Friday, 17 February 2017

Olymus Tough TG-4

Got a bit carried away and treated myself to one of these (am currently selling my GoPro on Ebay to fund it).
Why? Brilliant macro capability, can be used underwater to 15m, very good low light capability and is tough as old boot. Messing about with it today also found it works pretty well for digiscoping too.

 Ellen's birthday cake

 Close up


Stacked focus close

Garden croci in the wind

Fish eye view Loch of Bosquoy

Digiscoped gulls Loch of Bosquoy

Good news today is that the Fiesta is back. With luck I haven't permanently damaged the engine by driving it around without coolant in it, ooops. Water pump blew. Hopefully the head gasket is ok. 

A few new things for the year today, Buzzard, Skylarks and a huge female Sparrowhawk that really got me going for a bit.

The following pix are with the Canon.

Whoopers on Bosquoy, four flew in to join the loan 2cy

Stonechat, the female of the pair at Bosquoy

Wren singing by our gate

Sad news yesterday, Eric Meek died in Aberdeen hospital. Eric was taken ill on Sunday and never regained consciousness. Eric did much to introduce us to Orkney when we arrived here. Eric also introduced me to the delights of the 16 year old Scapa, good man. I'll not forget the day the Sandhill Crane was put out on the bird alert text system here. I was in a meeting and my phone was buzzing every few minutes, fortunately we finished  with light available and I leapt in to the car to head from Stromness to South Ronaldsay. As can be imagined I was in a bit of a hurry and was toeing it a bit. Over the Barriers I checked my mirror and this blue Vauxhall was trying to overtake me, Mr Meek was apparently keen to get Sandhill Crane on his Orkney list. Eric did a huge amount to protect habitats and birds on Orkney in his role with RSPB, this did not necessarily enamour him to some local farmers and I am aware he had times in the job that were pretty extreme. Eric's perseverance and resilience has preserved much of wild Orkney, a true champion for wildlife, good bloke and excellent birder.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Harrier stuff

Eighth time lucky.... finally managed to connect with the likely Pallid Harrier at Mill Dam of Rango. Watched it preening for 20 minutes in the afternoon sunshine, of course the moment I went for the camera it flew. Just didn't get enough on it to claim it. Unstreaked, rich rufous brown below. On the ground looked slight, difficult to judge that in flight, didn't get the primary tip count and thought the wings looked much broader in the hand than a Monty (as they should), but did look bulkier and broader than the North Ron bird I found a few years ago.

Before this Cora had unfortunately flushed the young male Hen Harrier off a kill at Palace. I'm not great at raptors but I'd guess this bird is a 3cy. Here's some pics anyway.

Also at Palace a Carrion Crow.

At home Woodpigeons have built up to five, there was a Shelduck on The Shunan, two Siskin and a Goldfinch on the feeders, indicate spring is on the way. Record totals of 18 Shoveler and 26 Coot on The Shunan were the other highlights.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Rare tour

Bit of a tour round the West Mainland today after a no birding day yesterday. Lesser Scaup with Greater Scaup (2) and Tufties at Loch of Boardhouse. Then Loch of Clumly produced first the Crane and then the Ring-necked Duck. A search of Loch of Skaill didn't reveal the Black-necked Grebe or the Green-winged Teal but there was a 2cy Glaucous Gull (and 213 Barnacle Geese). The Loons and there were 65 Greenland White-fronts, at least four Short-eared Owls, two Hen Harriers and many thousands of Golden Plover. Loch of Sabitson and there was the Little Egret. However, three visits to Mill Dam of Rango and we somehow missed the Pallid Harrier which showed up at 12:35.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Winter Moth

Winter Moth, found on the outside of the MV trap on Friday evening

Gadwall building up on The Shunan

Glaucous Gulls, Loch of Harray

I've only certainly seen one Glaucous Gull on the home patch before so finding one on Loch of Harray was pleasing. It flew off, but then reappeared shortly with a friend. Despite the bill marking I think the left hand bird is a 3cy, it is very pale and appears to have a pale eye. I have had two possible Glaucous Gulls in addition to these, one of which I saw fly past the bathroom window whilst I was in the bath, no bins unfortunately, I'm not quite that obsessive.

The hawthorn hedge in late afternoon light

Thursday, 19 January 2017


The ghastly stomach lurgy has finally caught up with me so a day at home regularly trotting through the house. In between these occasional episodes I've been entering data from last year in to iRecord. Hopefully this year, with new phone and apps to hand, this annual epic will be a thing of the past. I'm pretty good at keeping up with my bird records, and that is now so much easier with the Birdtrack app, but keeping up with all my insect records as well has been a bit beyond me. Thus the sweat to get all the data entered for the various recorders, some of whom are very keen that my data arrives shortly. (We won't even mention the mammal records...)

The blog looks a bit different as I've finally changed the background. I'm also working on the links to make sure they are all relevant. It's needed a bit of a refresh for a while.

Rather proud of my Patchwork Challenge effort for last year, the Palace patch really did the business with finds of Lesser Scaup, Olive-backed Pipit, Common Rosefinch and Yellow-browed Warbler to name a few. The home patch score was ok as well, plenty of Birdtrack full lists entered. In the end the patches accounted for 385 full lists and 10,090 records, good luck to the report writers... oh, beggar I do some of that. Recently wrestling with the new Patchwork Challenge website, well done to all concerned for getting it up there but it does have a few glitches, hopefully soon to be sorted out.

Here are pictures from last weekend.

 Gadwall, Loch of Boardhouse, 2nd patch record

Sometimes tricky, Grey Plover

 Kittiwake against the waves

Song Thrush

Common Seal

...and images from the home patch

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

New Year

Before the New Year I went for a swim that I didn't intend or want... note to self the burn at Aikerness silts up so it might be a tad deeper than you expect.  I was giving elder daughter a piggyback across the burn at the time... who goes to the beach in Chelsea boots? I ask you... No witnesses and no pictures fortunately. The walk was cut very short and we both retreated to the car damp and shivery. (However, camera and phones survived so a tad wet and cold was the only damage.)

The weather was not great over the first few days of the New Year, and more windy weather is expected overnight and for the next couple of days, gusting 70mph is no fun with car and house doors.

Not that many photos I thought but I've managed to find a few, dull light is not great for wildlife photography, of the following I've pushed the iso and shutter speed to the limits to get anything approaching sharp and worthwhile, most ended up in the bin.

So there are no more pictures of the Lesser Scaup although I did manage to relocate it, and before anyone else as well, so there might be some additional Patchwork Challenge points, maybe... I did finally catch up with the Crane, thanks to PH for that one, miles away across the fields but nice enough.

The highlight has really been the WW gulls. All last year I hunted for Iceland Gull on the home patch, not even a likely suspect. Doing my good turn and taking Ellen to the ponies one morning and two gulls flew over the garden as we headed down to the gate, bit of a panic to grab the bins and avoid falling out of the car to get a view at a weird angle but a nice 2cy, a big one too. Then this last Sunday I had a quick stroll around Palace, mmm those gulls look rather white... a walker on the beach flushed them (PM that was you and your bag of egg cases, you missed a bit of a treat I'd have shown you if you continued up the beach) and I had a bit of a panic making sure I saw them all, five Glaucous - ad, 4cy, 3cy, 3cy, 2cy I reckoned - and the Ice was 4cy I think (I may yet change my mind about that one,need to check the references, think that's right enough).

 Bit distant here but the Ice is tucked behind the Herring Gull, then Glaucous 2cy, next one is a 4cy maybe, the one at the back in the middle is a 3cy I reckon.

 GB-bG 2cy, Glaucous 2cy, 3cy and 4cy, then adult GB-bG, the adult Glaucous is off to the right I seem to have missed photographing that.

Not the best picture of the Ice, 4cy I would reckon

Added to this bonanza was a sneeky Dunnock (very uncommon at Palace) that retreated under a car before I could get a photo, and this rather nice Stonechat.

Six Meadow Pipits and a Skylark were not so usual at this time of year. More expected (and photographed at Northside a few days earlier a Rockit).

Rock Pipit

Here are some more pictures from Northside in the first few days of the year.

Fulmar (about this time someone was seeing a Black-browed Albatross over on the East Mainland at Rerwick, I would rather like it to pay Northside a visit, please - ideally when I'm there...)

Here are some pictures from the home patch too, some of these are quite heavily processed in the software, adding a bit of drama.... (also known as cheating).

 I can't quite make up my mind if I prefer this image in colour or b&w, sometimes colour is best when there isn't much of it.

Rain showers passing

Lots of duck on Loch of Bosquoy and The Shunan, including a very nice Goosander but try as I might I couldn't find a Green-winged Teal.

Teal, Bosquoy


Monday, 26 December 2016

Babs and Conor

St Michael's Kirk pre Babs

It's hard to capture these storms in any kind of meaningful way through images, and anyway, everyone is so used to quite spectacular images on the BBC News that risking life and limb to get a half good picture is really a bit of a waste of time, so the ones below were largely taken from the safety of the car. On Christmas Eve I went out at midday to fetch the turkey, it had lived on a local farm, and I popped down to Marwick and The Links afterwards.

Marwick looked spectacular from the top of the hill, watching a car come up from the car park it appeared that at any moment it would disappear under a wave several houses high, however, going down the road to look closer and the sea just didn't have the impact (luckily).

This Eider was not enjoying Babs much

I did take a few pictures though...

More about the sky than the sea

I tried a walk at The Links, and hound and I did get down to the bottom of the track, however sheltering behind the dyke (on knees) I decided it was all too risky and headed back to the safety of the Fiesta. Mmmm, that was not so easy, clothing acted like a sail and on several occasions I very nearly ended up face planted in the mud. It was a relief to get behind the wee car and kneeling again, open the door and get dog and self inside. This was gusting 50 or so at most I would guess, it's worked itself up to more than that now.

Back at the ranch the quackers were all sheltering in a corner of The Shunan, bird feeders were taken in and food put on the floor (most of it had blown there anyway).

Christmas morning it was still, the lull before Conor, it didn't take long to get up again. 

Ravens circled in anticipation.

Through the night it blew and now it's howling. A look out of the kitchen window and the back shed (rather ancient) is rocking around somewhat alarmingly. Emergency repairs have been administered, whether that will suffice as an Adrian type stop the next couple of hours will tell...

St Michael's Kirk between Babs leaving and Conor arriving.

Since my last blog post I've spent a lot of time looking at the Lesser Scaup and going through references. An early Christmas present to myself of the new Reeber wildfowl guide has helped, what an excellent book. I had missed this book being published and had fairly recently purchased a copy of Madge second hand (£4), still a useful text. All the information and illustrations of hybrids in Reeber are very useful, highy recommended if you like your quackers.