Sunday, 8 October 2017

Three ticks...

Three bird species on the islands today that would all be ticks. The Sibe Robin and Red-eyed Vireo were both announced at 5.30 p.m. too late in the day to get near either of them. Both turned up in mist nets as well so chances would be thin. However, the Parrot X-bills that were first found on Friday performed rather well and despite the awful light and drizzle, pix were obtained. I also heard the call and got a crappy recording of it - will post that later - the pix are pretty convincing any rate.

Top two images Canon, cropped, lower ones digiscoped Olympus set to ISO 3200

At about 11 or so the two males started calling and flew off, as they went they were joined by two other likely suspects.

Also around Finstown the first Redwings I've seen this autumn.

Younger daughter had successful pony eventing day on Saturday with piles of rosettes and a trophy. Elder daughter returned from Edinburgh from interesting university open day - and a serious amount of shopping.

On Friday there was a Carrion Crow in the back field.

 Carrion Crow

 Buzzard with Raven - this marked Buzzard is likely at least 9 years old


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Brindled Ochres

One of my favourite moths, Brindled Ochre.

Angle Shades

Dark Sword-grass.

Mothing weather at last and the reward of five Brindled Ochre over the weekend, two Dark Sword-grass and a couple of Angle Shades and a Silver Y. Micros were represented by a pile of Parsnip, WSHM, a very worn Acleris and a Eudonia that escaped.

The first Blackcap of the autumn (of the year), a Chiff, a Ruff and a Blackwit. Three Little Stint were on the beach at The Links, but I didn't go there. Seawatching weather tomorrow but I'll be working.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Some birds and some beasts

Autumn is here again and last weekend the first uncommon bird of the year put in a patch appearance, Ring-necked Duck on Loch of Bosquoy. Most likely this is the individual from previous yeas that I first found on Loch of Skaill and has turned up on the patch a few times before, but maybe not. Two subsequent searches for it have produced blanks. On Monday, 18th, I walked the hound early and a good reward for being the early bird was a calling Yellow-browed Warbler in the Sycamore by our gate, the earliest here by a long chalk. This bird was still present the next day. Goldcrests and Robins are in the garden, duck numbers on Bosquoy are  impressive, what's next? Having bemoaned the lack of raptors of late, Hen Harriers and Buzzards have been in evidence but more autumnal in flavour have been four Sproghawks, including three today and a likely Merlin that evaded ID by whipping behind the landscape after flushing all and sundry.

I've published the Stonechat piece on a new page in the blog. The piece was recently published in the Orkney Bird Report. Unfortunately, and this could well be my own fault, the final edit (was I asked to check this? I can't remember) went a bit skew-whif. So this version is a personal edit of my original submission (and will therefore have some errors), however, it does retain the spirit of what I intended originally. (I was aiming for something a bit warmer in tone (no this is not a weather pun) than  turned out in the previously published form.) Of late the Stonechat family that has been present for quite a few weeks is regularly seen around the track, although they vanish for days. I'm still counting at least five, there could feasibly still be seven.

Best moth of late another Small Autumnal. I was intending to trap tonight but it has continued to rain. Maybe tomorrow, I would be hopeful of something on these SE winds.

A few hoverflies buzzing about, Syrphus I've taken specimens of, but I hoped this male would be identifiable, unfortunately the considered opinion is the definition is just not good enough to prove absence of black hairs on this yellow section of the femur (that would = S. vitripennis).

Syrphus sp

I did get this female Melanostoma scalare correct though.

I've been shying away from black, yellow, white bumblebees, I knew they were complicated. A bit of a Facebook chat renewed my interest and I took a few photos, I hope I've got this one correct (they are complicated devils) as Bombus lucorum agg.

Despite some shocking caterpillar violence, and retribution on my part, removing them and sticking them by the bird feeders, cabbage was enjoyed tonight. Try slicing up and cooking in butter and beer, yummy.

I'm not getting very far identifying what is causing these leaf mines in the pea leaves and pods though, suggestions welcomed.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bathroom drama

These eggs were laid a few days ago, I think the spider is Tegenaria domestica (a small Teg)?? The spider has been identified for me as Zygiella x-notata (the English name is odd, Missing Sector Orb-web spider). The female hung around the eggs for a day or so and then disappeared up the wall and away. This evening I noticed something was taking an interest in the eggs. It looked to me as if the ovipositor was probing the nest. If I'm correct this is an interesting relationship, the adult would find the wasp a prey sized item, however, the parasite may well be gaining the upper hand! I'm hoping that identifying the spider correctly might lead to identifying the wasp? Any ideas on the spider ID very welcome - thanks to LJ for ID.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Deerness visit

I don't often go birding east but the Deerness peninsular can be very good for migrants and Sandside Bay is quite a hotspot with a quality list of migrants recorded there. However, yesterday there were Swallows and a Chiffchaff.


Along the way at East Denwick Plantation there were hundreds of larvae of Striped Alder Sawfly.

Hemichroa crocea

Saturday, 2 September 2017


That moment when you lift the egg tray (or bit of egg tray) out of the trap and you glimpse something special is brilliant. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's the thing that keeps you going through the tangled cables, the temperamental electrics, the escapees that must have been special and the midge bites and stinging nettle burns. So today was a good day, third trap, last but one egg tray and.... drum roll - Great Brocade.

Great Brocade

I've only caught this species once before here. A migrant with a supporting cast of two Dark Sword-grass.

Dark Sword-grass.

Other than the GB there were a good few other NFY this morning with Setaceous Hebrew Character, Ear agg (I've kept this to dissect out) and Small Wainscot.

 Small Wainscot

Setaceous Hebrew Character
(The Ear doesn't want to upload.)

There was also a nice selection of micros with Acleris rhombana, Acleris variegana and Acleris sparsana, all species I like to see.

 Acleris rhombana

On the avian front all rather quiet just the first Goldcrest of the autumn in the garden, a few Robins and at Palace the usual wader selection and resident Whooper. (Except for the warbler that bobbed up in front of me in the garden for a second and then disappeared - unstreaked Accro maybe.)

Shed, Palace.

Lastly a Psychodidae (90 odd species swines to ID) was in the kitchen this evening. It posed nicely, only 5mm or so wing tip to wing tip.

More lastly; after an exciting and unexpected trip to Kirkwall yesterday afternoon, after work, to deliver the forgotten driving license, elder daughter passed her Theory Test, just the practical to go then.

Sunday, 27 August 2017


The midge situation in the garden is such that emptying the moth traps is farcical. It is currently not possible to carry out counts of common species, there is just no time for that before the hapless counter (that would be me) is enshrouded in a cloak of tiny biting demons.The greenhouse is no longer a safe haven, indeed, being in an enclosed space, unable to move away, it has become more like a torture chamber. So today a new tactic, egg box in hand, coat on, hood up, hat smeared in repellent, I walk around the garden trying to identify the moths. Photography and note taking on the hoof.

On the outside of the trap today a new moth, one I think that may be NFM, certainly NFG, Small Autumnal Moth.

 Small Autumnal Moth

A NFY today were two specimens of Haworth's Minor.

Haworth's Minor

Today's triumph (perhaps, it will need confirmation) might be this Trypeta zoe, not listed on the NBN for Orkney, so maybe a first for county. Whatever, a smart wee beast.

Male Trypeta zoe, I think

The trap also contained two Pink-barred Sallow, and the usual suspects.

Pink-barred Sallow

We went over to Deerness and managed to dip on both the pod of Risso's Dolphin and the four Pec Sands (being too lazy to walk over to the pool). At home though a nice male Hen Harrier showed from the kitchen, much to the delight of our visitors, and there were four Ruff in the fields below the house. Later there were three Ruff at Marwick and Hen Harriers, a Shortie, a Greenshank and Water Rails at The Loons.

 Hen Harrier

Deerness produced many hoverflies, the Rosa rugosa at Denwick being covered in a species that I am yet to identify. There was an Eristalis intricaria as well as more common things. 

Common Carder I think

Although this one looks like Moss Carder, I think it is actually Bombus pasquorum, there are a few black hairs on the abdomen.

Scathophaga stercoraria, common as muck but attractive none-the-less.