Monday, 11 November 2019

Some garden birds

On Friday as I was cycling to work, and just before I fell off, a Waxwing flew over, just outside of the home patch boundary annoyingly. However, all was made well the next day as one flew over the garden in a repeat performance. More annoyingly Louise described a Barred Warbler rather well that had briefly been on the apples on Friday afternoon, whilst I was at work. No repeat performance for that. Briefly there were two tristis/fulvescens type Chiffs on the patch on Saturday, I do like these things, although they never seem to call. These two were identical and were feeding together for the ten minutes or so they were around.

Tristis type Chiff

A new Blackcap appeared and spent both days stuffing its face with apple, still feeding at 16:20 on Saturday when it was nearly dark. Last week's ones had been females.

Blackcap male

The run of Siskins continued, another singleton.


I didn't bother to go for the Blue Rock Thrush, a 35 minute drive, or the Stellar's Eider, still a bit mobile. I probably would like to see the eider but I'm hoping it might be a bit more settled and reliable. Not keen to spend a whole day out with no reward. There are probably two Snowy Owls on the islands as well but negative news of one and no news of the other didn't encourage an excursion.

Otherwise, nice enough calm weather, an outing to dance disco and a patch-up job on the big shed were all achieved.

Big waves at Marwick, late afternoon.

Saturday, 2 November 2019


A day or so back at work and a blinder of a bird turns up on Westray, well done SA & DO. And for the weekend the weather is absolutely foul, even if the boat was going (I haven't checked) no way would I even think about it. Possibly there are two Steller's Eider as another (or the same) was reported from the Shapinsay ferry.

 Meanwhile, having ventured out twice and got soaked both times I'm sitting at the computer, theoretically adding records to iRecord (I am so, so, so very far behind with my data). Actually, I've been playing with Spotify, buying some waterproof trousers that might, possibly, be waterproof, trying to identify other peoples insects on Facebook (always a ready distraction) and investigating some interesting insect websites. One thing led to another and from an insect online and an enquiry I made I came across this site which I should have known about, brilliant resource for Scottish moffers -

This led me to a wee shopping excursion - Anglian Lepidopteran Supplies currently have some interesting pheremones in stock. The one that I have tried in Orkney before and works really well is Emperor Moth pheremone, it is very effective and quickly demonstrates that this species, which is often hard to see, is very common in the county. Somewhat madly perhaps I have invested in two clearwing pheremones as well, one for Thrift Clearwing and one for Welsh Clearwing. Both these species are perhaps possible here. (Take a look on the distribution maps from the site above.) Clearwings are very difficult to see without the use of pheremones, the only one I can recall seeing is Lunar Hornet Moth (on Arran, not here). April to June is the time for Emperor and June and July for the two clearwings. The pheremones keep well in the freezer so even if I have no luck here I may get the chance to try them south somewhere next year. ALS tend to only have the pheremones in stock once a year as they suggest, "When they're gone they're gone!"

 Nothing much to report on the home front other than aweful weather today, lovely earlier in the week when i was stuck at work, mostly. I have managed to add Chiffchaff to the patch year list (yes, this is the first for the year) as well as Woodcock. More surprising was a species added to the "ever" patch list which was Long-tailed Duck. I have been told of one here which I missed but not seen one myself, so nice one.

 Long-tailed Duck, female.

I've also been trying to identify fungi, they are hard. Even the ones that look easy are hard.

 So, are these Xylaria polymorpha (which is what I think they are) or Xylaria longipes? Apparently to be sure I need to measure the spores under the microscope.

The Wee Wood is about 500m from our house, it's in our deeds which is rather lovely.

Early this morning as I drove to get younger daughter from a party a Wood Mouse ran out from the Wee Wood and back again, another species for this bioblitz site.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Monday, 21 October 2019


I noticed a post on Orkney Scarce and Rare FB of two Waxwings in Finstown and as I had to go and get shed mending bits thought I'd have a look. Parked car, walked the few steps to opposite Baikie's, could hear Waxwings but not see any, looked back at the car, I'd parked directly below them. 7 at first. Then they flew to a nearby garden, fortunately a colleague's place so a knock on the door got me prime viewing opportunities. 17 seemed to be the top count but I expect there will either be more or none tomorrow. My colleague thought there had been a couple about for a day or so. Also 20 or so Brambling there. (Thanks EH.)

Sunday, 20 October 2019


On the way home we "dropped in" to RSPB Forsinard.

 The walk way and tower hide.

We recorded Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow and Robin. Louise found Common Frog. Two small groups of Red Deer.

Here's one big reason why The Flow is important.

Saturday, 19 October 2019


We went to Rogart for a wee "get-away".

Louise found a cottage for us to stay in, it was a good spot. Common Pipistrelle in the garden, 48kHz. My sugar mix didn't work and I hadn't taken a moth trap but I still got a new moth, attracted to the window light, Green-brindled Crescent.

Green-brindled Crescent

Best wildlife moment though (two) was seeing Black Grouse not once but twice on our walk on the Thursday morning. First we flushed two cocks and then half an hour or so later flushed two cocks and a hen, I would think these were all different birds.

We went to Dornoch, a bit of a surprise, a busy place with a nice cafe (Coco Mountain) and some restaurents and pubs. Long sandy beach and interesting looking dunes. Loch Fleet national nature reserve nearby.

 Burn by the cottage.

Dornoch beach.

The statue of the the Duke of Sutherland, George Granville Leveson-Gower, the first Duke of Sutherland, and a landowner who was responsible for brutal Highland Clearances in the 19th century. Known locally as ‘the Mannie’, the sculpture was erected at the summit of Beinn a’ Bhragaigh above Golspie in 1837, following the Duke’s death in 1833. There are mixed views on the Mannie. There have been several attempts, legal and otherwise, to remove it, on one occasion there was an attempt to dynamite it and recently there has been physical damage as folk attempt to destabilise it (so it might not be wise to sit beneagth it). Personally, I take the view that the statue is a reminder of the brutality of Scotland's land owning class towards ordinary folk. The Clearances should not be forgotten.

  Loch Fleet, the Dornoch Firth and the beginnings of Tarbet Ness in the distance, from 
Beinn a’ Bhragaigh.

Quedius, either levicollis or curtipennis I think, although it has been suggested it might be
Ocypus aenocephalus - it didn't do the Ocypus curling thing though when I harrassed it and the pronotum looks too smooth and overall the beetle looked too narrow but I'm very much a learner with Staphys.

 Down in Golspie there were plenty of hovers and Common Wasp on Ivy flowers.

 Vespula vulgaris.

Plenty of Eristalis pertinax and a few Helophilus pendulus as well.

Saturday, 12 October 2019


Following up on the very brief sighting a fortnight back I borrowed a bat detector (thanks EH). I walked out of the house with the detector and immediately got a signal. Locating the bats, there were at least two, fiddling about with the wavelength strongest was 48khz, so conclusion was Common Pipistrelle. The Bat Group came up last night and having almost given up we got bat sound again at the same wavelength and one sighting. Could I have missed these for ten years? I think not but I do wonder how long they've been here. Other mammals this week.

Pygmy Shrew found drowned in the pony's water.

Hedgehog, very small juv, by the side of the road as I drove to a meeting in Stromness.

And in the last week the cats have brought in one Wood Mouse and one Orkney Vole.

No new moths but a good selection of late season beasts including a second Red-green Carpet. Small Wainscot, a few Silver Y, a few Brindled Ochre, Brick.

Red-green Carpet

A new lichen for the patch is a dog lichen, Peltigera membranacea.

Peltigera membranacea

Plenty of Redwing about but not anything more interesting until today when a likely exilipes Arctic Redpoll appeared for a second or two before vapourising, I will be searching early the morn.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Three moths

Only three in the trap.

 Brindled Ochre

 Pink-barred Sallow

 Red Sword-grass

Evening sky.

A Merlin hanging around, Redwings in dribs and drabs and flocks of Lapwings - autumn.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Keeping pace

Work is definitely tiring me out more these days. I find it hard to keep up with the blog so posts may be a tad brief on words, it's a struggle to sort the pictures out. Anyway work has its benefits, a child found and caught this on the playground the other day.

Dytiscus semisulcatus (marginalis - the great diving beetle is orange/yellow beneagth)

As hoverfly recorder for the county I'm supposed to be good at identifying hovers, but I often find them a challenge. So I needed some help identifying this which was perplexing me for a couple of hours (many thanks to Roger Morris). I don't tend to find many unusual hovers either, perhaps I'm not very good at looking for them. Anyway, I seem to have managed a second for the county with this Xanthandrus comptus which was in my actinic trap last night (Harray). My favourite 40W trap in its corner under the trees scored again (nearly all my exciting moths this year have come to this trap in this position) and in the past it has accounted for the occasional slightly more interesting hover. This species has a very southern distribution in the UK and until relatively recently was considered quite a rarity even in southern England. The map doesn't show the Shetland records, there were ten in a few days in 2000 and the single previous Orkney record in August 2017. In the UK this species is strongly associated with migratory influxes, this fits well with the occurrence of a range of uncommon migrant birds in the county over the last few days.

 Xanthandrus comptus female

 Distribution map for Xanthandrus comptus.

 Some nice moths recently with Small Autumnal and Red-green Carpet new for the site. Seasonal Brick, Small Wainscot and Setaceous Hebrew Character.

 Small Autumnal

Hoverfly recording scheme map for Xanthandrus comptus.

 Red-green Carpet NFS

 Ruby Tiger


 Setaceous Hebrew Character

 Small Wainscot

Craneflies are still a tad challenging, pretty sure this is Tipula confusa.

Birds have been less than too exciting, I've so far dipped on the glut of Yellow-browed Warblers, although a Phyllos shot past me as I was working on the moths this morning and promptly vapourised.

Best was the day with four Black-tailed Godwits, a Merlin and a few Redwings, but there have been hundreds of Swallows and thousands of Common Gulls.

Whilst walking back up the track in the dark on Saturday evening at about 10:15, having fallen over on the way down.... I was following moths and other larger insects with the torch beam. Getting near the house something flew and I tracked it in the beam, a caddis it looked like. There was some wing sound and a click as something, which could only have been a small bat, snatched the insect. Bats are very uncommon here, I've never seen one around the house before and there are just a few regular sites in the county. In the last few days a Parti-coloured Bat and a Nathusius Pipistrelle were found within 10 miles of us, good chance that this was an interesting migrant. With luck I may have a second chance as I've been offered a bat detector to use this weekend.