Monday, 3 August 2015

Quail and little things

This afternoon at Palace there was a Little Gull (2cy, likely the same one as was there a week or so ago) and a summer plumage, adult Little Stint.

Yesterday's Quail that called from lunchtime til early evening wasn't evident today, and the Crossbill seems to have gone.

Sedge Warbler seems to have bred and have fledged young at Bosquoy.

Some hovers...

 Cheilosia illustrata, three of these down by the wee wood, where there was also a Volucella bombylans.

 Eristalis arbustorum

This is Eristalis intricarius, today's star hover, new for me.

Fair catch in the moth trap as well, some micros still to sort out.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Xbill again (and some Orcas)

The Xbill was still present early(ish) this morn but I've not seen or heard it subsequently. Later in its stay it took to sitting on the niger feeder rather than feeding under it. It also was feeding on sunflowers from the general seed feeder, but still fed on the ground quite often. I had suspected that it had some infection around its bill from early photos and subsequent pictures show an infection above the hind claw on its left foot.

What was supposed to be a peaceful walk around Northside into Palace turned into a bit of a stress as the hound behaved extraordinarily badly, however, prior to this bit of a do three Orcas showed briefly off the Whalebone, long time no see.

Monday, 27 July 2015


A juvenile spent much of the day in the garden, just put the feeders out again yesterday after a 3 week or so break....

It was quite tame

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Gulls and insects

The Birsay patch has given up Little Gull and Iceland Gull in the last few days. I seem to recall that I didn't manage an Iceland Gull there until July last year. There has also been a trickle of waders through including a few small flocks of Whimbrel. The Little Gull was a surprising patch tick, a surprise that I haven't managed one before. Unfortunately it didn't hang around and I only managed a record shot.

I'm still wading though volumes of pictures of Diptera, mostly Syrphidae but a few other things as well. I'm trying to key out this Empid (I know I could ask on UK Diptera but that would just be lazy.

Empid sp on Marsh Cinquefoil

I think this photo really shows the potential of the new Nikon for macro work, I am just so impressed with this camera. I've been taking a few landscapes as well.

Well, skyscapes really.

I've been identifying, and getting help identifying Syrphids, the genus Eristalis is especially frustrating as these things seem to key out but everyone is very cautious about nailing them to an actual identification. I'm hoping that the obvious thick hind metatarsus on this will make it a certain E.arbustorum (just been confirmed so chuffed, a tick).

Eristalis arbustorum

...and it seems I can have this as E.nemorum.

Eristalis nemorum

...another tick. The males do a wee dance over the females, but this one got confused...

Eristalis nemorum and Beautiful Golden Y
Here are some waders from Birsay.

 Whimbrels, 10 of 11



Ah, and a last thing, the new scope has got a nice new jacket, and the scope a tripod head that actually works, thanks to the folk at Cley Spey (again) for really prompt service.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


A whole host of hoverfly pix will shortly be posted but to wet the appetite here's Empis tessellata, (I'm pretty certain my identification consultant expressed a slight degree of caution). It is very common on the patch in Harray at the moment on Hogweed. I've also seen a few at Birsay, by the Whale bone, it's probably pretty much across the county right now. As well as feeding on nectar it can be a predator. It has an interesting behaviour (not observed by myself) females only mate with males that bring along a food present, of prey. The red/brown colouration of the wing base makes it quite a distinctive beast.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Back from hols

We went on holiday to Arran and to Stirling and I didn't seem to have much time to post whilst there. At some point I may put up a pile of pictures. However, bit of a birthday whilst away which resulted in some new gear. The faithful Zeiss scope which I've had for a very long time is being retired (maybe temporarily, I'm going to see if Zeiss think it's repairable). The Zeiss still works but it is much damaged, both the eye piece and the main scope, indeed there are elements within the main scope which look to be in danger of falling out. I wondered about what to replace it with and have decided to try this Nikon 50 ED. I already have a Nikon scope (82 ED) which I like (but it's a big brute, not much cop for my wanderings, just use it from the car mostly)  and I only have a fixed 37x lens. So I've got a zoom with the 50. So far I'm liking the 50 ED, it's very light which at my time of life is handy. There are a few negatives but they may just be about getting used to it. It is very sharp and clear, actually sticking the 37x on it (becomes a 20x on the 50 ED) makes it even better, though losing the flexibility of the zoom. As you can see it is a wee thing. (Watching Shortie from the garden.)

Have also added a new camera to the kit. Still using the Canon for birding but I've been really impressed with elder daughter's Nikon for macro stuff so went for the later version, P7800. I'm not disappointed. The P7800 is also good for low light and night photography (for which the Canon is pretty much useless) so come the aurora season, but I'm hoping for some noc' clouds one night soon.

Moths and hoverflies from today and yesterday.... using the Nikon.

 Rhingia campestris

Platycheirus manicutus

 Poplar Hawkmoth

Silver Y

...and there was a bit of drama in the greenhouse as I was hunting hovers there.

The garden is a worry whilst away and of course the Woodpigs had laid into the peas, maybe they'll recover, emergency treatment today. Everything else seems to have survived but the cold has made this a very slow growing season here, tatties seem ok but everything else is well behind.

Another worry was the Arctic Tern colony, have the sandeels hung on? Or will the chicks have all starved to death again? A happy outcome there I'm pleased to report with quite a few Arctics already flying and a pile of chicks at different stages still coming on. Food does seem less plentiful, but that might have just been during the time I was there.

There were a few Whimbrel moving through yesterday, so autumn is here.

The eider don't seem to have done too well though, with just 7 broods on the whole of the Birsay patch, and most of those small broods.

Our meadow, which is slowly improving, and Midas.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Gull-billed Tern

Woke up late, well I was up at 3:30 to turn off the moth trap, it was beautiful then too, 50% clear skies, lovely clouds, should have gone and taken a picture really, but then I would have not got back to sleep and I bet I wouldn't have seen the Gull-billed Tern.

Instead, I slept in, had tea and toast and went birding at 10:00. Cora came to Palace with me and we checked the beaches, well JB had two Little Stints and a Red-necked Phal the other day (on Papay).  Then I checked the gardens, well N Ron had Marsh and Iccy Warblers. A further check of the north beach... all this produced 9 Sanderling, a Dunlin and a couple of smart Turnstone. There were four broods of Eider and one of Shelduck, hopefully a brood I'd not seen before and not one of the large broods reduced to just four. Anyway after all that I was thinking of going home but then I hadn't checked the Northside gardens and I hadn't looked at the Skiba Geo Arctic Terns for a fortnight.

Plenty of food, not sure what this fish is mind


So there I am minding my own business, checking the Arctics. These folk in front of me have a fancy camera and they're presumably getting some nice pictures of the terns and of this Oystercatcher and her chicks on the front edge of the rock...

The terns were coming back and forth fairly frequently so I started scanning towards The Brough to see where they were fishing and that's when I first clocked the GBT, 400 metres out.

Here's what I've written in the circumstances for the BB RC description:
"The terns seemed to be bringing in small fish quite regularly so I started scanning the bay towards Brough of Birsay to see where they were fishing. I quickly noted a distant tern, about 400 metres away, flying slowly south, as if it was feeding, it was clearly not an Arctic Tern. I tried to get on to the tern with my scope and failed dismally, went back to the bins and could not relocate the bird. About two or three minutes later the tern reappeared in the bay closer, at about 200 metres. This time I felt confident about my identification and drew the attention of the photographers to the bird. Although they had binoculars and were photographing the terns these folk didn’t really know what I was talking about, unfortunately. I was slightly distracted by trying to get the other folk on to the bird and in that moment the tern apparently vapourised again. I scanned about and couldn’t find it. After a few minutes I went back to looking at the Arctic Terns but kept an eye on the bay. However, in a short time, a couple of minutes maybe, the Gull-billed Tern flew slowly south again right through the Arctic Tern colony at about 50 metres or so. This time the bird kept going, south along the cliff edge, then over the fields until it was out of view near Point of Buckquoy. Actual observation time was probably less than 2 minutes overall. Despite the note on Birdguides that it was “hawking over fields” this was never the case and was not what I put in the text when I called it in. The bird was not observed to actively feed at any time, it was basically “mooching about” the Arctic Tern colony, in no hurry. When it finally flew off it was in the same leisurely manner.

The camera was sitting by me the whole time but I elected to observe carefully, I’m not great at flight photos and previous experience has taught me to confirm the identification with good observation before going for the camera and potentially getting neither pictures nor all the salient features required for a confirmed identification."

Whoa! that was some good bird!

Sunday, 14 June 2015


I've been working away for the last week and fair knackered to be honest. Didn't see much south to be honest, a couple of Osprey being the highight.

Getting home, stuff to do. Did manage to get out to Palace on Saturday, but most of the waders seem to have gone.

Did find this at Palace tho

Rhingia campestris

I'd missed the hoverfly course last weekend as too tired and had to get ready for working away. With moths being a non-starter, trap scored 0 last night, searching for hovers seemed a fair alternative. The Rhingia is common nationally, and obviously quite common here as there was one at home today. That was easy to id, this is a tad more tricky....

Male and female of what I think is Platycheirus clypeatus but this species requires some serious scrutiny so I'm unsure - ah, Roger Morris says it's Platycheirus manicatus, a common species in the north! The thorax is quite dull and (with careful observation) dusted, a diagnostic feature. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Little Stint and other waders

A wadery day at Palace. Actually I was supposed to be elsewhere but work has been a bit of a hassle of late so I needed some space (sorry folks). Anyway a surprise was in store as Palace beach was heaving with waders, just my favourite scenario. There were about 85 Sanderling, a record for this patch, 45 Dunlin (maybe another record), 45 Ringed Plovers and a cracking Little Stint that I finally wheedled out of the masses.

I love the "Ah! What's this?" moment.

A slight concern at this time of year, actually especially this year, is that it is a Little Stint and not some more exotic Yank thing (like Semi-P). But here the rufous face and rufous scapulars are helpful, also the pale wash into the primaries might be diagnostic?

Dark legs rule out Least and Long-toed (it doesn't look anything like Temminck's either). Size rules out all but Red-necked, Semi-P and Western.

It's nice and bright, has a nice pale V on the back and the bill is short and fine. That's about it then, pretty much has to be Little Stint. Is the primary projection a tad of a concern in this pic tho?

Can't see any toe palmations.

Primary projection looks ok here. Little Stint in summer plumage, smart!

Here are some other waders from the morn...


 Dunlin and Sanderling


 ... and another

 ...and when they're this colour just make sure they are big and chunky with a nice thick bill!!


Got stroppy with me, I was too near the chicks I reckon.

 We've got the garden going at last, just starting to take the purple sprouting broccoli out now, a couple of meals or so left.

 Bosquoy today

Crap pic but you can see some of the chicks hitching a ride.