Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wrens and Snails

While I was eating my mini cheddars today, I couldn't help but get distracted by a family of at least two wrens. The fledgling was not only almost tail less. but also fearless, and sat 2 feet away from me, exchanging tiny whistles with the adult as I snapped some photos. A third wren with a beak full of food landed on the fence right next to me for a few seconds.

The new snail arrivals getting ready to move in.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Next Ramble - Sanaigmore - Friday 1st June

A change to the programme. Sign up for our next ramble at Sanaigmore on Friday 1st June, meeting there at
2 pm. I'm looking forward to making the list of flora and fauna, so do join us - it'll be good fun. Remember to book your place before 1 pm on Friday (01496 850 288/07967 205229).
Nature rambling at Sanaigmore 2011

Visitor photos

Red Deer at sunset

Dew Moth
Thanks to Danny for these photos of a Dew Moth and a Red Deer at sunset.


The Dutch tallship Thalassa in Loch Indaal at the weekend - visiting the Bruichladdich Distillery Open Day.
Tallship Thalassa

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Photos from Brian Turner

Thanks to Brian, a regular visitor to the island who sees a lot of wildlife on his fishing expedition. He sent us several photos which we will feature periodically on the blog. Here's the first instalment. Thanks Brian.
Common Scoters, Loch Gorm

Red-throated Diver, Ardnahoe

Brown Trout and Sea Trout for comparison. Caught in Loch Leathan and released

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillars

We are proud to announce the arrival of our latest display - about 20 Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars happily munching nettles in their pavilion. I only got stung a little bit in getting them safely set up! As if to herald their arrival, an adult Small Tortoiseshell found its way into the Centre this morning and was relieved to be released!
Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillars

Monday, 28 May 2012

Snails and Pond Tank

It's been pretty quiet in the centre today, with the majority of visitors being in the morning. I've been keeping an eye on those snails and updated the pond tank.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Gaelic College Sightings

With my mum being away, and consequently my access to remoter parts of the island, I decided to stay in Bowmore for a spot of birdwatching. I ended up spending an hour or so at the Gaelic College viewpoint, and felt inspired to record my experience while still in the field (mostly):

What a great atmosphere. I am sitting on the base of a giant telescope overlooking a slightly choppy Loch Indaal. Among the rocky, bladder-racked shore are many hidden treasures; dunlin, ringed plover and oystercatchers. The air is alive with the sound of piping pipits and squawking terns. Now and again, a male eider duck calls to his companions, before leading them in flight across the loch. Twice now, a family of oinking oystercatchers have startled the arctic tern colony into a flurry. I find it amusing as the twenty individuals take off from their patch of land, raising a false alarm.
           As the tide pulls further from the shore, more worm casts are revealed triggering the arrival of more waders. I can now see ten curlews. The rockets seem always agitated, infact, there has not been a minute without their accelerating call. The oinks and curlews are getting closer. I love the way they can be seen from a distance as little dots in the shallows, foraging away. The dunlin flock that had flown to the other side of 'tern island' have returned, and now resemble whirligig beetles as they run along the bumpy sand.
       Walking back, I am pleased to see the sedge warbler that greeted my arrival earlier, and can hear the mystery whitethroat.  I turn around for a last view of the waders and notice the terns are up again, only this time it is no false alarm; they are now dive bombing a lesser black backed gull!
      I return to the house feeling satisfied, and ready for some lunch!

Sightings list (I have included only what I saw from the College)

arctic tern x20
dunlin x10
oystercatcher x10
eider x6
mallard x1
ringed plover x6
rock pipit x3
starling x1
herring gull x54 (including smelly corner from a distance)
black headed gull x6
lesser black backed gull x1
curlew x10
jackdaw x5
goldfinch x4
shelduck x3
mute swan x5

Lorna Williamson

Friday, 25 May 2012

New Displays

It's nearing the end of another day. Once again, it's been lovely weather, only with a few busy spells this time.

I have finally completed the wormery display! Ian and Margaret also dropped off the tadpoles. Here are some photos to get you excited.

Lorna Williamson 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sunny day things

                                          'Coming Soon' tank. Can't wait to see what we get!
                The worms have enjoyed their teabags in the darkness of night, with one torn down the centre.    
Did you know that worms can live for up to 15 years?

Another glorious day outside today. Upon arrival at the INHT this morning, I was welcomed by a great Northern Diver fishing near the shore. Given the sunshine, I spent most of the day enhancing the new wormery, and updating the tank.

Lorna Williamson

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dotterel and Dunlin

It's been a busy day at the Centre today with lots of enthusiastic visitors with photos. A visiting couple from Stirling had been excited to see the Dotterel at Saligo on Sunday. They kindly let us use their photo for the blog, together with a lovely photo of a Dunlin at the shores of Loch Indaal.


What's in a cowpat?

Lorna, Crystal and Carl examine some of the fascinating invertebrate life to be found in a cowpat. Well, it's fascinating if you want to know what choughs eat!  And isn't that everybody?

Osprey Sighting

Two visitors, Richard Jones and Anne Brown, came in to the centre this morning, very excited with the following story:

"Yesterday evening we watched an Osprey fishing at Loch Gorm for 15-20 minutes. Then it caught a fish and flew south over the ridge, holding the fish (Osprey fashion) in its talons. We were a little surprised that it made vertical dives into the water from up to 100 feet, rather like a Gannet."

Checking the blog,  we saw that James Howe had seen the same bird so it was an exciting evening at Loch Gorm yesterday!

Harpalus rufipes - Smaull

Genus Agonum

A beetle from the genus Agonum - species not known.  Smaull.

Loricera pilicornis - Smaull

Water mint - Smaull

Flat backed millipede - Smaull

These millipedes have two legs each side of each segment and are flat backed with raised bumps.  Smaull

Pitfall trapping at Smaull.

Crystal demonstrated the use pitfall traps - formed by cutting a cylindrical hole in the ground and setting a plastic tub into it with the lip at surface level.  It is covered with a mesh to prevent rodents falling in.  The bugs then fall in as they are trundling along but cannot climb out again.  

These traps at Smaull had been set for less than 24 hours but they were already catching numbers of ants, beetles, spiders and millipedes etc.  Crystal collected them in small plastic tubes for identification.  Her research for the RSPB revolves around Chough diets.

Ants and Rove beetles in a pitfall trap.

Yoghurt Pot request

We're running a 'Design a Caterpillar' Competition this year and urgently require washed Munch Bunch or similar, brightly coloured, small yoghurt/fromage frais pots. Please either bring them in or get in touch for us to collect! Thanks.

Visitor Photos

Thanks to Brian from Leeds for these lovely photos of a Corncrake and a young Red Deer Stag.

Yellow Flag Iris - Smaull

My first Flag iris flower of 2012.  Smaull.

Compost Worm - Eisenia veneta

I think this is probably a compost worm, rather than a brandling (Eisenia fetida).  Under a stob at Smaull.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

New Wormery

Lorna's first job as new assistant was to set up a wormery. Now all we need are the worms! We collected some on Crystal's bug hunt today. Here is the new wormery!

Beautiful Brocade

A moth to match its name, caught last night in my garden. I caught two last summer which were the first on Islay for about 12 years, so it's good that it is still here.

Monday, 21 May 2012

INHT Wildlife Centre is now open in Port Charlotte

Our Natural History Centre in Port Charlotte is now open from 10.30am-4.30pm Monday - Friday.  A warm welcome to Lorna Williamson who is joining our Centre manager Becky Williamson for the season.  They will be busy getting the displays and tanks up and running this week.

Our program of natural history rambles starts on June 1st.  These are short and very informal and easy going 'Rambles' (as opposed to 'Walks') led by Becky at a series of different locations around the island.  As the name suggests, they involve a great deal of stopping to peer at and identify all sorts of plants, birds, bugs, beetles, lichens and liverworts.  They are very easy going, a perfect day out for all ages, abilities and levels of natural history knowledge.  One of the fun things that Becky hopes that you will help her with is to create lists of all the different species that you find - which is actually great fun.

The rambles must be booked in advance, by phoning either the Centre (01496 850288) or mobile (07967 205229) at any time up to 1.00pm on the day.  Each ramble starts at 2.00pm and lasts for around two hours.  There is nothing strenuous involved, but please come prepared with waterproof footwear and clothing to suit the weather.

At Bunnahabhain: we meet beside the road before it turns down to the distillery.
At Kilchiaran: we meet by the chapel.  There is plenty of parking in the laybys.
At Sanaigmore: there's plenty of parking at the end of the road.
At Killinallan: meet where the road ends in a (usually) locked gate.
At Ardnave: beside the loch where the track turns left towards the farm.
At Kintra: in the signposted car park through the gate out of the farm yard.

Prices for the Rambles are the same as admission to the Centre - Adult £3, Concession £2, Child £1.50, Family £7.50

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Wood Speedwell - Lorgba, Port Charlotte

Apple blossom - Lorgba, Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte Rookery

 The rookery in Port Charlotte is very active, with about 42 nests
The trees are sycamore, which we would normally expect to be in full leaf by now - but as you can see they are still very bare.  There are various theories as to why this may be, ranging from the fact that this has been a very cold May, to damage sustained in the January 3rd hurricane, to the trees natural rythmn being still disrupted by the storm of May 23rd last year when all their leaves were stripped off and they had to grow a new set....

New Zealand flatworms (Arthurdendyus triangulatus)

Lorgba, Port Charlotte.

Loch Indaal Lighthouse, Port Charlotte

The lighthouse was built in 1869 by the family of engineers who became known as "The Lighthouse Stevensons".  Robert Louis Stevenson was from the same family...

White-shouldered House Moth

One of two species of what are usually called Clothes Moths. The other one, the Brown House Moth, is probably commoner and comes indoors more, but this is, as a moth book says, "common throughout Britain in any month and often indoors", though I caught this one in my moth trap in the garden. It's a little less than a centimetre long.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Eged's Silverweed?

Silverweed is abundant on Islay - but some believe there are two distinct species.  This could be the maritime, salt tolerant one called Eged's silverweed (Argentina egedii) as it is growing close to the high water mark.  To tell Eged's from the common variety requires knowledge of the density of hairs on various bits of  silverweed anatomy.  As even botanists are divided over whether Eged's is an actual species, or simply a subspecies, it is not something that ought to keep us awake at night.
Silverweed used to be an important starchy food source - quite possibly very important to Scots  in the years BP (Before Potatoes). The roots can be dried and ground up into a sort of flour.  Apparently.  Those in the know claim it tastes like, er,  silverweed...

Young Ravens

Young ravens on sea cliffs - Smaull