Tuesday, 21 November 2017


The title of my friend (from primary school) Chris Nicholson's book about Thomas Hardy's later years, and the season that has now arrived. Wet and windy and cold. The pellet boiler is gobbling sacks of pellets, the pallet of 100 sacks bought a month ago has dwindled, I need to remember to order more this week. My office in work is nice and warm, perhaps the warmest room in the building, but on these dark evenings I'm not keen to go out to the car in the cold. Tonight the short walk across the playground left me very wet, rain has been unremitting today, pony fields half submerged.

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You need know very little about Hardy to enjoy this book, the relationships in this biographical fiction are compelling. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/18/winter-by-christopher-nicholson-review

A few seawatches of late, the best included three Glaucous Gulls and a couple of Little Auks. Otherwise not much turning up, four Blackwits at Loch of Bosquoy were a surprise.

 This distinctive House Sparrow with a white tail feather has been with us for quite a while, I think about five years, I didn't record his presence for a few years (regretfully).

A lovely day on Sunday, relatively calm and the Sun, that absent friend, joined us for a day. So, the Rooks came prospecting as they do on any kind day from now on.

Taking the recycling out to the car last week I discovered that the council supplied, weighted bags were in a bit of a state, holey. Rodent damage. The traps in the kitchen have not caught anything for a few weeks now, the one House Mouse that I caught was a loner. A transfer of a trap to the garage and four nights in a row I've caught Wood Mice. The first one had been half-eaten by its cam-padres, a surprise, I wouldn't have expected Wood Mice to do that, there may of course be a larger rodent lurking. The poison and the cats have kept the rats under control outside, but there is evidence of their activity.

The Otter at the bottom of the track that we saw over a few days has not been seen for a while, then the other night the girls were driving back from the ponies in the early evening and came across a large (dog probably) Otter just by our front gate. They had great views in the headlights.

Listening -

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Aimee Mann, Kamasai Washington and The National, take a look at the film made to go with Kamasi's album, here: https://vimeo.com/224866605

 I think the talk went ok, glad it's done.

Up and coming - a bit of a hop on Saturday night at the West Mainland Farmers' Ball.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Fire and other things

A bit of a blow at the end of October and a couple of seawatches produced hundreds of Kittiwakes, about a third were juvs, Gannets, Great Northern Divers, Snow Buntings and a nice biscuit coloured, juvenile Glaucous Gull. An interesting looking gull was also seen, unidentifiable for sure but most likely just some sort of eastern/Baltic argentatus Herring Gull.

The bird looked strikingly pale when first seen (but that might have been the light), the very dark head, neck and upper breast was striking. Interesting black in the primaries, P6 and P5, various other features might lead to a possible Yank Herring Gull, but they're next to impossible to identify unless they show off conveniently in front of you in good light for a few hours, or conveniently die so the wings can be carefully examined.

Big aurora here right now, but the moon is too bright to see it properly. 

Louise enjoyed the foam storm when we went for a walk.

A couple of good bonfires over this weekend.


 Our garden, Sunday

I'm still working on this talk for a fortnight's time for the Field Club, getting there slowly.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Last resting place - maybe

Nine years of good service 60,000+ miles (it had 20 or so thou on the clock when I got it) but a blown head gasket would seem to be the end. As can be seen it is in the Fiesta graveyard, there's a third one in the background. Maybe some parts will go on further journeys. It went up and down, or maybe down and up, to Yorkshire a few times - one memorable journey on a very rough Aberdeen crossing with a hamster, two goldfish and two cats, and there was still fresh water around the goldfish when we got here (one of those lasted until this year as well). It also spent the best part of eight years negotiating the track pretty much every day, sometimes three return journeys a day (out and back was a mile off-road), more miles off-road than 99% of 4WD vehicles. Hopefully the recipient will be able to salvage some bits and make one working Fiesta.


Whoa, that was a great gig, the business. I went along not expecting too much and was blown away, great guitar playing, great musicianship all around. If you can't get to see this band (next stop Germany, then Holland and back to Wales) the 2015 Cardiff gig is available as a DVD, 2x CD package. The stage is a bit small at the Town Hall and the guitar tech/stage manager was thankfully alert as Andy backed off to the edge during a brilliant Apache medley (not on the Cardiff set list). https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=153&v=vgpMcLQE-cs

NC I would recommend this. I think you'll like it a lot more than the Richard Dawson I played you (which is still my album of the year....)

Bird stuff, a huge Redwing arrival which brought me a Mistle Thrush at Northside, a patch tick (that's the other patch at the seaside.) And just Redwings in their hundreds all around the house and The Shunan. No extras though. 

 There were eight Brambling exhausted on the track and then two males around the feeders.


Lots of these around.

A couple of these too - Blackcap

Whoopers have clearly had a good year with lots of family parties, last year there were hardly any. The local pairs did not raise any young in contrast.

Frustratingly it keeps raining at night, often very heavily and I'm loath to put the traps out to get soaked, probably should risk it the next still evening.

Busy, busy trying to sort out the parking space, squeezing three vehicles and two trailers without risk of "the unfortunate reverse" as has occurred, oops. Elder daughter passed her test so a replacement for the Fiesta had to be found rather rapidly, bright red Corsa - watch out.

I'm still very interested in crows, and these two characters down at the end of the track posed nicely.

 Hybrid crow, black feathers on the upper tail coverts and on the rear flanks, and dark feathers bleeding at the nape (juv Hoodie also has a vague demarcation between the black and the grey but that would have moulted out by now I think),  a subtle one. Lots of crows around here at the moment, mostly Hoodies.

Hoodie, this one looks like a pure individual but I'm not sure it is possible
to be certain about any individual.

Last week was sunny, sometimes and windy sometimes, quelle surpris, we had to abandon one walk as there was every chance we would be blown into the fence and end up entangled. Lovely a day later up above Skaill Bay.

 The hound quite likes the wind.

Above Skaill


Snow Buntings were a nice treat at Birsay today.

Record shot.

Monday, 23 October 2017


Slightly concerned about what I've let myself in for as I don't really do talks (I know, I know I can talk...) but hey-ho.

I'm sort of hoping that not too many people turn up and I can do it more like a "lesson", interactive and exploratory, but that may be tricky, we'll see. I went to the Otter talk the other evening by Anne Bignall and over sixty folk turned up.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Three ticks...

Three bird species on the islands today that would all be ticks. The Sibe Robin and Red-eyed Vireo were both announced at 5.30 p.m. too late in the day to get near either of them. Both turned up in mist nets as well so chances would be thin. However, the Parrot X-bills that were first found on Friday performed rather well and despite the awful light and drizzle, pix were obtained. I also heard the call and got a crappy recording of it - will post that later - the pix are pretty convincing any rate.

Top two images Canon, cropped, lower ones digiscoped Olympus set to ISO 3200

At about 11 or so the two males started calling and flew off, as they went they were joined by two other likely suspects.

Also around Finstown the first Redwings I've seen this autumn.

Younger daughter had successful pony eventing day on Saturday with piles of rosettes and a trophy. Elder daughter returned from Edinburgh from interesting university open day - and a serious amount of shopping.

On Friday there was a Carrion Crow in the back field.

 Carrion Crow

 Buzzard with Raven - this marked Buzzard is likely at least 9 years old


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Brindled Ochres

One of my favourite moths, Brindled Ochre.

Angle Shades

Dark Sword-grass.

Mothing weather at last and the reward of five Brindled Ochre over the weekend, two Dark Sword-grass and a couple of Angle Shades and a Silver Y. Micros were represented by a pile of Parsnip, WSHM, a very worn Acleris and a Eudonia that escaped.

The first Blackcap of the autumn (of the year), a Chiff, a Ruff and a Blackwit. Three Little Stint were on the beach at The Links, but I didn't go there. Seawatching weather tomorrow but I'll be working.