Tuesday, 17 March 2020

A certain feel of Spring in the air....

There were moments at the weekend where it almost felt the Winter was past, but then five minutes later and it was back. The weekend weather has been grim the last few weeks, I really haven't felt much like hunting for small beasts and the opportunity to put moth traps out has been nil.

The week started in a grim manner with an ermine Stoat seen carrying an Orkney Vole across the road in front of the car as I drove to work. More optomistic at the beginning of this week with a frog leaping across the road in the night, heading for The Shunan, or Para Shun. I've seen two frogs heading in that direction this year so I suspect that some breeding may be taking place there. This is only the second year I've seen frogs on the site, the first three records were last year. Another good sighting this week was a pair of Pintail on the Shunan, from the car as I headed to work.

On Thursday and Friday some fields were ploughed so there were huge numbers of gulls and Lesser Black-backs appeared in some numbers. Saturday's walk in the afternoon produced a smart female Merlin.

Distant Merlin

On Sunday the Spring feeling was there with Skylark singing, Redshank and Lapwing displaying, Curlew staking out territory, Moorhen on site, Song Thrush singing (four of these species were firsts for the year). The Linnet flock had split with 30 or so still in the crop field but 50 odd just outwith the garden, feeding behind the trees. Pink-feet are on the move with a few hundred up the hill, behind the house, three or four in the immediate fields and the occasional small flock flying over.


The Rooks were disturbed all last week as the Hydro were putting the last touches to the 3-phase installation for next door and putting our supply underground. This may secure our supply a little better, although it is on poles until it gets to hal a mile from us. No Rooks seen collecting sticks yet.

Older daughter arrived home on Sunday, earlier than expected as GSA called a reading week and there was no food in the shops in central Glasgow. 

Saturday's walk revealed these prints in fresh mud.


Pheasant and Stoat

It's a long time since I've seen an Otter in the flesh on the patch, I need to get out earlier maybe.

On Sunday I headed to the coast for a bit of a wander with the hound. Not much to show for it, but pleasant enough. The Snow Bunts appear to have disappeared.

 Mute Swans


Mute Swans on the sea, Birsay.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020


I had to go to Inverness. A new floater in my left eye (I've been troubled by these annoying things for years) got me to the GP, following a look at the excellent NHS website on this problem. The GP sent me to the optician, who wasn't quite sure, this on Wednesday and Friday, and by Tuesday I was on the plane and headed for the Opthalmology Dept of Inverness Hospital. Beautiful clear skies for much of both flights.

 Swona, the most southerly island of Orkney and one that is tricky to get to. It is uninhabited but interestingly has a herd of 18 - 20, now wild, cattle that have survived since it was abandoned (not the same individual critters, but their offspring). I'd really like to go there but it is a bit of a bugger to get to.

Snow topped hills, Soooth.

I failed to see Magpie, amazingly, but did manage to hear Blue Tit. No time for much though.

Just one person out and about with a face mask, and they didn't have it on properly. I'd half expected to see folk walking around the streets with face masks on. 

The previous few days haven't provided much, I will try and get this (what I think is a) slime mold identified though. Not sure about the black stuff, maybe another slime mold.

I did add Stonechat to the 1km sq species list this afternoon though when I had a bit of a wander about, late afternoon. Since Thursday Oystercatchers have been here in force, 60 then, 110 today. Lot of Curlew now and Lapwing on territory. So it is noisy around the house all the time now, Oystercatchers calling all the time. They have become one of my favourite birds since moving here. Their arrival in force signals Spring and their disappearence Autumn.

The good news is the eyes are ok, no retina damage, which is the possible problem with the appearance of new floaters. So no lasering, which was a bit of a relief.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Dennis the Menace

Quite like a bit of a blow. Last night it was whipping around the house about three or fourish when I went for a pee. I could hear something, an ominous caught in the wind kindofa noise. Anyway I was tired.

Usually we've got the hatches battened etc but I think we've become a bit lackadaisical, the forecast was not too scary anyway, gusting 60+. So woke up to find the shed door somewhat detached from the shed and the conservatory (that's a flattering name for it) with bits of missing glass and broken wood. A day of repairs, I'd planned litter extraction activities.... Anyway, patched up now. At least we don't have water issues, have had that once in a previous home where disaster was just averted by manic ditch clearing.

Two good bird species in the last few days, a Water Rail was flushed by doggy persistence on Friday, well done hound! And yesterday eight Lapland Bunts were likely flushed by dogged quartering of the bird crop field.They appeared calling above my head anyway. Six seen again, briefly today.

Perplexed by lichens again. I've done the easy ones so now they're harder to find and much harder to id. Dobson is an amazing book but it takes an understanding of a whole lichen vocabulary to really be able to use it, slow learning. If you can identify any of the following please let me know...

 Another fence stave - Cladonia sp.

 Cladonia sp on a fence stave.

 Close up of the one below with barbed wire for scale. Theses are of Physcia probably adcendens but could be tenella (thanks BH),

 This to give scale to the image above.

 Parmelia sulcata in the left bottom corner but what's the one above it with soridia on the thallus? And I don't know what the one is with the apothecia spikes that look all crusty, a Cladonia?

Same as above I think.

Think I know these, Parmelia sulcata and Ramalina (maybe fraxinea).

And an interesting moss on the concrete strainer. (Barrie, help!) - Grimmia pulvinata (thanks again BH).

Managed to eventually find Leistus fulvibarbis, a favourite Carabid that is quite common here. 

Not the best pic.

Brown House Moth from the bathroom, third moth species of the year.

 Slightly mangled Sylvicola fenestralis, (could just be cinctus).

Trichocera regelationis

A couple of Staphylinidae I was working on disintegrated under my clumsy hands, there were just 3mm long, so no id there.

Here's an album recommendation - Charles Watson "Now that I'm a River"  modern hippie stuff, a bit like the very best of Jonathan Wilson.

 Hare skeleton

 Rooks to roost

 The burn.

 Reed Canary Grass

Small world.

Monday, 10 February 2020

WeBS chore

These days I'm finding the WeBS a bit of a chore. It doesn't take me long, if I drive as I did this time, and it is quite interesting when I get into it, it's the having to do it and the timing. Anyway, a few nice things, Goosander still on Loch of Bosquoy.

The Shelduck have arrived on The Shunan and are disputing territory, as are the more than 40 Coot.

Oystercatchers are now plentiful at Loch of Bosquoy and Loch of Sabiston, regularly flying over the house calling in the dark as well. 

Away from the WeBS both male and female Sparrowhawks are still around, the male continuing to eye up the spuggy roost. This time photographed from younger daughter's bedroom.

 The snipe problem from last week was resolved by going back to exactly the same spot and flushing the bird again, this time it turned its head as it flew and I could see the bill:body proportions, Jack Snipe, as I had initially suspected but couldn't be sure of previously.

Litter extraction has not so far yielded any new beetles, but a search along the stone dyke produced this smart Othius punctulatus. Once I knew what it was I could key it out but I had quite a battle to get to the ID. In the end I eliminated the things I thought it was (Quedius and Philonthus) and then looked at the pictures. If I had believed what I was seeing and trusted the key in the first place I would have got there more quickly. Probably widespread but there are only two records in the county database.

Othius punctulatus.

In the same area the snail Lauria cylindracea. A very, very tiny thing, c3mm.

The litter extraction tray has produced some winter gnats, probably identifiable with a bit of effort, currently pending though.

Plecoptera were flying at the weekend, found by the drinking baths etc. I don't know how to identify these so didn't take a specimen. Pretty sure not doable from photos.


Lots of Otter spaint near the troughs but also not so far from the Wee Wood, I think an early morning outing might be called for to try and see these.

Last but not least, interest shown in a caddis I caught last spring, I thought I had kept the specimen but I couldn't find it, must have gone in the before Xmas clearout when I got rid of various mangled things I'd made a mess of dissecting, old, unsteady hands with small things these days. However, I did turn up these Limnephilus griseus that I'd forgotten about.

Photo'd this way up as that is the way the wings are portrayed in the book so it's easier to work out what they are when comparing the images.

Monday, 3 February 2020

January passes

Around Point of Buckquoy, last is self-portrait.

Pterostichus niger from the Wee Wood.

Bottle/window Harray.

It seems far too early for Marsh Marigold to be flowering.

There are crocuses in flower and daffodils close to it as well.

Nice on Sunday so I went looking at lichens, not sure if I've got these right.

 I thought this was Hypogymnia physodes at first but I think it is probably Parmelia sulcata.

 Not sure what the things in the middle are but the surrounding lichen is Parmelia sulcata. And the things in the middle generally thought to be Cladonia coniocraea - thanks LJ and BH.

 Ramalina farinacea.

Ramalina fastigiata, and when I looked closer.....

 There was Physia apolia as well.

 Ramalina fraxinea

 Usnea subfloridana.

 Xanthoria parietina on top of the post...

 and on the side.

Not sure what these little orange fungi are, I don't think it is Yellow Brain.

The lichen is Parmelia sulcata though, although that apothecia to the left must be of something else. The orange fungi now identified as Common Jellyspot, Dacrymyces stillatus.

On this same walk I then went along the burn to see what the Otter situation was, loads of spaint and runs, especially under the gorse. Just as I was investigating a particularly busy looking spot I flushed a Woodcock, nice. A few seconds after that disappeared across the fields I took another couple of steps and flushed a snipe, but which species? I strongly suspected Jack Snipe as it didn't call, didn't tower and went down about 50m away. Unfortunately it didn't turn its head conveniently as it flew off. There followed half an hour of tramping around where I thought it had gone, the dog in assistance. No show. We went back to the burn and walked further along and the dog still in hunting mode flushed a snipe which again went down sharply. This time however, as I approached it put its head up and was clearly Common Snipe, it then called and flew. I decided that this must have been the same bird which had somehow done a crafty fly around when I was not looking (wrong - see next post).

The male Sparrowhawk flew and perched on the garden bench by the spuggy roost as we arrived home in the car. Not a spuggy to be seen, so it flew off. Three seconds later all the spugs moved forward from the depths of the vegetation, there were 30 or so in there.

Watched the Mary Queen of Scots film, interesting idea that there were Collared Doves in Scotland  in the 16th century - sound track.