fishes and other seashore surprises on the shore below Port Mor Campsite, Port Charlotte.  Meet in the car park 2pm.  This activity is being run in conjunction with the Islay and Jura Toy Library and is a free event. Pick up your leaflet and come and join in the fun.


If you don't make it to any of these then there is plenty of interest for you in the Centre itself, information, microscopes, touch table, hands-on challenges and activities and the creatures in the sea tanks are a constant source of amusement and delight.  Open week days 10.30-4.30.

Fiona MacG

Monday, 20 June 2016

Geology Walk at Saligo

18 brave souls turned out on a dreich afternoon to learn more about the wide range of geological features exposed at the bay. However, the rain wasn't as heavy as we had first feared and the dunes gave us some shelter from the strengthening SE wind.

There's so much to see in a small area - from Silurian-age (440 million year old) igneous rocks (a biotite-diorite stock) intruded into 700 million-year old turbiditic metasandstones and metamudstones themselves folded 470 million years ago in the Caledonian mountain building (orogenic) event. And for good measure, a 60 million-year old 10m thick gabbroic dyke with chilled and baked margins evidencing the initiation of the opening of the North Atlantic ocean.

Hunting for flint glacial erratices was very sucesful now that all that horrible sandy stuff has been washed away exposing all the wonderful rocks! The highlight for some folk was the audience-participation bit where Dave had 'volunteers' strung out across the beach in a time-line from the big bang to the stone age.


Friday, 17 June 2016

News Flash - The lobster has grown!

Old skin - can you believe it pulls itself out of this
 all squishy and soft before hardening its new skin
I came into the centre this morning, went round all the tanks to check all the creatures were happy.  Saw tentacles poking out of the lobsters tube - all fine. Then I noticed a half buried lobster body in the sand, a moment of confusion before the realisation that our fella must have shed its coat and grown.

I haven't seen its full new size yet, the claws look big but it still fits in the tube, so that's good, but will feed it this afternoon and see how big it is.  The creatures are all doing very nicely this year, so well worth a trip to the centre to have a look at all the little creatures that happily live off Islay's shores.
Fiona MacG
Lobster with its fresh new coat!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Dune Delights at Sanaigmore

Last Sundays rAmble at Sanaigmore 12th June 2016

Germander Speedwell
A dune walk, always a chance for a delight of colour.  Buttercup and Birds-foot Trefoil with the wonderful bright blue of Germander Speedwell puncturing through the yellow.  A number of mermaids purses empty, dried and light as a feather scattered on the grass where they had been blown from the shore.  Thrift in flower and Lady's Bedstraw and Thyme just bursting forth with blooms that will be busy for the next couple of months.  Around the rocky outcrops and on the inland side Heather, wind pruned to a tight cropped carpet was interspersed with Lousewort and the first spikes of Heath Spotted Orchid, the dry weather of late had not suited the tiny Stonecrop with one flower clinging to existence in a tiny pocket of soil in a rock crevice.
Heath Spotted Orchid

Marsh Orchid?
Marsh Cinquefoil
The once wetter areas had Marsh Pennywort, Ragged Robin, Marsh Marigold and Forget-me-not.  The wind was a bit brisk for butterflies but a nice Green-veined White obliged for a photograph. 
Green-veined White
A large hawker dragonfly zoomed past but wasn't for identifying and one of our party saw a Painted Lady.  Painted Lady's are migratory pushing up from the continent, I hear the weather in the south is wet so they have bypassed the soggy places for sunny dry Islay.

The small Common Gull colony had 5-6 chicks perched a top the pebbles, with peeping Oystercatchers.  Good views of Ringed Plovers, Wheatear, we watched the Skylarks sing on the way up and the meadow Pipits sing as they parachuted down.

A first and a highlight of the afternoon was a shrew, bold as you like scurrying across the heather and into the longer grass.

Species:
Flowers: Birds-foot Trefoil; Thyme; Lady's bedstraw; Thrift; Tormentil; Germander Speedwell; Marsh Cinquefoil; Ragged Robin; Forget-me-not spp; Marsh Pennywort;
English Stonecrop; Heath Spotted Orchid; other hybrid spotted orchid; Lousewort.

Birds: Oystercatcher; Ringed Plover; Wheatear; Meadow Pipit; Skylark; Pied Wagtail; Common Gull, 5 Common gull chicks; Gannets
Birds heard: Snipe; Corncrake; Dunlin
Insects: Green-veined White; hawker dragonfly; Painted Lady
Mammal: Shrew

Sunday ramble - Solam 'plague' village 5th June 2106

A report on our walk to Solam our first Sunday ramble of the season, better late than never!


A very sunny, warm day for our first walk of the season up to the old village of Solum.  Our small band of ramblers travelled our way through farmland, woodland, still vibrant with the colours of spring flowers, bluebells and pignut, the leaves bursting forth on the branches.  Hazel, Birch, some Oak, Alder and Sycamore the main tree contingent.  The grasslands were attracting Small Heath butterfly, Green-veined White and a fast flying russety orange type which didn't sit still to see, but a Fritillary I assumed perhaps Marsh Frit.  The heat of the day gave all the butterflies a speed I could not match with my small net!  We saw two Clouded Buff (day flying moth) a nice addition to the list.  Above the woodland, patches of wet heath with a bountiful flourish of cotton grass over slightly de-hydrated sphagnum mosses with butterwort and sundews vying for nutrient full midges to entrap.

Clouded Buff

Heath speedwell

Round leaved Sundew with entrapped midges
We sort out the rock carvings, perhaps created by the shepherd who once inhabited the old steading, supposedly, 'Rabbie Burns' and the profile of the lady.  We discussed the legend of the plague village, where lies the truth and the fiction of a good tale. 
The lady in the rock


Carpets of Bog Cotton (Cotton grass)

The old walls and rocks of the older village dwellings emerge from the grassland blanket that hugs and wraps around the rocks with nature finding niches in all the nooks and crannies, lichens and mosses and tree saplings finding a roothold in the mosses and rock crevices.


English Stonecrop

Foxglove and Tormentil

Rowan sapling


Lichen and moss hugging the rocks
2 Golden Eagle were seen soaring on the hot thermals of the day in the distance, circling high, and a lovely yellowhammer sat perched singing on top of the old shepherds house.

A great first foray into Islay's wondrous nature of 2016, hopefully the first of may a pleasant, sociable walk with local Islay folk and visitors and showing them the beautiful, interesting and unexpected delights that Islay's natural history can provide.


Birds: 2 Golden Eagle; Yellow Hammer; White throat; Buzzard; Willow warbler.  Butterflies: Small Heath; ?Marsh Fritillary; Painted Lady; Peacock; Green-veined White; Clouded Buff (moth).

Flowers: Birds-foot Trefoil; Pignut; Bluebell; Tormentil; Butterwort; Round leaved Sundew; Heath Speedwell; Germander Speedwell; Lousewort; Heath Bedstraw; Cotton grass; Hazel; Downy Birch; Alder; Oak; Sycamore; Willow