Friday, 23 June 2017

Sunday afternoon nature walks - Sanaigmore

Sundays Sanaigmore Nature rAmble through the dunes

The weather cleared although a low cloud and mist still hung heavy over the nearby hills.  It was an enthusiastic group and lovely to take out and spot birds and flowers, though too damp for butterflies.  

Along the shore were the always present Oystercatchers with Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper calling too and showing some clear views.  Out in the bay a solitary Black Guillemot  showed well and the distant calls of Chough were later rewarded with a close up view as one decided to sit on a nearby fence and have a chat with a sheep!  The group were pleased to then be able to pick out the birds red legs and curved bill.  Further around the dune on an area of raise beach pebbles the small Common Gull colony was busy and amazingly one of the group spotted two young chicks as they moved amongst the pebbles, soon dissolving into the jumble as they became motionless again.

Common Milkwort alongside Eyebright yet to flower
The flowers were varied, some in bloom and some just coming out.  An exchange of knowledge on small identifying features is always welcome as we all go away having learned a little more from the day, for me Lesser Hawkbit and its concave leaf ends.  Storksbill and Hawkbits in full splendour, with Eyebright, Bird's Foot Trefoil, English Stonecrop just appearing.  Common Milkwort , Trift and Thyme interspersed the grasses and rocky outcrops.  Lesser Meadow Rue was found growing amongst some rock and pebbles above the high tide line out of easy browsing from the sheep.  In the wetter marshy areas Ragged Robin, Water Forget-me-not, Lesser Spearwort, Water Mint, and Northern Marsh Orchid, along with what I found to be (I hope) Thyme Leaved Speedwell.


Sea Plantain alongside Buckshorn Plantain

Lesser Meadow Rue 

An altogether pleasant afternoon.  For those who like their natural history more ancient and solid, this Sunday's rAmble will be with David Webster who will be explaining all about the ancient rock formations, folding and intrusions exposed for all to see on the beach at Saligo.  So for a fascinating afternoon meet at the Saligo gate at 2pm.

Fiona MacG

Sticklebacks and Solar Powered Sea Slugs

Here at the Islay Natural History Trust we work hard to maintain the tanks and keep them in good condition so when we see contented creatures breeding and displaying, a sign of a happy environment, we can be satisfied that we are doing the right thing for the creatures in our care.
A Common Prawn 
At the end of last week the eggs of one of our male sticklebacks hatched and he appeared to be caring for them well, however, the young all seem to have disappeared over the weekend. He does appear to still be guarding the nest and there may be new set of eggs in it. Perhaps he will have better luck next time?

This small sea slug was spotted clinging to the glass of the large marine aquarium this morning, I think it is the Green Sea Slug or Elysia viridis(the colour usually depends on the type of algae that has been eaten). The Green sea slug is unusual in that it belongs to a clade - Sacoglossa - of sea slugs which are the only animals to use kleptoplasty. This is where the chloroplasts from digested algae are retained and used by the host to provide it with the products of photosynthesis - they are, at least in part, solar powered.  
Green Sea Slug

Hermit crabs are not the only animals that like to live inside disused sea-shells. 

Beth C

Friday, 16 June 2017

Sea Tank Critters Update

It has now been a few weeks since we set up our tanks here at the Islay Natural History Trust and it is nice to find that all of our creatures are settling in well. 
This Shanny is a master of camouflage. 

The three spined sticklebacks in the main marine aquarium are thriving in particular. The males, which are distinguishable by their red undersides, have built nests which they are now defending.
The male Stickleback guarding his nest. 

A female stickleback.

One male has begun to fan his nest, a behaviour which helps to circulate water over the eggs and keeps them well oxygenated. He is also particularly fierce in the defence of his nest, and appears to have claimed the whole end of the tank as his own.


The hermit crabs are now also moving into new, larger shells.
A hermit crab in the rock-pool tank has taken up residence in a dog whelk shell. 
Beth C 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Gartbreck - Seashore Bonanza! Nature Walk

Yet again showers and donning waterproofs, but a hardy band of four went to see what was about near the sea at Gartbreck (West of Bowmore).

A lovely family of goldfinch was the first delight on the fence, dropping down to feed on the seeds amongst the grass.  Lapwing and Oystercatcher were in the field and Oystercatchers and ringed plover along the shore, chicks lurking somewhere unseen.  Offshore were Eiders and hauled out on various rocks Common and Grey seals and we looked intently to determine which had a Spaniel face (common seal) or Labrador face (grey)?  The large roman nose of a male grey was easy to pick out.

Plants which greeted us were Sea Milkwort, in flower alongside Scurvy Grass and Sea Arrowgrass (which tasted like coriander).  Thrift is in its element at the moment and we had Sea Mayweed and Silverweed just coming into bloom.  In the areas above the high watermark were Birds-foot Trefoil and Ragged Robin, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Yellow Flag Iris and Yellow Rattle which was just showing its first flower.

Sea Mayweed
Sea Milkwort and Scurvy Grass
Further along the shore we were intercepted by two Arctic Tern probably nesting on the small islands just off shore, Redshank had chicks in the marshy field at the top of the shore as they called and alarmed, though we were far enough not to be any danger to their young.  Off shore we spotted two Shelduck families each with 5-6 young,

Following a tip off from Ian Brooke who had walked this section earlier in the day we were on the lookout for jellyfish, we found this impressive specimen washed up - Rhizostoma octopus, from the rusty colour of its tentacles it looked to be a female.  Mandy's feet are in the picture to give you a sense of scale to the size of it 60-70cm probably when fully floating.  Unfortunately such creatures are at the mercy of the currents and sadly this one will pulsate no more! 

Looking forward to next Sunday's walk at Sanaigmore
Fiona MacG

Islay Natural History Trust benefiting from your shopping!

Easyfundraising - Well done all our shopping supporters

Thank you to all those who are shopping via the Easyfundraising system and adopting the Islay Natural History Trust as the recipient to the donations from retail companies that you shop with.  

We have reached an amazing milestone in our donations from this system, a grand total of £2000 has now been received since this was set up and a good half of this in just the last couple of years.  there is no outlay on our part and none on yours, (unless of course shopping with Amazon and then you have to remember to link in via Easyfundraising - I sometimes forget!).

So thank you to that person who shopped last week, booked a holiday, or some major DIY gear to suddenly break the threshold of the £2k mark on our barometer.

If anyone is not yet signed up please consider doing so via this link as for everyone who signs up we get an extra £1 as well as the donation from your spending.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sundays Nature walk - The Ard, Port Ellen, Islay

Our first nature rAmble of 2017

Islay Natural History Trust - Wild About Nature

This summer's Islay Natural History Trust, Sunday Nature rAmbles got off to a slow start, I expect it was the heavy thundery shower that hit just before 2pm that put folk off , but it had cleared in Port Ellen.  Although there was no crowd waiting outside the Co-op to join the walk Mandy and I did take a lovely meander around the Ard to see what flowers were out, after a lunch stop at the Cyber cafe Bistro, which was an absolutely fantastic meal, more people should go, we were the only ones there!

The Ard is a great mix of grassland showing a woodland flora intermixed with heath over the rocky outcrops and bog/flush vegetation in the wet depressions in between, so much in such a small area.  So we were blessed with bluebells, dog-violet and pignut interspersed with the open grassland flowers of birds foot trefoil, milkwort, heath speedwell and tormentil to name but a few. Upon the rocks was stonecrop just coming into flower.  
Dog Violet, though digital camera interpretation of blue is shocking!

Ant pollinating? Pignut
 In the wet flushes common spotted orchids were unfurling their flower spikes, there was an abundant display of marsh cinquefoil and the yellow flags are at their best for the month of June. 
Marsh Cinquefoil

Common Spotted Orchid
 Despite the calm almost muggy day thankfully the midges were more interested in congregating on the yellow flag of the iris flowers.
Midges clustered on Iris Flag
Next Sunday we will be exploring the shoreline at Gartbreck, west of Bowmore, the tide is low with the chance for sea creatures amongst the rocks and we will investigate the seaweeds and other flora on the saltmarsh areas at the high tide line.  There is a small colony of common seal and I expect some waders to look out for.  We never walk far as there is usually so much to stop and look at, so whether you are an Ileach or a visitor please join us over the summer at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon we have a full programme which takes us to all corners of Islay at a nice sociable pace.

Fiona MacG

Monday, 29 May 2017

Our 2017 season of nature walks - Sundays 2pm throughout the summer

The first of our Sunday Nature rAmbles this year

Starting off with a tour of The Ard - Port Ellen

The early spring flowers are nearing their end and the first of the late spring/summer flowering is underway so hoping for the best of both this coming Sunday.  The Ard is a nice mix of heath, grassland and woodland species, with butterflies and bumblebees on the wing there should be lots to interest us.  We have the sea to view and a bit of shoreline to explore so lots of potential flowers and creatures to discover.

Please do come and join us this Sunday at 2pm and we will see what exciting wildlife we can find.  We are meeting on the Green opposite the Co-op.

Charge £5 per person /family £10/ Islay Natural History Trust members £2

Friday, 26 May 2017

Barred Umber - new to Islay

I trapped this moth in my Bruichladdich garden the night before last. It is called a Barred Umber, a name which fits the description quite well. Although it has been reported from Argyll mainland and from Mull, this is the first record for this vice-county, which covers Islay, Jura and Colonsay.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Islay's Floral Dandelion Bonanza

It may have turned a bit dramatic and wild on the weather front today but the rain will be most welcome to all those invertebrates that thrive in the wet soil and many birds, now with chicks, that rely on them for food.  These dry few weeks although delightful and warming and providing a sunny vista can be tough for wildlife. 

 Others however are adapted to cope, the deep tap root of the dandelion reaches far under the hard baked surface soil to reach the moister depths and these seem to have thrived during this sunny spell.  The flowers are laden with nectar and pollen providing a wonderful blast of yellow along the verges and a plentiful supply of sustenance for bee's and butterflies.

These flowers are one of the earliest flowers to produce seeds which is very important for seed eating birds like the goldfinch which can be seen feeding around the seed heads at this time of year, just in time for their hatching chicks.

We may overlook these more common and familiar plants but they all have their important niche and role to play in the seasonal bounty of the wildlife year.
Fiona MacG

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Our next Natural History Talk

Ramblings from Dorset to Islay

Our next talk - Tuesday 16th May
Becky Williamson is on a visit to Islay and has agreed to give us a talk.  She will enthuse us and provide some insight into her ramblings around the footpaths of Dorset and Somerset.  A whole host of wildlife and good habitat is available to see in these southern counties and we look forward to finding out all about them.

Becky has persuaded her walking group from Dorset to come and sample Islay's delights so hopefully the good weather will last and they will get to see all the wonderful scenery and wildlife Islay has to offer and of course sample the fantastic friendly hospitality of Islay folk.

Please do come along to the talk, everyone is welcome @ Islay Natural History Centre, Port Charlotte, Tues 16th May, 7.30pm.  Admission £3.50, INHT members £1. Tea and Cake as always will be available after.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Islay's Nature Centre Sea Tanks are filling up!

Islay Natural History Trust's Nature Centre in Port Charlotte is now open for the season, and our sea tanks are quickly filling up with new residents! Last week members of Port Charlotte fire crew kindly helped us to fill the tanks with sea water, ready for the start of the season, and now our volunteer Steve has made several trips to and fro with new creatures that will make the tanks their home for the season.

So far we have 3-spined Sticklebacks, Sand Gobies, Shannies, a Sea Urchin, Sea Anemones, Barnacles, a Limpet, Prawns, Shrimp, Hermit Crabs, Shore Crabs, Periwinkles, Carpet Shells, Dog Whelks, Mussels, Bladder Wrack, Sea Lettuce, Toothed Wrack, Bean Weed and two lovely intricate red seaweeds.

The periwinkles have been making some interesting patterns in the shallow part of the touch tank!

Come down and see us soon! The Centre in Port Charlotte is open Monday to Friday, 10:30 am to 4:30 pm - lots to see and do whatever the weather!

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