Sunday, 9 August 2020


 I've not seen Neowise as it has been overcast to the north every night for more than a month. Thursday night it was clear so, rather than a celebratory GT I headed out to try to see it. It might have been wise to have checked that it was still visible from here (it isn't) so thinking it muct have been behind the one large blob of cloud to the north that seemed immovable I gave up from The Brough and moved on to The Ring.

The Brough of Birsay at night, lighthouse on.

Planets were showing well. Not being practiced at night photography with the Canon (the Nikon P8700 was such an excellent camera in that regard) I couldn't get the shots I wanted with the Moon and the stones. However, this one with Mars is not too bad.

Ring of Brodgar, Mars.

Last night I was being taxi and it was clear again, perfectly. This when a little research found the comet was not visible from here anymore. Mars and the Moon to the east and stunning views of Jupiter with Saturn close by to the south, well worth a look.

More time is being spent on habitat work in the garden, cutting grass now, scraping bare ground to sow collected seeds, especially of Yellow Rattle but also of finer grasses like Sweet Vernal and Crested Dogstail. I'm making daily trips to the fields below and returning with pocketfulls of seeds. I've also been sowing some seed trays, hoping to have some plug plants for the spring.

Anyway whilst on my hands and needs sowing the seeds by opening up bare ground in the turf I came across one of my favourite beetles, the snail hunter, Cychrus caraboides.

Cychrus caraboides.

You really would not want to be a snail faced with that. Interestingly, whilst I was trying to get hold of it in the grass it made a weird sneezing noise. It didn't do that in the pot, but as soon as I put it back in the grass and chased it a bit it made the noise again.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Blair's Mocha

Blair's Mocha.

Wednesday night was ideal for light trapping, warm, still and overcast and I set two traps in the garden. 10 p.m. and the Heath trap with synergetic light and car battery are in the wheelbarrow and I'm off down the hill to set up at the Wee Wood, 400 metres away in a small line of trees down the track.

Woke at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning and got the traps closed and in. This involving the wheelbarrow down and up the hill as the first light showed. Then back to bed.

Mid morning on Thursday I started working on the traps sorting through the catches. The back actinic was ok but the front Robinson, also running an actinic light, was a bit of a nightmare with rather a lot of intruders, some egg trays and the middle of the trap were deep in a mass of Diptera and combined with fairly high numbers of Large Yellow Underwings this was an uncomfortable experience.
Robinson trap intruded.
Large Yellow Underwings have an uncanny knack of getting in  your clothes, it is not an entirely pleasant experience. Anyway, there were a few nice things, first Dark Marbled Carpet for the year, a pristine beast, and plenty of interesting looking caddis.

Dark Marbled Carpet.

However, when it came to the trap running the synergetic from the Wee Wood the intruder situation was a tad more annoying. I had an inkling this would be so when I'd closed the trap as the lamp and vanes were covered in (mostly) Limnephilus marmoratus.

Limnephilus marmoratus on the synergetic.

This caddis tends to flap around in the trap and when you get a lot of them they damage the moths and make them restless. On top of this there were huge numbers of Diptera and Large Yellow Underwing in the trap.

On opening the first moth I saw was a damaged Lempke's Gold Spot which made a rapid escape before I could get a camera on it. 


I persevered for a while but it became obvious that as well as being a very uncomfortable experience this was a pretty futile exercise. I removed the egg cartons to a large cardboard box, shaking off most of the caddis and flies.

Time for lunch.

Into the kitchen where daughters had kindly made me something to eat, sat down and then noticed a moth on the kitchen radiator. I scooted over and took a look at it; panic! Camera and collection pots were outside. Rushed out to get these issuing instructions as I went that no one was to go near that moth. Fortunately it was still there when I got back in a minute later and took some rather shakey photos. 

I subsequently learned that Louise had seen this moth much earlier and had forgotten to inform me about it....
Blair's Mocha on the kitchen radiator.
Later in the day the county recorder arrived, confirmed the ID and I learned that this as well as being a first for Orkney was perhaps a first for Scotland. Still a bit stunned.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

A day of four parts, or maybe five, or more.

 Results day. Fortunately younger daughter had elected to receive these electronically, rather than has occurred in the past, us tortuously watching the postie delivering to half of Harray as he headed towards our house. Despite all the furore around this year's results someone's were just fine and her university place to study Anatomical Science was secured. Actually it had been fine anyway as she had missed the email earlier in the week changing her offer to unconditional, but a boost to get the grades.

I went out for a walk with the camera to Birsay Links. There were gulls feeding on the seaweed and piles of Kittiwakes and Eider.

I spent some time identifying things, especially caddis. They are hard, it will be useful when the new book is published as I believe it has good images to aid identification from photos. Certainly there will be species that can't be identified that way but it will be a big help as the current main reference makes it a bit of a struggle. The Croft FSC book is much more friendly but doesn't take many to species.

Rhyacophila dorsalis, with a distinctive diamond shape on its back.

This may be Stenophylax pernistus but the genitalia don't match so I suspect it is the closely related Micropterix lateralis.

This little soldier fly is quite uncommon in much of the UK, I catch it frequently in my light traps Microchrysa cyaneiventris.

Dolichovespula sylvestris, Tree Wasp

There have been wasps in the garden all summer, unusually. Finally I located the nest, in the wall of our house. Pleased to have these around such interesting insects.

Short of some parts.... I think included in another post. I'm writing retrospectively having posted twice since starting this one, life in the holidays can become a bit of a blur...

Better get my act together shortly, back to work.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A walk

I fancied a walk on Hoy and Louise suggested going up Cuilag which sounded ok. I've not been up there before and it is a relatively straightforward thing, so I thought.

There was a certain lack of communication around route. I had expected Route Orange, indeed I thought that had been agreed. Apparently I had agreed to Route Blue, I don't recall that. In the end Route Green seems closer to the actual walk. Whatever, it was a bit of a way and we were all totally knackered by the time we made it back to the boat (with, it has to be said, time to spare, there was a point when I had thought we might struggle to make the ferry time).

Masks were worn on public transport as required.

First time we have been off Mainland for a good while.

M found this nice Northern Eggar cat.

We went up to Berriedale, the most northerly natural woodland in the UK I believe.

Downy Birch, Aspen and Mountain Ash predominate.

There is some Oak either within Berriedale or nearby but that will be for another day to search for, time was tight.

Just above the woodland, on the moor, there were Large Heath butterflies, a single Common Hawker and Pterostichus niger.

As we got higher there was more and more prostrate Juniper, walking through a Juniper forest even.

Juniper amongst the grasses and Ling.

We headed for Sui Fea, Mountain Hare was seen (introduced here), numerous Bonxie were ever present, 16 Twite flew over and there were more Large Heath.

Louise found (breeding?) Red-throated Diver at the top, where there was a Kestrel (very uncommon in Orkney).

Heading for Cuilag we were subject to a persistent but half-hearted Bonxie assault, I suspect it's young had fledged very recently.

 From the top.

 At the top.

Going down was a bit of a trial, steep.

Emperor was found at the bottom.

Emperor Moth cat.

It started to rain and the mist came in.

Cuilag is the one on the right.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Tiger targets

I went to Yesnaby on my own for the day, bit of a late start but by 11 I was heading south and for the hills. It was sunny and relatively calm, target species Wood Tiger and Green Tiger Beetle. Both of these are a bit of an ask, Wood Tiger is very uncommon here (although I did have the location of a fairly recent sighting) and Green Tiger Beetle has been recorded from nearby Hoy but not from Mainland.

Yesnaby, looking south from Stany Knowe.

I went past the main Primula scotica site where there were plenty in bloom and the withering Mountain Everlasting. Sat on the top of Stany Knowe for a bit doing some distant sea watching, looking for cetaceans, but found a flock of six Arctic Skuas which was smart.

Pale phase Arctic Skua.

I headed inland and eventually reached an area near the head of the Burn of Lyregeo. 14 Golden Plover around the pools. I turned west to head down the burn. There was Staphylinus erythopterus. There were swathes of Bog Aspodel. Plenty of Large Heath butterflies.

Staphylinus erythopterus.

Bog Asphodel.

The Bog Asphodel was buzzing with hoverflies and the occasional bumblebee. I saw Bombus jonellus but failed to get a picture. Lots of Eristalis intricarius and a brief Volucella. I noticed a very small beetle on me and managed to pot it. Stuck the pot in a pocket.

Headed down the burn. Wild Angelica, always good for insects, more elusive bumblebees, a few small hovers, Eristalis sp. I wandered around some bare sandy ground looking for the Green Tiger Beetles, and something small caught my eye.

Andrena sp bee.

I only became aware these occurred here a few days previously when I saw photos of a very similar animal from Hoy. Unfortunately, there are at least two possibilities of species, maybe three; A. coitana, A. clarkii and perhaps most likely A. tarsata - thanks SF and JC for help with the id.

I shot two frames and it flew. I searched around and found it, or another, two more frames. But another hour of searching revealed no further sightings, and no Green Tiger Beetles either.

Headed around Lyre Geo, Puffins and Fulmars with chicks. More Large Heath butterflies and a few Meadow Browns.

On more Wild Angelica there were some Tenthredo arcuata agg, some Amblyteles armatorius and a Tree Wasp, Dolichovespula sylvestris.

Large Heath.

Tenthredo arcuata agg.

There was one more surprise. I headed for our favourite spot to sit down by the sea. Theoretically to seawatch but I was soon distracted by these small potter wasps buzzing around me. I've wanted to see these here for ages, I think they've become more common of late. Very hard to photograph, it took me about an hour to get anything useful.

Ancistrocerus scoticus.

The real prize is to find the wasp that parasitises them, they are like little jewels, but no sign in the hour, another day.

Home, past Common Blue and the Primula again.

But the story's not quite done because in my pocket is that very small prize. Some research and the next day a good few photos. I had trouble believing I had a Coccinellidae. Most Coccinellids arrive in Orkney via people, in their cars, with their furniture etc. There is a small colony of 10-spot Ladybirds in Kirkwall and, 11, 14 and 16-spot are in the database with a single record of each. I'm aware of records of 7-spot and Harlequin in recent years, these are the most likely ones to be brought by people.

Hyperaspis pseudopustulata.

This is a very uncommon species in Scotland with just a handful of records, and new for Orkney. Indeed there are relatively few records in iRecord for the UK, just a couple of hundred. It is apparently a very hard animal to find. So I'm mighty chuffed.

Last thing. A couple of interesting micros in the moth trap. One turned out to most likely be Celypha lacunana, just a small poorly marked one. However, the other was much more interesting. Fourth county record of Epinotia nisella. So all round a cracking week.

Epinotia nisella.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Natural surprises

The thing about this interest/hobby/obsession is that you never know what's next. So a glance over the bridge at Palace and a rare sight, at least for me, an Eel.

Anquila anquila.

The only time I've seen these recently has been as they've disappeared down a distant Grey Heron gullet, so this was a treat. As a child and teenager I used to fish for them, very tasty fried in butter in a biscuit tin lid (I wouldn't do that now).

We wandered on to the beach, admired the many adult Dunlin, Grey and Common Seals and then headed back. Glanced over the bridge again. This time there was a Brown Trout and, delight, a shoal of Minnow, an Orkney tick.


Brown/Sea Trout.

Today we went to Yesnaby. It's a favourite place and we have some spots we habitually wander around. There is a large Primula scotica colony that we regularly visit in spring (but not this year). I'd thought I wouldn't see them in flower this year, although there is a second flush. One particular area away from the main colony we have searched in the past and failed. Today, without thinking about the plant we stumbled across eleven, that was kind of exciting, they are a wee gem.

Primula scotica.

This morning the moth traps yielded a nice surprise, in the last trap, after checking all the egg trays, in the bottom was a pug. I didn't expect much, but I like pugs, and had caught Ling Pug earlier, fairly regular here. Once in the pot, I realised this was something new, Foxglove Pug, excellent!

Foxglove Pug NFS.

Sunday, 19 July 2020


I went up towards the moor to count butterflies but got distracted.

 Common Blue

 Large Red Damselfly

 Leucozona lucorum

 Magpie Moth
 Rhingia campestris

 Sericomyia silentis

 Volucella bombylans, pair mating

 Amblyteles armatorius

 A St John's Wort sp

Syritta pipiens.

Then, evening light at Skaill Bay.