Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bit of aurora

Bit "noisy" but you get the idea, from outside the back gate

And from Bosquoy the evening before...

The odd small thing has flitted in the garden in the last couple of days, getting to grips has been tricky.... Hoping for a grotfinch on the feeders :-)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Gull confusion

Oh dear, oh dear! And I thought I was ok, quite good even, at gulls. Now the trouble was that I had hurricane Bertha and westerly airflows in my head. So dead chuffed to find a nice Iceland Gull in the tideline scrum at Palace, after a bit of thought a 2cy, getting my head around a summer Iceland Gull was an interesting challenge.

Iceland and Common, showing similarity with head shape

Just I was getting ready to go to my dental appointment a rather odd looking juvvy gull appeared next to the Ice. I had my head in the West, the gull had a big, black, decurved bill, clearly a juvenile, wracking the grey matter I could only think of Laughing Gull. Now I had no idea what a juvenile Laugher would look like, but what else could it be with that hooter? I even texted it in, once I got somewhere with a signal, before taking a moment and realising that Laughing Gull is a dark grey thing and this gull had a very pale mantle. Quick consult of Collins (the battered hard copy, not the new app). Doh! It's a Med Gull.

It really is not a good idea to have any preconceived ideas when birding. Med Gull is rare here, despite a breeding attempt a few years back, there are just a couple or three a year on average. Egg now wiped off face..... Apologies sent to news distributor, fortunately I got a text off correcting my error before he got a text off putting it out. A very nice bird and educative. In my defense I'm not sure I've seen such a young Med before, maybe some 10 or 12 years ago in Cornwall.

My copy of Martin Garner's new book arrived today and I'm very, very impressed. Marked contrast to the new Helm Guide which is a bit of a disappointment to be honest - telling me to find an expert is just a cop out, pathetic actually. Martin's book is very well produced, great info and excellent illustrations. Go get a copy -

It's rained a tad here, well a lot, and the lovely muddy Shunan has disappeared, just wee tufts of grass poking out of the water are all that remain of the islands. So it's a tramp around to find the waders. A likely spot was discovered at Bosquoy yesterday, and it revealed 2 Ruff, a Redshank, 22 Snipe and an annoying smaller wader that flew off before I could get to grips with it. Couple more spots to check out, one of which will involve a serious battle with the vegetation. Not so far today though, a day spent buying floors.

Two new moths in the trap the other morning (Thursday) both micros; Acleris rhombana (10) and Acleris sparsana. Also Diamond-backed Moth Plutella xylostella.

 Rhomboid Tortrix

 Acleris sparsana

Plutella xylostella

New glasses have arrived, maybe I'll get those gulls sorted in future....

 Barley below the house

 Bosquoy, rain coming

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Lepidoptera and waders

Did the moth trap first thing, I'd put it around the back and it was a bit disappointing, this was of interest tho. I think it is Square Spot Rustic, and just a grey colour form, this species is usually a deep rich brown here, any help welcomed.

I then walked around The Links at Palace, 91 Small Tortoiseshell and 4 Painted Lady.

 The field they were all in

When I got home there were 20 or so Small Tortoiseshell in the garden and one Painted Lady, a garden tick.

Next up, scanning around and a Green Sand flew across The Shunan, a year tick and a tricky one for the patch at that. Gardening involved taking all the vegetation off the tatties as we seem to have blight, removing the caterpillars off the kale and broccoli and cutting the somewhat bolted caulis.

Then off to Palace again where at high tide in failing light there were two Ruff on the beach. To the Loons where no sign of Swallows or the rumoured Hobby but a Greenshank called.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Poor blog....'s feeling quite neglected as I get distracted by Orkbird and orkneylep2 but especially the new Orkney Insects Facebook page which is very busy, thanks to MG for setting it up and allowing me to join.

The trouble with the moth trap is that along with macro moths which aren't too bad to ID there come micro moths which are a whole lot trickier, despite the new book. Then there are those other things that are in the trap like awkward beetles and wasps and.... it goes on. So I get distracted. What has been interesting in investigating some of the identifications is just what brilliant use is being made of digital photography and the web to try and make identification of some groups of invertebrates accessible. I will sort out some links for some of this stuff in the side panel because it is interesting, and the links may be useful.

 Aphodius ater I think

 Sexton Beetle

It is currently a brilliant butterfly year here, tomorrow may be the last chance for a while tho as the following week looks good for just one thing, seawatching. It is pouring today, well this afternoon. This morning the midges were devouring me on Palace beach, almost unheard of. Tomorrow I could go to the moth event on South Ronaldsay but instead I think I might go and hunt for Large Heath which, with luck, will still be flying. Today I saw a third Painted Lady for the year, still not one in the
garden tho.

 Painted Lady

 Small Tortoiseshell

A Sparrowhawk is regular around the house and The Shunan at the moment, this species has been quite uncommon this year. Two Grey herons have returned to haunt Bosquoy and The Shunan and Hen Harriers are beginning to be seen more frequently again. A Red-rumped Swallow was reported from Palace on Thursday afternoon, unsurprisingly it was not there yesterday or today.

At Palace there are still a few adult Sanderling and today there were eight smart adult Knot. Loch of Banks held 20 Blackwits and there were two broods of Red-breased Mergs on Loch of Boardhouse.

Moth trap out, some risk with the weather but I think it will be ok.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Red-foot again

No I haven't seen it again but it has been reliably seen twice in the county since my brief encounter. It was photographed on Wyre and then seen at Tankerness. The age and sex was as I called on the short view that Louise and I had in the garden so seems like confirmation. Presumably it's moving around as there is a shortage of food here.

Bit of a discussion on orkbird about this bird. I've posted a few times there and won't repeat the discussion here. I have posted a draft description of the bird here . I don't have any doubts about the ID and think it reasonable to link the Orkney sightings, Orkney and Scotland records committees may of course disagree.

Some recent moths:

Hoary Plume, found in the kitchen, quite a good record I think. Platyptilia isodactylus.

Notocelia cynobatella

Today proved Teal breeding on The Shunan with two, probably two week old, chicks. Five Blackwits, a couple of Bonxies and an Arctic Skua through. First thing this morn there was a juv Willow Warbler trapped in the Crucifer pen, on release it went to feed through the garden, none the worse for wear.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Red-foot maybe

Just as our guests were disappearing on the Hamnavoe a Red-footed Falcon paid a swift visit to the garden. I looked up and there was a falcon 20ft above my head. No bins and in a moment it was a away, managed to grab the bins and see it as it disappeared over the next door house. It all lasted about 15 seconds. Fortunately Louise saw it too and between us we managed to piece together some sort of description that led to the conclusion that it was a 2cy male. It was subsequently seen, equally briefly, over the Heddle Rd. Unclaimable of course but a cracking bird all the same.

Have been out to look at the Arctic Terns again, and a new total of about 20 chicks, many now fledged. Looking in the sea at Evie many small shoals of sand eels could be seen. Evie was alive with Arctic Terns and Arctic Skuas. Also there was a flock of 65 Sanderling one of which was colour marked. Apparently the colour and ring sequence is not UK so that will be exciting when the info comes back to me.


 Cyanea lamarckii

The moth trap is out tonight and I've been mothing a bit. Double Dart, a new macro, but having a go at some micros. Do let me know if I've got any of these wrong please....

Double Dart
I think this is Agriphila straminella

Scoparia subfusca

Notocelia cynobatella

 Udea lutealis
 Lots of these flying around the garden and track just now, they look dark grey from below so they are quite a surprise when the settle. Also on the wing this evening Twin-spot Carpet.

Sat in the Woundwort patch early this evening before the cloud rolled in, it had been sunny in Harray all day and took these:

Eristalis tenax

Episyrphus balteatus

Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum

Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum

Better finish up with a bird,  juvenile Twite 

 Here's the fog rolling in from Loch of Bosquoy the other evening. The wind got up and the moth catch was disappointing, still this evening so I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


A nice surprise this evening, venturing out after the rain. Walking down to The Shunan I noticed a pile of Swallows over our neighbours, counting through them I came across the reason for their grouping up as a Merlin was heading into them at high speed. She chased up and stooped once and then more high speed antics before she chased up again and stooped, spiraling into the farm yard. I'm guessing she was successful as she did not re-appear.

Regular Bonxies through the garden at the moment, the last remaining Oystercatchers with chicks are kept busy, their alarming giving early warning of the approaching skua. Moorhen juvs were seen today but the Coot broods seem to have been lost. The Shelduck adults have left with two of the offspring, leaving two. Looking over to Bosquoy there were over 100 dabbling duck this evening so tomorrow morning's mission is to go down early and count them.

A couple of days ago a brief walk to Skiba Geo at Birsay gave these welcome views. Apparently the other colonies across the county have done ok.

Great views to Westray

The moth trap was out again last night, I'm going to make a real effort to ID the more obvious micros, the micro book is on its way.

Rooks and Jackdaws were closing in on the field being harrowed, as were nearly 300 gulls.

The bird crop is a bit overgrown but there's plenty of fodder beet in there.

Some skies from yesterday and today.