Sunday, 23 April 2017

Uuurrrrggggh - weather

It just got worse, but there were migrants at Palace and Boardhouse Loch: White Wagtail, four Swallows, nine Sand Martins, two Wheatear, three Bonxie. The Lesser Scaup was present on the loch with Slav Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup and Red-throated Diver.

Back at home there was just time before the hooley to plant the alpines, sow the sunflowers and perpetual spinach and tidy up a few bits and pieces. No sign of the Bullfinch sadly.

Rather old tractor, Palace.

Enjoyed this recently.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bullfinch - dip

Early this afternoon there was a male Bullfinch in the garden, but briefly. Louise saw the swanky show-off feeding on the lawn, eating Nyjer with the spuggies, when I arrived home a couple of minutes later it was gone.

I'd been out counting rooks and then walking in Orphir. All very nice but I would have liked the Bullfinch a lot, not a common bird in the county, I've seen two I think whilst we've been here.

 GND digiscoped

Earlier this week at work some of the children found this which I think is a hoverfly larva.

Monday, 17 April 2017


Over the last few days a few migrants have been in evidence - three Chiffs and a singing Willow Warbler (with a Grey Wagtail) at Binscarth; a Swallow at Howaback; a Whimbrel, two Ruff and a pile of Pintail at The Shunan.

Queen bumblebees (probably B. hortorum) have been frequent in the garden, a Hebrew Character was in last night's moth trap.

I've been busily counting rooks, more info here...

Fourth Bonxie for the year on the home patch

Primrose and Marsh Marigold

Hebrew Character

Lesser Redpoll

Brown hare face

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Gardening and driving lessons

Getting on with the garden, although at times the weather isn't helpful, especially today, seriously horrible. Earlies are in and pink fir-apple tatties are half done. Have been having a serious fight with the wee flower/insect garden, trying to get invasive grass out. Have dug out a new soft fruit bed for raspberries and currents, pretty much given up on the strawberries with the conclusion it is just too cold and there are too many slugs (and blackbirds).

One of the things about doing the garden is that you do come across wee beasties that would other wise escape unnoticed.

I think this is Discus rotundatus

There were plenty of Cepea hortensis which are an attractive thing, probably also eat our plants mind. Also this caterpillar which I'm still trying to figure out, maybe a Diarsia sp. Pterostichus macularia again, this time in a bucket in the garage, released into the garden.

Having cleaned all the feeders and moved them around to new sites I thought I had solved the disease issue with the Greenfinch, but there was a bird yesterday showing the symptoms of Trichomonosis (it could also be Salmonella). If this continues I may stop feeding anything but Nyjer.

Interestingly the five birds I have recorded with this condition have all been males and looking around the web this is mentioned elsewhere and explained by the males being more dominant at the feeders.

There has been a decent movement of Pink-feet with some good sized flocks through here at home and at Palace. The first Bonxie was behind the house on the edge of Birsay Moor on 6th and one went through the garden the next day. Two Sand Martins at Loch of Boardhouse on 9th were the first "real" summer birds. - To be continued, going out for lunch...

Continued 13/04/2017


 Digi scope of 380, interesting how they were so compact on the water, I wonder if there was a Peregrine around somewhere.

Plenty of these around, perhaps 10-12 in the fields around the house

The other mammal of interest has been a couple of squashed hedgehogs, usual road kill.

Both of these are most probably hybrid crows, the right-hand bird certainly is, see the black feathers in the undertail coverts. I think the left hand bird has too much black in the feather tips of the nape and there may be black in the undertail coverts as well.

I need to update the hybrid crow identification guide which I wrote a few years back as I have some new information and some more photographs.

Stonechat still evident, not sure if they are paired and nesting though. I've just written a piece for the Orkney Bird Report on the species recovery after hard winters. I'll post the piece here once the bird report is published.

Ok, the driving lesson thing. Elder daughter is learning and we've got on remarkably well as I've taken the role of main tutor. Recent drives have included a fair bit of stop starting, hill starts? More like gull starts as I've had M stop whenever I've  seen a gull flock. We've turned up an Iceland and a Glaucous Gull this week.

Not the greatest pix, 2cy Ice near Stromness

 Usually at this time of year I'm spending hours on the track sorting it out, this year I have a wee bit of help... Never again will we be smashing the suspension two, four or six times a day as we head up and down. We are waiting now for the final surface to be applied, but it is raining a fair bit this week and I think they need a few days dry.

First of the year the other day and always good to see.

Today's walk at Northside.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Finches and moths

Recovering from serious lurgy again which has put me out of action for a bit, other than staring out of the window; not entirely unproductively as Lesser Redpoll was added to the year total.

Other finches included four Siskins and a male Chaffinch. Up to four Goldfinch are still present.

There was a warm evening on 30th March and Louise found a Common Quaker in the garage. Somewhat more problematic is this micro which I'm not at all sure of, found in the kitchen the following evening. Initially I thought it might be Grapholita molesta but it has been suggested that is incorrect, any assistance gratefully received. (Grapholita molesta is a non-native species imported, usually on peaches.) Now correctly identified as Thaumatotibia leucotreta, False Codling Moth, usually imported on/in peppers or oranges.

Common Quaker

Thaumatotibia leucotreta, False Codling Moth
Grapholita molesta maybe?

The Rooks have been very busy and there are now 52 nests in the rookery.


The birds removed all of the Buddlia that Louise had cut down, quite comical watching them flying up ito the Sycamores with long spindly sticks.

A walk yesterday evening found two Barnacle Geese with about 1,500 Pinks just outside the patch and annoyingly not visible from within. Today a Sparrowhawk played the same trick at Palace, appearing just beyond the boundary as we walked towards Marwick. However, two Iceland gulls flying south together and a Carrion Crow amongst the Hoodie flock were some recompense.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Lesser Celandine

In the garden this afternoon, playing with the Olympus again. This movie took just over four hours to film.


The quality is far better on Vimeo, try here:

Sunday, 19 March 2017


A good tramp around the home patch on Saturday produced nothing new for the year but plenty of interest, a drake Goosander was probably the best bird. In the garden the Chaffinch seems to have gone but there continue to be three Goldfinch.

Our tom cat (neutered) killed two Orkney Voles on Friday, I was not pleased, he rarely seems to touch them, being more interested in larger prey, rabbits often, but today he redeemed himself by doing for a large rat. He doesn't seem very interested in birds, he did catch a feral pigeon the other day though, bring it in the spare bedroom and making a very serious mess.

Today's main activity was to get the greenhouse going. In the process I came across a few things:

Pterostichus melanarius, common here.

Lare Yellow Underwing larvae I reckon, there were two.

 Opinion is that this was Large White, note the parasite's exit(?) hole.

There was an interesting centipede as well which I should have probably bottled, suggested id was Geophilus flavus, certainly a Geophilidae anyway.

Blurry pic as it wouldn't stay still.

So some early tatties are in pots as are some peas. Seed bed ready for salad mix, to be sown tomorrow.

Handy sheltering in the greenhouse as the showers powered through.


Down to the beach with the hound, it was too windy to do much serious birding and I was short of time.

Hound enjoyed the outing anyway, strangely looking remarkably clean, no dead seals or cetaceans to roll in!

We managed to avoid a soaking.

Brough and mini broughs


Sunday, 12 March 2017

WeBS - foggy

Rather a poor start to the day but eventually got out to do the WeBS. By the time I got to Sabiston it was just too bright and sorting the duck out was pretty much impossible. However, I did manage to pick out three Black-tailed Godwits from the silhouettes .

The Lesser Scaup was still atLoch of Boardhouse but star bird there was undoubtedly this....

Patch gold, never seen one on the Palace patch before, digiscoped.

Back in Harray I finally managed to find a Short-eared Owl scanning from the Merkister Bay out towards Howaback. In every other year I have seen Short-eared Owl in January, so just two months late. Other observers here are reporting the species as scarce, mostly stoats reducing Orkney Vole populations are being blamed, but there are few stoats in this part of the West Mainland ( with only one confirmed sighting on the patch. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew through Bosquoy on Sunday morning, first of the year.

 This hare was sunbathing at times as I watched him.

Greylags - Pinkies about in some numbers at the moment too.

At Brodgar, Loch of Harray, a stop-off during driving lessons for elder daughter.

 Burn rushing

Merkister, Loch of Harray

Sheds, Loch of Bosquoy

Under the feeders

Reed Bunting

Scathophaga stercoraria, first of the year, Loch of Sabiston.