Sunday, 1 December 2019

Apples Pt 2

A couple of interesting bits of behaviour. So yesterday afternoon when it was sunny (not warm tho) the Waxwing left the apples for a while and started flycatching, sitting in the top of Sycamores and even on the house roof once, using these vantage points to launch itself at flying insects. These will most likely have been the Winter Gnat Trichocera regelationis which would seem to be the only thing of any size on the wing at the moment (not a confirmed ID),

The other thing this bird has been doing is being very possessive of the apples. There is a Blackcap here at the moment which is also partial to an apple, but despite there being three on sticks the Waxwing is inclined to chase it off, in the end the Blackcap resorted to feeding on the apples on the ground.

Saturday, 30 November 2019


I've been putting apples out since late September I think, they've not done badly for Blackcaps with another one today. Louise thought she had a Barred Warbler one day when I was at work, that would have been nice to see.



Starlings can eat a few apples when they arrive en masse.

The target species has always been Waxwing. Until a few weeks ago there hadn't been one in the garden for a couple of years. However, one flying over nearby was followed by another fly-over but this time over the garden. It didn't stop for the apples tho. However, yesterday a bird arrived while I was at work and it reappeared this morning.

Monday, 18 November 2019

More Chiffchaff business

The above photos are of the morphing Chiff that was in the garden for the day on Sunday. Initially it seemed to be another tristis/fulvescens type, particularly on the initial brief views. Then mid afternoon I relocated it outside the garden in good sunlight amongst the Rosa rugosa. At first it again looked brown but as I watched it the morphing thing occurred. The bird flew into some dense Rosa and emerged looking just like a collybita Chiff with lots of green tones on the breast sides and tail. The bird then proceeded to hover and flit in the tops of the Swedish Whitebeam, just like collybita Chiff. My experience of tristis type birds is that they don't feed like this and are slower moving and pick at leaves in low vegetation. At this point I reckoned there had to be two birds present and recorded it as such. The bird managed to evade me. However, watching from the kitchen window it was refound ten minutes or so later and I snuck outside the back door to capture the above photos. The bird differed consistently from the birds the previous week in having bright green edges to the primaries and secondaries - a feature that I believe would put it more in the tristis camp than fulvescens. However, whilst I watched it it on occasion morphed again and on some occasions more brightish green tones were apparent, just like collybita. I adjusted the record to one bird at this point. There are features for and against each form but I am tending to collybita. As well as the green tones and behaviour: the supercilium is not all that strong and does not really flare behind the eye, the eyering seems stronger than the supercilium, I would expect tristis to have a more uniform darker bill with fewer pale tones. The bird did not call, they tend not to here at this time of year, unhelpfully. I've put it in Birdtrack as collybita but it may well be tristis.

 Rhytisma acerinum on one of the last Sycamore leaves (the two dark spots).

 Shag and Snow Bunting at Northside.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Some garden birds

On Friday as I was cycling to work, and just before I fell off, a Waxwing flew over, just outside of the home patch boundary annoyingly. However, all was made well the next day as one flew over the garden in a repeat performance. More annoyingly Louise described a Barred Warbler rather well that had briefly been on the apples on Friday afternoon, whilst I was at work. No repeat performance for that. Briefly there were two tristis/fulvescens type Chiffs on the patch on Saturday, I do like these things, although they never seem to call. These two were identical and were feeding together for the ten minutes or so they were around.

Tristis type Chiff

A new Blackcap appeared and spent both days stuffing its face with apple, still feeding at 16:20 on Saturday when it was nearly dark. Last week's ones had been females.

Blackcap male

The run of Siskins continued, another singleton.


I didn't bother to go for the Blue Rock Thrush, a 35 minute drive, or the Stellar's Eider, still a bit mobile. I probably would like to see the eider but I'm hoping it might be a bit more settled and reliable. Not keen to spend a whole day out with no reward. There are probably two Snowy Owls on the islands as well but negative news of one and no news of the other didn't encourage an excursion.

Otherwise, nice enough calm weather, an outing to dance disco and a patch-up job on the big shed were all achieved.

Big waves at Marwick, late afternoon.

Saturday, 2 November 2019


A day or so back at work and a blinder of a bird turns up on Westray, well done SA & DO. And for the weekend the weather is absolutely foul, even if the boat was going (I haven't checked) no way would I even think about it. Possibly there are two Steller's Eider as another (or the same) was reported from the Shapinsay ferry.

 Meanwhile, having ventured out twice and got soaked both times I'm sitting at the computer, theoretically adding records to iRecord (I am so, so, so very far behind with my data). Actually, I've been playing with Spotify, buying some waterproof trousers that might, possibly, be waterproof, trying to identify other peoples insects on Facebook (always a ready distraction) and investigating some interesting insect websites. One thing led to another and from an insect online and an enquiry I made I came across this site which I should have known about, brilliant resource for Scottish moffers -

This led me to a wee shopping excursion - Anglian Lepidopteran Supplies currently have some interesting pheremones in stock. The one that I have tried in Orkney before and works really well is Emperor Moth pheremone, it is very effective and quickly demonstrates that this species, which is often hard to see, is very common in the county. Somewhat madly perhaps I have invested in two clearwing pheremones as well, one for Thrift Clearwing and one for Welsh Clearwing. Both these species are perhaps possible here. (Take a look on the distribution maps from the site above.) Clearwings are very difficult to see without the use of pheremones, the only one I can recall seeing is Lunar Hornet Moth (on Arran, not here). April to June is the time for Emperor and June and July for the two clearwings. The pheremones keep well in the freezer so even if I have no luck here I may get the chance to try them south somewhere next year. ALS tend to only have the pheremones in stock once a year as they suggest, "When they're gone they're gone!"

 Nothing much to report on the home front other than aweful weather today, lovely earlier in the week when i was stuck at work, mostly. I have managed to add Chiffchaff to the patch year list (yes, this is the first for the year) as well as Woodcock. More surprising was a species added to the "ever" patch list which was Long-tailed Duck. I have been told of one here which I missed but not seen one myself, so nice one.

 Long-tailed Duck, female.

I've also been trying to identify fungi, they are hard. Even the ones that look easy are hard.

 So, are these Xylaria polymorpha (which is what I think they are) or Xylaria longipes? Apparently to be sure I need to measure the spores under the microscope.

The Wee Wood is about 500m from our house, it's in our deeds which is rather lovely.

Early this morning as I drove to get younger daughter from a party a Wood Mouse ran out from the Wee Wood and back again, another species for this bioblitz site.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Monday, 21 October 2019


I noticed a post on Orkney Scarce and Rare FB of two Waxwings in Finstown and as I had to go and get shed mending bits thought I'd have a look. Parked car, walked the few steps to opposite Baikie's, could hear Waxwings but not see any, looked back at the car, I'd parked directly below them. 7 at first. Then they flew to a nearby garden, fortunately a colleague's place so a knock on the door got me prime viewing opportunities. 17 seemed to be the top count but I expect there will either be more or none tomorrow. My colleague thought there had been a couple about for a day or so. Also 20 or so Brambling there. (Thanks EH.)

Sunday, 20 October 2019


On the way home we "dropped in" to RSPB Forsinard.

 The walk way and tower hide.

We recorded Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow and Robin. Louise found Common Frog. Two small groups of Red Deer.

Here's one big reason why The Flow is important.

Saturday, 19 October 2019


We went to Rogart for a wee "get-away".

Louise found a cottage for us to stay in, it was a good spot. Common Pipistrelle in the garden, 48kHz. My sugar mix didn't work and I hadn't taken a moth trap but I still got a new moth, attracted to the window light, Green-brindled Crescent.

Green-brindled Crescent

Best wildlife moment though (two) was seeing Black Grouse not once but twice on our walk on the Thursday morning. First we flushed two cocks and then half an hour or so later flushed two cocks and a hen, I would think these were all different birds.

We went to Dornoch, a bit of a surprise, a busy place with a nice cafe (Coco Mountain) and some restaurents and pubs. Long sandy beach and interesting looking dunes. Loch Fleet national nature reserve nearby.

 Burn by the cottage.

Dornoch beach.

The statue of the the Duke of Sutherland, George Granville Leveson-Gower, the first Duke of Sutherland, and a landowner who was responsible for brutal Highland Clearances in the 19th century. Known locally as ‘the Mannie’, the sculpture was erected at the summit of Beinn a’ Bhragaigh above Golspie in 1837, following the Duke’s death in 1833. There are mixed views on the Mannie. There have been several attempts, legal and otherwise, to remove it, on one occasion there was an attempt to dynamite it and recently there has been physical damage as folk attempt to destabilise it (so it might not be wise to sit beneagth it). Personally, I take the view that the statue is a reminder of the brutality of Scotland's land owning class towards ordinary folk. The Clearances should not be forgotten.

  Loch Fleet, the Dornoch Firth and the beginnings of Tarbet Ness in the distance, from 
Beinn a’ Bhragaigh.

Quedius, either levicollis or curtipennis I think, although it has been suggested it might be
Ocypus aenocephalus - it didn't do the Ocypus curling thing though when I harrassed it and the pronotum looks too smooth and overall the beetle looked too narrow but I'm very much a learner with Staphys.

 Down in Golspie there were plenty of hovers and Common Wasp on Ivy flowers.

 Vespula vulgaris.

Plenty of Eristalis pertinax and a few Helophilus pendulus as well.