Saturday, 29 April 2017

Port Charlotte Fire Crew fill the sea tanks

We are open from Monday 1st May

Members of Port Charlotte fire crew helped us to fill the sea tanks ready for the season this week.

Hopefully over the next week Steve will be busy finding creatures to put in them.

We are open from Monday (1st May) until the end of September, so come and look around and have a try at our hands-on displays, they are not just for the kids. we have a very challenging geology quiz.

Bring the kids if you are stuck for an activity this holiday Monday.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Seasonal job vacancies at the Centre

The Islay Natural History Trust is looking for an enthusiastic individual to help run its visitor centre and activities this summer. 

We are looking for someone enthusiastic in talking to visitors, some wildlife knowledge is desirable but not essential.  The centre is open from the 1st May, Monday to Friday 10.30-4.30, hours/days will be negotiable, we are looking to fill 2-3 days, maybe more with the right applicant, some weekend activities may require assistance.  

Apply by sending us your CV, email your interest and for more information to or contact Fiona (Islay) 850607

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Seaweed Foraging a Success

We at the Islay Natural History Trust had an amazing weekend (8th & 9th April) learning about the seaweeds on the shore.  I am so glad we finally managed to arrange this and discovered the expertise not so far away on Easedale with Duncan (Slate Island Seaweeds Ltd).  Two seaweed workshops over last weekend attracted 31 participants all eager to discover what bounty the seashore could provide.  We learned that there was more to seaweeds than meets the eye, not just a slimy mass of algae that when past it's best creates 'stinky corners'! 

Foraged fresh and sustainably and with the right know-how in how to cook it, it is a wonder to the pallet.  There are the green seaweeds, similar to terrestrial plants, the reds, mid to low shore, a whole host of tender edible varieties and the brown seaweeds a group all themselves and none of them perilous to eat unlike fungi. So we were treated to alfresco cooking in the lovely weather, on the beach at Sanaigmore and in the Youth Hostel garden in Port Charlotte.

Cookery demonstration in the SYHA garden

Purple Laver grows in profusion on many of our shores coating rocks in a shiny black film.  This is the basis for laverbread and the noki used in sushi, but dried and baked in the oven makes amazing crisps, far better than potato crisps and so much healthier!  Pepper Dulse has an amazing flavour, though not according to my daughter! Although our younger participants on the Sunday were first in the queue trying all the flavours that were presented to them. 

taste testing on the beach

Traditional Carageen pudding went down very well, and Carageen was used as a thickening agent for egg-less pancakes.  

False Irish Moss (alternative to Carageen) thickening milk for eggless pancakes
Wild garlic and pepper dulse pesto
Dulse on cooking tastes like ham and Oar-weed (kelp) provided us with a fantastic tagliatelle alternative.  There were even a good number of adventurous folk prepared to sample cooked limpets off the BBQ.  We also used some of the terrestrial 'weeds' in our recipes including wild garlic and hawthorn leaves.

So hopefully it has inspired many of us to consider being a little more adventurous in our cooking, it certainly has for me, I came home and cooked nettle soup for my tea.
Saturday foraging crowd:
Taste testing everything

Eager students

The best finds on the lowest turn of the tide

Velvet Horn

Smooth periwinkle enjoying Pepper dulse too!
Peering into pools

Our eager participants on Port Charlotte beach on Sundays Workshop

Sunday's foraging:

Lovely crowd for Sunday's workshop

Eager to try wild garlic and pepper dulse pesto

George Jackson sampling Duncan's seaweed treats

Considering the interest and enthusiasm of all who took part I am sure we will introduce some of these teachings into our Sunday nature walks over the summer and organise more workshops in the future.

Fiona MacG


Friday, 31 March 2017

Highlights in the Darkness

Our next natural history talk:  Bitterns and other nocturnal birds

The science of conservation, knowing what birds need and how they use their habitat is essential for good conservation and comes from detailed observation in the field, recording and analysis.  Gillian Gilbert has been working for RSPB in its conservation science department for many years, involved with learning and advising on species management for many species.  This talk concentrates on some of the more nocturnal species.  Bitterns were once a struggling species until detailed science discovered what they needed and changes in management to suit those needs have seen a complete turn around in fortunes for this once rare red data species.  Hopefully Gillian will shed some light on what role science has played in its comeback.

Join us for this interesting presentation on Tuesday 4th April, 7.30pm at the Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte.

Everyone is welcome. Admission £3.50, INHT members £1 inc. Tea & Cake and a chance to chat. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Seaweed Foraging Weekend, April 8/9th 2017

Islay Natural History Trust - in conjunction with Slate Islands Seaweed - are running 2 workshops on seaweed foraging and cooking on Islay over the weekend of 8th and 9th April.

Thanks to a kind donation from Sarah Daniels we are really excited to bring you the opportunity to join one of our seaweed foraging workshops during the Easter holidays.  So if you have ever wanted to know what are the most palatable algae on the shore and how to cool and prepare it, this is your chance.  We will be guided by Duncan from Slate Islands Seaweed, based in Easdale and Fiona MacGillivray of INHT.  There will be two chances to participate over the weekend: 

Saturday 8th April (9am till 1pm):  Low tide will be c.10.30. 
Meet at Bruichladdich (by Mini-Market) for foraging along the shore and then heading (shared transport available) for Sanaigmore.  You will learn to identify seaweeds and find which are the best for foraging.  You will be guided on foraging techniques, how to harvest in a sustainable way without damaging the growth of the algae and we will be cooking with our foraged harvest.
Places are limited, please book in advance...
Charge for event £20 per person

Sunday 9th April (a later start!) 10:00 to c.12.30:  We will concentrate our foraging around Port Charlotte, this will be a less intensive event.  Fiona and Duncan will guide you in basic identification and foraging skills with some cooking back at the centre. 
There will be up to 20 places available, children are welcome. 
Light refreshments will be provided. 
More spaces available but booking advisable
Charge for event £10 (children £3)

(no unaccompanied children please)

If you're interested in coming along then please get in touch to reserve your place.
Email: or phone Fiona 850607

For more information about seaweed visit Slate Islands Seaweed

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Next talk - Brazil in my Bedroom Slippers by Steve Wrightson

Join us on Wednesday 18th January 2017, 7:30 pm at the INHT Centre, Port Charlotte, for a vibrantly illustrated talk by local naturalist  Steve Wrightson as he takes us on his journey through Brazil, including the Iguaรงu and Anavilhanas national parks, the Rio Negro and the Amazon. Enjoy the amazing diversity and stunning colours of Brazil's flora, fauna and fungi as we wend our way through river and jungle, followed by tea and cake! Admission £1 for members and £3.50 for non-members (although you can join on the night!), including tea and cake. See you there!