PNHS News

Message from the Chair

I hope everyone managed to have a great Summer this year and you were all out there enjoying Nature at its very best – whether at home or abroad.

Our committee have also been busy behind the scenes, and we have manged to compile quite an exciting winter programme for 2022/23 with some great speakers booked – old & new!

So, with fingers crossed we are hoping to have our first indoor meeting at the Wynd Centre after an absence of over two years – where does the time go!!

This of course will always be subject to COVID-19 guidance from the Scottish Government and we will keep our members updated if any changes do occur. I’m really looking forward to seeing you all back in September, our society truly needs your support for the future.

Thanks again

Tom Byars, Chairman

Subscriptions

As you will remember, we did not collect any membership fees for 2020-2021 or 2021-2022, because all activity of the society ceased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will, however, start collecting fees again, starting at the beginning of September, with the new lecture programme. The committee have decided to increase the membership fee to £10 per year for all members. This is to cover the cost of increases in expenditure, including hall hire. See the Membership page for further information on joining and payment.

If you are an existing member you should have received our latest newsletter by email with details of the winter programme and membership. Please let us know if any of your contact details have changed.

Endnote

Last, but not least, we would like to thank Nicola MacIntyre for all the sterling work she has done over the years to produce our newsletters and emailing updates to members.  Nicola has decided to step down from the role and this is her last newsletter.  We are sorry to see her leave this role but she is not leaving the society altogether and we will continue to benefit from her company and broad knowledge of natural history.  

A taster of outings past and future

We had a fabulous day for our July outing, the tree walk in Linwood Moss Community Woodland led by Judy Hayton. Sorry if you missed it, but you can read about how we got on in Judy’s report on it on the Outings page.

Our next outing is the evening walk on 4 August at Shaw Wood to look for Purple Hairstreak butterflies. We are hoping for the success Norman Tait had at Boden Boo Woodland in 2014. To whet your appetite for the upcoming walk have a read of his report on finding the Purple Hairstreaks at Boden Boo.

Join in the Big Butterfly Count

The Big Butterfly Count started on Friday 15th July and if you haven’t already started counting there’s plenty time as it runs until Sunday 7th August

Pale blue butterfly with wings outstretched above grass.
Male Common Blue butterfly

It is an annual UK-wide survey organised by Butterfly Conservation. By taking part we can help them assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) that we see.

All you have to do is choose a place to spot butterflies and moths, watch for 15 minutes, then record which species you see. You can submit your count as you go with the FREE Big Butterfly Count app or submit them later on their website.

Check out their interactive map to see what people have been recording and where. So far (21 July) only 17 butterflies have been counted for Renfrewshire with the Small White being the most common.

Find out further information on taking part and download ID guides at Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count webpage.

Rare opportunity to see Purple Hairstreak butterflies close-up

Purple Hairstreak butterflies spend most of their adult phase living in the upper canopy of mature oak trees. Sometimes you can be lucky and see them close-up just after they emerge from their pupa at ground level. They settle on a twigs and shrubs to fully inflate their wings before flying high into the treetops. Most of the time though they can only be observed at a distance.

We will be looking for them in the oak canopy during our evening walk at Shaw Wood on 4th August (see Outings page for details). However, this Saturday you can have the opportunity to see two Purple Hairstreak butterflies up close. These were raised in captivity from eggs gathered from twigs brought down by the winds last autumn.

Come along to see the butterflies and watch as we release them into the oak woods. We’ll be at the eastern end of Shaw Wood, the point nearest to Dykebar Hospital at 5pm on Saturday, 9th July.

Close-up of a butterfly inside a netted cage. It has greyish brown wings with a white streak across each wing and an orange circle with a black dot at the edge of the wing. It's wings are closed and it is feeding on sugar-water through the holes in the netting.
Purple Hairstreak butterfly raised in captivity, July 2022. Photograph by Kirsty Menzies.

Night owls wanted for Glow-worm hunt

Following up on our post on Glow-worms back in May we are going to start carrying out a few surveys to look for them in Renfrewshire. The first one will be this Thursday 7th June at Castle Semple Country Park in Lochwinnoch.

I know it’s short notice but if you don’t have anything else on and like the idea of walk in the dark, we would love for you to come and join us.

Kirsty Menzies and Simon Stuart will be leading the walk. They were at Cashel Forest on the east side of Loch Lomond at the weekend on a walk with researcher Charlotte Martin of Scottish Glow-worms. They were thrilled to find 3 glowing females (with a total of 4 females and 18 males being found by the group) and hoping to have success finding them at Lochwinnoch where there have been sightings in the past.

We are meeting at Castle Semple car park at 10pm on Thursday night and will walk along the cyclepath, through the woodland and then if time permits round the south end of the loch around Aird meadow. 

If you are coming along please wear appropriate clothing and footwear for an evening walk on tracks which may be muddy in places. Bring a torch, although use of these will be limited except where necessary. Please, also let us know if you are coming by completing our contact form, so we can look out for you and let you know if there are any last minute changes of plan.

Soil and climate change

black icon representing a microphone with sounds coming out of it

You may wish to catch up on BBC Sounds, to an interesting programme broadcast on Tuesday 31st May on Radio 4, “Why soil matters“.

Jim Al-Khalili on The Life Scientific was interviewing Pete Smith, Science Director of ClimateXChange, Scotland’s climate change centre of expertise. He is one of the world’s leading experts on soil. He discusses the importance of restoring peat bogs to mitigate climate change and improve biodiversity.

Soil is a bit of a Cinderella topic in natural history, although PNHS did have a fascinating talk by Colin Campbell called “Soil – teeming with Life”  back in 2012.

Large Heath butterfly survey workshops

Want to know the difference between a Large Heath (Coenonympha tullia) and other similar species or to learn more about them and the best way to survey for them? Then take a look at the series of free workshops being run by Butterfly Conservation as part of their Large Heath Scottish survey 2022.

The adult butterflies fly from mid-June to mid-August on lowland raised bog, upland blanket bog and damp, acid moorlands where their caterpillar food plant, Hare’s-tail Cottongrass is found. Due to the difficult, boggy terrain, this butterfly is under-recorded but it is known to be in decline due to loss of this habitat to drainage, peat extraction and forestry.

Butterfly perched with its wings closed showing the underwing. The top wing is orange with a black spot with buff centre and pale brown edge. The lower wing is brown and buff with an arc of black spots with buff centre spots.
Coenonympha tullia, Large Heath. Photograph by Janet Graham – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59822598

The workshops will introduce Large Heath and its ecology as well as running through the survey method. They aim to encourage volunteers to take on a local bog to survey for the Large Heath.

  • Online workshops (recording will be available afterwards):
    • Monday 6th June, 7.30-8.30pm
    • Thursday 9th June, 7.30-8.30pm
  • Field workshops:
    • Saturday 25th June, West Linton, 11-2.30pm
    • Saturday 2nd July, East Kilbride, 11-2pm

Further information on the survey and booking for workshops can be found here.

Butterfly Conservation are looking for volunteers to help survey priority sites. This will help to build a picture of how the butterfly is faring in these habitats and help plan their bog restoration activities. So why not give them a hand? Records from other sites with Large Heath populations are also welcomed. There are a few records for Large Heath in Renfrewshire from a small number of sites including Greenock Cut and Windy Hill in Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park; Sergeantlaw Moss, Gleniffer Braes; and Whitelee Windfarm. It would be useful to add to these records and see how the Large Heath is faring locally. So if you are out and about and spot any be sure to record them and let us know what you’ve seen.

PNHS outings for your diary

Paisley Natural History Society has some new outings planned for the coming months.

Sunday 17th July – An afternoon of tree identifying with Judy Hayton at Linwood Moss Community Woodland

Thursday 4th August – An evening looking for Purple Hairstreak Butterflies with Kirsty Menzies at Shaw Wood

Sunday 9th October – An afternoon fungus foraying with Pearl and Norman Tait at Boden Boo

Note them in your diary before you forget and check our Outings page for further details.

Help us get glowing reports for Renfrewshire

Who knew that we had glow-worms in Scotland? I certainly didn’t but after watching the fascinating talks in March organised by Charlotte Martin, Scottish Glow-worms researcher, I’m eager to see one and I hope others are too. They aren’t actually worms but beetles of the Firefly family. The only species found in Scotland is the Common Glow-worm, Lampyris noctiluca. For up to 10 days between late May and early July females emit a yellow/green bioluminescence from the base of the abdomen at night to attract males for mating.

Close-up photograph of an adult female glow-worm standing on a twig with an orange background. She has about 8 body segments, the lower three are glowing green.
Female glow-worm. Photograph by Christophe Quintin, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

With Glow-worm survey season almost upon us, we are looking for people to get involved and help us survey for them in Renfrewshire. There are no recent records for them in the vice-county although historically they have been reported in Kilmacolm (1901), Lochwinnoch (date unknown) and possibly at Formakin (uncertain word-of-mouth report). None of the records give a point location and, of course, much has changed in the last 120 years so it really would be ground-breaking to find them here. The lack of records is probably due to low awareness of glow-worms and that they are mostly seen in the hours of darkness. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist here.

What we do know from existing populations elsewhere is that the places they tend to be found are unlit road verges, grassland on marginal/hill sheep farms, forestry rides, coastal sites, disused railway lines and embankments. They like:
• Unimproved or semi-improved grassland and scrub with typical vegetation including Cock’s Foot, Yorkshire Fog, Soft Rush, Crosswort, Ladies Bedstaw, Ox-eye Daisy, Black Knapweed, Gorse, Hawthorn
• Damp areas
• Edge habitats e.g. where gravel meets grassy sward, where forestry meets sheep grassland
• Dark skies, no direct light pollution from streetlights
• Good prey populations – the larvae (adults don’t feed) are ferocious predators of snails (Brown-lipped Snail is a favourite) and slugs.

Larva standing on the shell of a snail with its head inside the opening of the shell.The larva is black with orange tips at the lower corner of each body segment
Larva feeding on snail. Photograph by Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

We would like to co-ordinate some glow-worm surveys in Renfrewshire during late May and June. To help us we would like people to get in touch and let us know if:

  • you have ever seen any glow-worms in and around Renfrewshire
  • you have identified a potential survey site where glow-worms might be found
  • you would like to come out in a group and do some surveys (registering your interest doesn’t oblige you to commit to this)
  • you have done your own surveys tell us what you did or didn’t find
  • there is anything else we can help you with to carry out a survey

Surveys are carried out once darkness falls and you aren’t able to detect colours, this is usually after 11pm. If you are going to survey it is best to visit the site during daytime to assess the terrain. When you go out at night carry a torch (one with a red filter is best) and mobile phone with you. Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark walk slowly looking at the lower vegetation on either side and slightly ahead (keep the torch turned off except where essential for safety). Remember to record the date, start and end time, grid references and weather conditions. If you are lucky enough to to see one then try and get a good photo (but don’t disturb any glow-worms through overuse the camera flash or by moving them) and record your sighting on iRecord. Even if you don’t see a glow-worm it is useful to record nil results on iRecord. Charlotte Martin’s Scottish Glow-worms website has really useful information and resources for conducting a glow-worm survey including a survey form, guidelines and risk assessment template. You can also find out more about glow-worms on the UK glow worm survey website.

Photograph of a hand beside a small beetle in grass with the end of its abdomen glowing green
Female glow-worm. Photograph © Charlotte Martin, Scottish glow-worms.

If you are able to help in any way please get in touch by email to PNHS.website@gmail.com or use our contact form, we would love to hear from you.