Sunday, 21 May 2017

Out and about (mostly)

Rather little yesterday as it was a grim day, mist, rain, a gale, surprised it didn't snow. A good chance to catch up on data and sorting out various identifications, although there are still a number of beetles in the fridge. In the end most data has been entered into either BirdTrack or iRecord and things have largely been identified, a few outstanding. I do like the Aphodius beetles and of the 44 UK species very few occur here, but of course what looks initially like a simple job, a red and black beetle surely that will be easy...

Yesterday brought a Large White Egret to South Ronaldsay,  very tickable but although it would be a UK tick I didn't feel very enthusiastic, thought I might be able to find it today or in the week, and didn't bother; no sign today.

The sunshine today brought out plenty of Green-veined Whites and a couple of Red Admirals, but more interestingly lots of Common Heath at Loch of Bosquoy and an interesting micro which I'm not sure I've got before, Syndemis musculana.

 Common Heath

Syndemis musculana

Lots of hoverflies today including this tiny but delightful Neoascia sp (probably podagrica).

Neoascia sp on hairy Bitter-cress

Driving lessons today took in Yesnaby, and Mollie enjoyed Scottish Primrose.

Scottish Primrose

Lots more to write about and pictures to post but time to find Crex crex, methinks.

Sunday, 7 May 2017


I went over to the north end of Hoy on Saturday morning. I needed to check the rookeries and see if they were occupied, and I thought I would see if I could find a Coal Tit. Before I set off I checked the moth traps, now running a new 40w actinic as well as the 15w (doesn't seem worth running the mv currently), and caught these two awkward customers amongst the Hebrew Characters..

 Rather pale, Clouded Drab

 Worn, Common Quaker

I sent the images to the county recorder as I was a bit unsure, but I did get them right :-)

 On Hoy it was dull and grey to start with, ideal for birding. Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler were in song, there was a White Wagtail on the beach and best of all Whitethroat in one of the gardens. The tramp across the moor to the plantations did not produce the hoped for Emperor Moth, nor did a thorough search of the plantations result in a Coal Tit, but there was enough to hold the interest. Up at Sandy Loch there was a Grey Wagtail, a pair of Common Sands and the usual horde of Bonxies. Coming back down the road to Moaness though I started to see insects, the sun had been scorchio for a couple of hours by then. A really nice selection of hover flies included Platycheirus albimanus x2, Eristalis intricaria x3, Eristalis pertinax several, and good numbers of Eristalis arbustorum/abusivus (photos need to be checked carefully). Strangely enough it was a couple of beetles that stole the show, this very smart rove beetle -

Staphylinus erythropterus

is common enough. But this wee leaf beetle is not, and what's more the nearest it's been to here until very recently was the Solway. It was a bit of a one to identify but I got there, with a fair bit of help, although I was pleased not to have been far adrift. It is doable from these photos. Depth of field isn't great as I was struggling to get it to stay still.

It is Hydrothassa hannoveriana which is quite uncommon across the UK. Small, a few mms long and associated with Marsh Marigold, which it was just by. On inquiring I've found that it has only just been found in Orkney in the last few weeks by two other folk, still my record is first for Hoy.

Down on the beach the hound found this:

Somewhat deceased Iceland Gull

I probably should have delved through the corpse for more beetles but I didn't really fancy that.

Today it should have been ok for rares, but, there weren't any. I spent the whole day gardening, fixing up a new rabbit proof bed for peas and beans was the main task.

I did empty the moth traps first thing. Nice, Dark sword-grass, a migrant, amongst the HCs and one Clouded Drab.

The new trap contained two of these, which could be Nebria salina, or it may be that I just don't have the definition in the photos (despite having RAW files) to see the pale hairs on the surface of the hind tarsi. Of course it is N.salina that doesn't have the hairs, absence always being the harder thing when looking to get definition from photos.

Oh, and the Rook count was zero. Rumours that the colony had been reinvigorated were found to be false, just loads of Hoodies (and one hybrid) hanging out there.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Workers' Day

A long weekend, it makes a real difference. Trouble is we end up shipping the girls about at odd times of the day and loose our own continuity, hopefully daughter No1 will be driving by herself in the not too distant future. Fortunately the exams will be done and dusted shortly.

Anyway, migrants have been increasing, The Shunan hosts pairs of Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and a nice pair of Pintail and it is getting slightly warmer, although this easterly is doing its best to confound us.

During the week Swallows have spread across the islands, especially in the last two days, Wheatears are around the coast and Sand Martins are in their usual haunts. I've recorded Whimbrel on both patches now, with Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits on The Shunan. There was a very smart summer plumage Grey Plover at Palace today along with plenty of Dunlin. During the week a small passerine, that might have been a Pied Fly, was in the garden, unfortunately watched briefly from the upstairs bathroom, no bins. Best bird of late though has been the Osprey that came in/off and Northside this morning giving cracking views.

 Grey Plover


The actinic moth trap has significantly out performed the MV, to the point I'm only running the actinic at the moment. Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Clouded Drab, plus a White-shouldered House Moth in the car have been trapped. A Large White butterfly emerged from a pupa in the green house today.

 Clouded Drab

 Common Quaker

Two hoverflies today, Eristalis pertinax in the garden and Eristalis arbustorum at The Links, Birsay.

 Eristalis pertinax

 Eristalis arbustorum

 Eristalis arbustorum showing the branched arista

We're now enjoying home-grown salad leaves, tatties are all in, peas are emerging, fingers crossed for the rest.

Ellen fished this out of the pony water, should be possible to ID.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Uuurrrrggggh - weather

It just got worse, but there were migrants at Palace and Boardhouse Loch: White Wagtail, four Swallows, nine Sand Martins, two Wheatear, three Bonxie. The Lesser Scaup was present on the loch with Slav Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup and Red-throated Diver.

Back at home there was just time before the hooley to plant the alpines, sow the sunflowers and perpetual spinach and tidy up a few bits and pieces. No sign of the Bullfinch sadly.

Rather old tractor, Palace.

Enjoyed this recently.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bullfinch - dip

Early this afternoon there was a male Bullfinch in the garden, but briefly. Louise saw the swanky show-off feeding on the lawn, eating Nyjer with the spuggies, when I arrived home a couple of minutes later it was gone.

I'd been out counting rooks and then walking in Orphir. All very nice but I would have liked the Bullfinch a lot, not a common bird in the county, I've seen two I think whilst we've been here.

 GND digiscoped

Earlier this week at work some of the children found this which I think is a hoverfly larva. A Tipulidae more likely, thanks Lee.

Monday, 17 April 2017


Over the last few days a few migrants have been in evidence - three Chiffs and a singing Willow Warbler (with a Grey Wagtail) at Binscarth; a Swallow at Howaback; a Whimbrel, two Ruff and a pile of Pintail at The Shunan.

Queen bumblebees (probably B. hortorum) have been frequent in the garden, a Hebrew Character was in last night's moth trap.

I've been busily counting rooks, more info here...

Fourth Bonxie for the year on the home patch

Primrose and Marsh Marigold

Hebrew Character

Lesser Redpoll

Brown hare face

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Gardening and driving lessons

Getting on with the garden, although at times the weather isn't helpful, especially today, seriously horrible. Earlies are in and pink fir-apple tatties are half done. Have been having a serious fight with the wee flower/insect garden, trying to get invasive grass out. Have dug out a new soft fruit bed for raspberries and currents, pretty much given up on the strawberries with the conclusion it is just too cold and there are too many slugs (and blackbirds).

One of the things about doing the garden is that you do come across wee beasties that would other wise escape unnoticed.

I think this is Discus rotundatus

There were plenty of Cepea hortensis which are an attractive thing, probably also eat our plants mind. Also this caterpillar which I'm still trying to figure out, maybe a Diarsia sp. Pterostichus macularia again, this time in a bucket in the garage, released into the garden.

Having cleaned all the feeders and moved them around to new sites I thought I had solved the disease issue with the Greenfinch, but there was a bird yesterday showing the symptoms of Trichomonosis (it could also be Salmonella). If this continues I may stop feeding anything but Nyjer.

Interestingly the five birds I have recorded with this condition have all been males and looking around the web this is mentioned elsewhere and explained by the males being more dominant at the feeders.

There has been a decent movement of Pink-feet with some good sized flocks through here at home and at Palace. The first Bonxie was behind the house on the edge of Birsay Moor on 6th and one went through the garden the next day. Two Sand Martins at Loch of Boardhouse on 9th were the first "real" summer birds. - To be continued, going out for lunch...

Continued 13/04/2017


 Digi scope of 380, interesting how they were so compact on the water, I wonder if there was a Peregrine around somewhere.

Plenty of these around, perhaps 10-12 in the fields around the house

The other mammal of interest has been a couple of squashed hedgehogs, usual road kill.

Both of these are most probably hybrid crows, the right-hand bird certainly is, see the black feathers in the undertail coverts. I think the left hand bird has too much black in the feather tips of the nape and there may be black in the undertail coverts as well.

I need to update the hybrid crow identification guide which I wrote a few years back as I have some new information and some more photographs.

Stonechat still evident, not sure if they are paired and nesting though. I've just written a piece for the Orkney Bird Report on the species recovery after hard winters. I'll post the piece here once the bird report is published.

Ok, the driving lesson thing. Elder daughter is learning and we've got on remarkably well as I've taken the role of main tutor. Recent drives have included a fair bit of stop starting, hill starts? More like gull starts as I've had M stop whenever I've  seen a gull flock. We've turned up an Iceland and a Glaucous Gull this week.

Not the greatest pix, 2cy Ice near Stromness

 Usually at this time of year I'm spending hours on the track sorting it out, this year I have a wee bit of help... Never again will we be smashing the suspension two, four or six times a day as we head up and down. We are waiting now for the final surface to be applied, but it is raining a fair bit this week and I think they need a few days dry.

First of the year the other day and always good to see.

Today's walk at Northside.