Islay Nature Notes 19 July 2009

Jeremy Hastings: We have been camping with the youngsters of Islay this past week. Part of the Wildwood Wisdom programme the children have had a week long experience of wilderness living, campcraft and opportunities to discover and explore a really wild place. these camps for local kids have been made possible with help from the Mactaggart Third Fund and Dunlossit Estate. For some of them it is the only holiday they will have and we really enjoy giving them the chance to enjoy the wonderful wildness of Islay.

At night Tawny owls called, bats flew overhead and during the day we observed Ring plovers, Oystercatchers, Common Sandpipers and numerous gulls too!

It is Tour de France time and there are loads of cyclists on Islay - it is such a good place for this activity. Last evening a group of us cycled around the Rhinns watching Hen Harriers, Chough and Gannets on the coast. Fabulous. Continue reading.....

Along the roadsides more colour has arrived; the whites are fading being taken over by the deep creams of Meadowsweet and the fabulous Purple Loosestrife. This is considered an invasive species in Australaysia and Americas but here it is native. This plant (Lythrum Salicaria is a hardy perennial. It is 'hairy' and can grow to about 2 m (6.6 ft) however on Islay it is usually much smaller. It has a tall stem with many small leaves and small purple-red starry flowers along stem. It is a very striking plant. Name comes from the Greek "inthron", meaning blood (referring to the colour of the flowers). the name also may come from the Greek "lythrum" meaning gore (mmm nice!) and probably refers to the plants ability to stop bleeding. it is also known as Red Sally and Long Purples.

It is very atractive to butterflies and bees. The caterpillars of the Emperor and Small Elephant Hawk Moths feed on the leaves. Also food plant of the Powdered Quake moth.(Not found on Islay!) Interestingly a mature plant can have as many as 30 flowering stems producing 2 - 3 million seeds per annum!The plant's high tannin content led to it being used as an alternative to oak bark for tanning leather - very important in this part of the world.It also makes a strong anti-bacterial and is useful in cases of diarrhoea and mild food poisoning. It is, as said before known to stops bleeding and is alleged to brighten eyes, preserve eyesight and sooth sore eyes.. In the 19th century it was used to treat cholera. Red dye obtained from the flowers has been used in sweets. Tannin from the roots is still used to preserve fishing nets in some countries. The whole plant can be made into a gargle for sore throat. Herbalists also use the plant to stop external bleeding, bad menstruation and nosebleeds. It has been used to soothe ill-behaved animals and for repelling flies and gnats (but not midges!) Makes an ointment for ulcers and sores.

Best in boggy ground - hence it's popularity on Islay! It can also grow in shallow water.... so a good landscape habitat indicator.

Other relevant Islay Wildlife and Birding Information Resources:
- Jeremy's News Blog
- Previous Islay nature reports By Jeremy Hastings
- Islay Seasonwatch by Teresa Morris
- Islay Birds blog by Ian Brook
- Islay Birder blog by John Armitage

Tag: summer nature flowers birding cycling

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