Tuesday, 13 July 2021

A walk with the camera.

 There is a lovely green lane two fields north of us. It is full of flowers and moths. Walking across the fields and along the green lane to the moor and back should take an hour or so, yesterday it took three hours.

Agriphila straminella.

There were thousands of these, they've just begun their main emergence. A bit of a swine to photograph as they fly at the slightest provocation. They are beautiful nonetheless.

Meadow Brown.

Another recent emergence and present in tens if not hundreds. Both these species were inflight at almost every footstep.

There were also lots of Middle-barred Minor, on one Hogweed there were five, probably 100 altogether.

Middle-barred Minor.

There were Silver-ground Carpet in abundance as well, and the first Celypha lacunana for the year and a few Magpie. 


Celypha lacunana.


I failed to photograph Common Blue, of which there were a few.

But with all the common species there were a few gems. Yellow Shell is not a moth I see very often but a rather large individual eventually was photographable.

Yellow Shell.

And I think this micro is Eudonia truncicolella, not the rarer E. lineola (happy to be corrected though, although the CR would want a gen det I think).

Reidentified by SG and SS as Scoparia ambigualis, big thank you.

There were these two micros, not the best images, which I've yet to work out. 

The first one is perhaps just a Timothy Tortrix seen from the side. But the second one is a challenge.

Timothy Tortrix maybe.

Unknown micro - possibly Aethes cnicana, thanks SS.

 Amongst all the moths there were a few other things, piles of the sawfly Tenthredo arcuata sl (possibly T. notha).

Tenthredo arcuata s.l. (T. notha perhaps).

The click beetle Hemicrepitius hirtus, identified by the antennae and the tiny fourth tarsal segement without a hairy pad.

Hemicrepidius hirtus.

In the interest of science I allowed myself to be bitten, twice....

Haematopota pluvialis.

Getting stuck in.

Both of these are females with the eye colour over the whole eye. You can see the antennal notch quite clearly on the second one and close-up. Males have the third antennal segement orange. It was a bit annoying for half an hour or so afterwards.

One of my favourtie things was around as well:

Amblyteles armatorius.

As well as this ichneumon there were a few Ophion sp. Yet again I'm pretty sure I saw Bombus jonellus, but no photos, so no proof. Other Bombus seen were pascuorum and lucorum s.l.

In amongst this I started to play with Google Lens. It was mentioned online the other day and there is a paper about apps for identifying things. Lens seemed to come out ok and as it is included in my Motorola I gave it a try. It is astonishingly accurate with plants, and truly hopeless with moths and other insects. On a good few occasions it came out with the correct plant identification as first choice, including things like False 0at-grass. However, the Tenthredo was identified as a Honeybee and Middle-barred Minor as a Pammene species, at least it got it to moth. The local plant recorder is about to be bombarded with my plant records which I have singularly failed to upload from "proper" photographs, sorry JC.

Plantago maritima.

Google Lens got Plantago maritima as first choice, well impressed. An interesting plant to find along the green lane, 8km inland.

Thanks to MS for mentioning Public Service Broadcasting in his blog, somehow escaped my radar. Blown away. I especially love this album.

But they're all good. Playing in Glasgow in November, very tempted to make the trip.

It is hard not to make comment about the football. Disgusting racism towards young players, and beating up our Italian guests. Let alone the laser incident and booing the Danish anthem. What is the matter with people? Actually, none of this surprises me, sadly. If you have any influence at work, or are a trade unionist, pressing for this very effective and inexpensive training by Show Racism the Red Card would be a good move....

https://www.theredcard.org/education - other training providers are available.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Retired (nearly).

I'm still officially in post until the end of the holidays in mid-August, but I don't really have to do anything. I pretty much emptied and tidied the office the other day, a week after the end of term. Check emails once a week or so. Time to get my head around what this means. I don't feel old anyway, well mostly not, work was getting to be a struggle, just having the energy in the morning and finding it hard to find the time to do the things I wanted to do as well as work.

One thing that vexes somewhat is what to do with what's in my head, the experience and knowledge, is it useful to anyone? Or is that just ego? Hard to know at the moment.

All this in my life has left the blog unwritten and friends, mostly, incommunicado. We've had visits from two lots of old friends, and I had dos to go to. Seeing old friends after so long was fun (and a bit boozy). The work dos were in retrospect a bit overwhelming. A couple of folk who I've worked with for years phoned and were very complimentary and kind. 

My new job is full-time wildlife stuff, maybe it's time to be old, radical and a pain in the arse (after all I was very good at the PITA at work as far as some of management were concerned, so I'm well in practise).

The notebook is filling up with data again as the moth traps kick out lots of interesting things. And searching with the camera has uncovered plenty. I really wonder why I didn't buy the Olympus kit before, the macro gear is stunningly good, but perhaps I wasn't ready to take the step from the TG-4 earlier. The Jackdaws and Rooks in the roost have just woken up, noisily, maybe a Grey Heron has tried to join them, they're not keen on that occurring.

If this is Celypha rivulana it will be new for the county, I think I have it right.

I also found this by searching in the Rosebay Willowherb.

It was provisionally identified as Piniphila bifasciana (thanks BS), I'd initially wondered about a Cydia but I have had a wonder about Phiaris micana, BS is most likely correct, it's with the CR now.

The usual crowd pleasers have begun to turn up with a very nice Acleris bergmanniana today, although it failed to pose. This Gold Spot was fresh and showed off.

Gold Spot.

One project is to put all my species on to Flickr, an Orkney invert reference place. So I'm trying to standardise the "from the trap" photos a bit, some of these things look smarter on the grey of slate, no distractions.

On the bird front, The Shunan has plenty of Shelduck chicks, an eight and a three. A third brood of Shoveler have just appeared, a five. And I suspect the Teal have well grown chicks. We had a day on Hoy where I bumped into Quail, but I will try and post a retrospective of that day shortly.

Time to nip out with the torch and see if I can find anything, the Ghosts have been dancing...

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Sun.... gone.

But it has its advantages, the wind by the cliffs was mighty on Saturday, lots of seabirds manouvering near the edge.


TC and I had a struggle walking at times, not quite strong enough to blow us over, but progress could be tricky.

I've been light trapping, a few nice moths:

Epiblema scutulana (most likely).


Poplar Hawkmoth.

Common Pug

Small Phoenix.

This Phyllobius viridicollis was in amongst the rhubarb as younger daughter chopped it for tea. The rhubarb patch is surrounded by nettles.

Phyllobius viridicollis.

Deleaster dichrous.

Always nice to see Deleaster dichrous, an occasional intruder in the light traps.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021


 At work been working with Orkney Native Wildlife Project, we put out these tunnels baited with apple and lined with ink.

Result! Orkney Vole tracks.

We've also had camera traps all over the place to try and get the wee blighters on video, not such a result, requires perseverence.

Lots of nice things in this space of nearly a month. White-tailed Eagle, Garganey, Blackcap and Whitethroat all on patch. I will try and do a catch up shortly, with some pix.

I thought I'd got a new beetle for the county but was pipped to the post by a week or so. This in my yellow washing up bowl trap - 

Sphaeridium scarabaeoides.

I had a bit of a bee and wasp weekend, six, maybe seven species of bumblebee in the garden including 7 or 8 Great Yellows.

Bombus distinguendus.

I found the potter wasp Anicostrocerus oviventris in the garden, nice patch tick. With the weather calm and sunny I went to Yesnaby on Sunday and back to the spot where I found A. scoticus last year. With a bit of patience I managed to find them again and better still their parasite Chrysis sp.

Not the best photo, this was hard enough to see, let alone photograph.

Some nice moths, these two were new for site in the garden.

Grey Pug.

Knot Grass.

That'll have to do for now.... Contrasting listening.


There is a wonderful session slot of Lou Reed and Anohni playing Perfect Day in the latest series of Jools, not to be missed IMHO. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01kgsm0

Tuesday, 18 May 2021


I went to Glasgow. Had to go for family reasons.

Spent a lot of time tramping around Kelvingrove Park. Saw Tree Bumblebee (rubbish photo) and Orange Tip (worse, no photo).

 Got home for £1, and that was the booking fee. It did take 14 hours tho'. Benefit of being older.

Herring Gull, Aberdeen.

 Huge numbers of Sandwich Terns off Aberdeen as we left. Interesting discussion about hedgehogs, amongst other things, on the boat.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021


I should make an effort to add up all my species, I won't remember some of them. I wonder if I can count all the things I extracted and then cultured from food when I worked briefly for Dewhurst, I probably can't remember too many of them. That's scraping the barrel.

It was a good weekend for species though, including a new moth Agonopterix ciliella, which I had to dissect for the ID, but it looks ok, 3 or 4 lines in the cilia at the base of the hind wing. Look at the folded over bit in the pic.

Agonopterix ciliella.

Thanks to SB for helping me see what I couldn't before he pointed it out. It was on the kitchen window, not in the trap, but it may have been the one that escaped me a few minutes earlier which I found on a step.

I did trap another Red Chestnut and four Hebrew Character. Also, whilst wandering around with the torch I found a very smart shiny, wee beetle on one of the trees by the trap. It was small, less than 4mm.

Salpingus planirostris.
 It looks like a weevil, to trick the unwary, but it isn't one but a Salpingidae. There appears to be one previous county record, there may be more. In the past I've found its congener S. ruficollis, nearby at Binscarth Woods, by the same method, searching trees at night with a headlight.

The photos are probably at the limit of the set up really, and I didn't attempt the focus stacking as I kept the beast alive to release. OM5 60mm macro with extension tubes, natural light. I guess I could get another set of extension tubes...

I caught a few things in the yellow washing up bowl at the end of April, my version of a colour tray trap. Mostly Staphlinidae, I haven't gone through them yet but the one larger one appeared to be Tachinus rufipes, almost certainly I expect. Anyway, in there was one non-Staphy. It was tiny, about 1.5mm. I thought it was Leonidae, an awkward crew, but it wasn't keying out there. After a lot of frustration, especially as the definition is way beyond my microscope I managed to get a couple of half decent images and I asked on FB. MF and CW quickly responded and got me right. I went back to the family key, I just had had too many doubts and not persevered sufficiently, I'd been on the right track, Cryptophagidae, not knowingly seen that family before. I'd been told the genus and possible species and Mike Hackston has a key to Atomaria so I keyed it through, again, best as I could. As suggested Atomaria lewisi was the correct answer.

Atomaria lewisi.

At 1.6mm this is beyond what is sensible with a macro lens and extension tubes. This animal has a fascinating history. From UK Beetles website, "This species is native to the eastern Palaearctic and Oriental regions; it is generally common through central Asia to the far east of Russia, China, Japan and Korea and extends south into Northern India, it was first recorded from the west in the 1930s when specimens were found in a domestic garden in south east London and since that time it has spread through much of central and eastern Europe, extending north beyond the Arctic Circle in Fennoscandia. During the 20th century it also became established in the United States and Canada, where it now seems to be widespread, although it has only relatively recently been recognized as such, having previously been known as A. curtula Casey, 1900. Beyond this the species is sporadically recorded throughout the world, it is sometimes described as cosmopolitan but as yet seems to be established only in the northern hemisphere." https://www.ukbeetles.co.uk/atomaria-lewisi. New to me and by the look of the NBN it may be new to Orkney.

Recent birds have included Sand Martin, Tree Sparrow, Arctic Tern and a Chiffchaff singing in the garden. The Arctic Terns have returned to nearby Loch of Bosquoy, the one over The Shunan headed back in that direction.

Tree Spug.

Surprise Gannet flew through, from kitchen on Saturday p.m. First other than an injured one for the patch.

On Monday  evening we watched some Tradfest, had to buy tickets. After the battle to get the technology to work, we had to watch on the laptop and not the TV as I surrendered to the internet gremlins. Music by Mike Vass and Mairearad Green and a lecture by Karine Polwart. The Mike Vass Trio album In the Wake of Neil Gunn is a personal and family favourite, so this was a must see. Karine Polwart has made some very interesting music in the past. She was due to talk about women's oppression but instead, talked about song, music and a deep connection to the environment. This was a bit of a coincidence as reading with a class at work I'd picked up Greta Thunberg's book. Anyway, she started off by talking about, and singing (with her extraordinarily brilliant voice) Rabbie Burns' poem Westlin' Wind, not one I'm familiar with. It's worth a look, it could be an anthem for the ending of driven grouse shooting (well partly, it is also a love song). Karine also recommended Dick Gaughan's album, Handful of Earth. That took me back, I remember vaguely (perhaps) seeing him in a small upstairs room in a pub in York. Whatever, it's an album worth a listen, radical stuff. 

Both due to be included in the neglected 104 when I get a moment.

We have also watched:

(It's a film as well as a book, and a lot of other things besides.)