Tuesday, 20 October 2020

On Greeny Hill.

 We walked up Greeny Hill as the weather came in. It's not far from home but we'd never been up here before. Great views of much of the West Mainland. I need to come up on a day with better light, or come early in the morning, it might be good during an aurora.

The Brough of Birsay, beyond Loch of Boardhouse. from Greeny Hill on flat, grey day.

I've finally discovered how Blogger is working now and why I was having trouble with captions for photos, hopefully problem solved. I'll need to go back through some posts and recaption the photos I guess. More of a problem on the 104 page. I think Blogger are refining the features on new Blogger every now and again, alternatively it is just my incompetence. Listening to more music, so expect more additions to the page, much enjoying Jules' interviews and the trucking through his back catalogue. Not much there for the 104 page, except this week with Paloma Faith, unexpectedly. This has led me to listening to Benjamin Clemantine again, I Tell a Fly is an interesting listen. The programme also led me, obtusely,  to revist Salif Keita, I've not listened for a long time. Anyway, some music added (104, see top of page) last week and more to come now. 

Covid-19 restrictions impacting on my private life. The disease has not really appeared much here, but we are subject to the same restrictions as much of the rest of Scotland, not the Central Belt though. On the whole that seems sensible. I tend not to write about this stuff, but I find the politics of the disease fascinating. I worry, as I agree to an extent (an extent = a little) with some back bench Tories. That must be a first. The disease does make you evaluate your politics, what's important? For me it would be civil liberties and our hard one freedoms; equality, in the sense that sectors of society are not more disadvantaged than others; economics, in that we cannot put the next generations in permanent austerity, they're going to have enough to cope with dealing with climate change; safety, but not at the expense of the other three; environment, and ecological security, over-arching each of the previous four. Talking to people it is often surprising, knowing their politics, where they stand. The statistics of the disease are especially interesting, I particularly like this for a bit of clarity and reassurance - https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/b006qshd - . 

Being older, I find the predicament of the care homes concerning. We are imprisoning people who have done nothing wrong, and there are significant numbers of inhabitants of these new prisons who would rather take the risk and live life, be it more briefly. Somewhere quality of life appears to have been exchanged for longevity as a value. The oft repeated "following the science" mantra strikes me as bizarre looking at the mish-mash of illogical inconsitencies in the measures imposed across the UK. Some of that is political and not for disease control. However, I entirely get the dangers for the NHS, you only have to watch the documentaries about how things were in northern Italy for that time earlier in the year to understand the real fears. Easy to criticise, hard to be the people who make the decisions. (Keeping in mind that they will want to be re-elected/elected at some point in the future.) Better shut up now before the waters deepen and the shore becomes more distant.


There continue to be at least 50 Brambling around the house with up to 35 or more under and around the feeders at any time. They are especially keen on the Niger seed I throw on the floor next to the Rosa rugosa. In the 1km there has been a Jack Snipe, some Fieldfare movement and a nice selection of duck suddenly took up on The Shunan and have stuck.

Further afield I've seen Grey Plover, Red Grouse, a late Bonxie and a few other bits and bats. At Yesnaby I came across two Snow Geese, most likely the ones that have been touring South Ronaldsay and East Mainland. There were 70 or so Barnacle Geese with them amongst a vast flock of Greylags. The next day 60 Barnacle Geese went over Howaback, a site record.

Snow Geese and Barnacles at Yesnaby.

Some of the 60 Barnacles over Howaback, a site record number (previous - 2). The same day there were 57 Woodpigeons there,also a site record number.

I've ceased moth trapping for now. Three moths and then one from all three traps seemed to indicate time to call it a night for now. If we get a bit of a temperature bump then it will be worth trying for some of the later species but I'd be better occupied wandering the night with a torch.

There have been quite a few late hoverflies and one found at Hobbister appears to be Eupeodes luniger. I initially, carelessly misidentified it as E. corollae. I didn't look carefully enough at the abdominal markings. To get to E. luniger it is necessary to judge the angle of the point the eyes join (this being a male) a difficult thing to judge as the angle of observation, or photograph, impacts on the apparent angle of join, but I think the eyes meet at around 70 degrees and not 90 or so.

Eupeodes luiger.

Thanks to RM for picking out my error on iRecord.

Eupeodes luniger.  

Some photographs from some of our walks last week.

I couldn't figure out what this fibre glass vehicle was, too small for a Trabant.

Eristalis tenax.

These all from near Loch of Wasdale.  

Waukmill Beach.

And from around the garden.

Mucilago crustacea.

Trametes versicolor.

Rosebay Willowherb.

Click above for the link, N.B. starts with adverts - Tim speaks eventually....

Monday, 12 October 2020


No rare birds for me last week, work... However, Saturday morning and I was out in the field finding at least two Yellow-browed Warblers in the garden, no pix as they're awkward little so and sos. A Blackcap made a third Warbler, stunning! I spent much of the day mooching about the garden and nearby and was rewarded with the Brambling flock, a male Hen Harrier, a variety of quackers, a Sproghawk and a Merlin from the kitchen window.


Today I stuck the Olympus Tough out in the rain amidst the Niger seed. It chunters away taking a pic every 30 seconds for 300 shots.


I spent a bit of time at Loch of Bosquoy, neglected of late. Two Goosander and a Ruff were securely added to the day list but then a small Aythya swam in to view feeding. It was diving frequently but looked very much like a Scaup, but when it surfaced near the large Pochard flock it was tiny in comparison. Other features also suggested possible Lesser Scaup but ducks are tricky. I decided to shift position to get a better view, never saw it again. Maybe tomorrow... (Suggested I take my portable DNA testing kit with me along with the scope, thanks JB!)

Also at Bosquoy this Cladonia chlorophaea agg / fimbriata (thanks BE), requires chemical testing to get any further and these puffballs which are too ancient (like the author) to identify apparently; smart though.


Cladonia chlorophaea agg / fimbriata.

Light, hills, clouds and water combined to offer a photographic opportunity.

Loch of Bosquoy.

A wander around Brodgar with cloud building and rain threatening promised some interesting light.


A bit of mothing last night, Rosy Rustic (expected), Brick (new for the year but expected), Small Square-spot (wot's goin' on?).


Small Square-spot.

To finish the post, earlier in the weekend I was messing about in the conservatory (that's falling down unfortunately - but we have a plan). Calliphoridae (blow flies) are not easy to do so I haven't bothered to try an ID. Interesting things of course, used in forensic science to calculate the minimum PMI of human corpses. Also used in medicine for maggot therapy, and serious agricultural pests. There is a UK species of Lucilia (bufonivora) that parasitises living toads (Bufo bufo), the eggs laid in the nose I think, hatch and then the larvae just eat the toad alive, nice!

Anyway I didn't let this get near my nose...

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Birds, no birds

 Of course there are birds, just not the ones I would especially like to see. 



Redwing, Blackbird and Song Thrush have arrived in force, and quickly stripped the berries from the Swedish Whitebeam. Some Goldcrest arrived too. No Yellow-browed Warbler though, but perhaps a Blackcap yesterday. The YBW will be in the trees somewhere. Anyway, whilst I was looking for it I was distracted by these raspberry leaves with a tell-tale skeletal look.

Skeletal raspberry leaves.

This is the tell-tale sign of sawfly larval activity. So I started looking on the undersides and as well as a lot of orange rust I found these...

Cladius brullei, blackberry sawfly (most likely).

There is a bit of a problem with the ID as there is at least one congener which is not identifiable from these as an adult, Cladius compressicornis, however, its larvae don't tend to eat raspberry leaves so I am hoping this is an ID to species level. One other Scottish record on NBN but reassuringly north of Inverness. I would suspect these have been helped northwards by the movement by plant nurseries of raspberry plants because they are really a SE England distributed beast. Interestingly they are an introduced pest in New Zealand and Australia of raspberry growing and can be found in Hawaii where they were introduced to control wild blackberry.

Dark Sword-grass.

Moth traps out on Friday night where the Dark Sword-grass was the best of a meagre catch. Probably a migrant it was accompanied by a Diamond-backed Moth, although that could have come from the small local colony in our greenhouse. Otherwise we are coming to the end of Large Yellow Underwings, Rosy Rustics, Depressaria radiella and Acleris sparsana.

Mooching about in the dark I did find an Opilione which is likely Oligolphus hansenii, need to have a careful look at it. Also this rather spectacular pupa of Large White.

Large White.

I don't think I would have noticed this during the day, using the headlamp at night often reveals creatures that you would just miss in the daylight.

Here's the main quarry of the night time perambulations - 

Oligolophus hanseni.

I found this here two years ago when it was a first for the county so nice to know they're still present.

Lastly, a bird story. I was standing looking rather forlornly at the Sycamores yesterday afternoon when a Peregrine appeared overhead. It hung in the air above the rookery and eventually the Woodpigeons panicked and about 20 broke cover. The Peregrine stooped, missed, chased, singled one out and stooped again, missing but driving the pigeon virtually into the ground. The Peregrine peeled away to the Wee Wood flushed another Woodpigeon which also escaped fairly easily. The Peregrine levelled out, throttled back and released a pile of feathers from its tallons; close call Woodpigeon.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Flies on the wall

 Managed to get home for some decent light, although a bit contrasty. Works well for leaves.


Needed to mess about with the software a bit for these Diptera. Nice to find Eristalis tenax which is not especially common here, I tend to find it in the autumn usually. On walls around the house and garden.

Eristalis tenax.

A large drone fly with a typically stubby abdomen, unlike E.pertinax and its droopy pointy ab, dark tarsi on the front legs, and the two lines of hairs across the eyes, one of which is clear in the second photo.

I think this large cranefly is Tipula rufina. It could be Tipula confusa but the dark line across the pleura should rule that out.

Tipula rufina (I think), confirmed.

A nice male Syrphus also on the wall. Eyes are hairless so not torvus, but I would need a specimen to split ribesii and vitripennis.

Male Syrphus vitripennis/ribesii.

Loads of these large Calliphoridae on the walls and trees. I was looking for Lucila species but the one or two I saw were too jumpy and I failed to get a photo.

No birds to speak of but the Greylags were nice against the evening light.

Not exactly what a macro lens is for....

Had to add these two, found in the pony water and identified tonight (well, up to a point).

Agonopterix heracliana/ciliella.

Nimbus (Aphodius) contamniatus.

Both new species for me. The daily shared job of my checking the pony (usually in the late afternoon or early evening for me) does have its benefits.