Tuesday, 19 January 2021



Playing with the new camera trap, our suspicions were confirmed.

Small Tortoiseshell.

A butterfly was unexpected midweek, Found at work fluttering around inside the building. Other Lepidoptera were less unexpected with headlamp searches still finding Winter Moths, fewer, but still present.

House Sparrows.

House Sparrows still active at the weekend backwards and forwards from cover to food. A Brambling still present with 23 Chaffinch.

A bit of a look at lichen by the sea, I think this may be Lecanora gangaleoides.

Lecanora gangalaoides, hopefully.

I bought the FSC guide to ferns this week and was pleased to find a key to horsetails within it which should prove useful. Also some FSC picture leaflets to lichens which will supplement Dobson, at least get me on the right track I hope.

The WeBS survey didn't produce anything of great interest. However, lots of wildfowl on The Shunan and the two Whoopers attracting a variety of associate feeders.


Whoopers with Gadwall, Wigeon and Tufted associate feeding.

Disappointingly my ladybird larva from last year has been deemed unidentifiable to species. Chances are it is 10 spot but 2 spot can't be ruled out. Still the first ladybird larva for Orkney but it would have been nice to get it to species.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Headtorch searching again.

Winter Moth, there were five on trees around the garden.

Limacus maculatus, two of these and some tiny juveniles on trees.

Zygiella x-notata around the windows.

And a Wood Mouse in one of the garage snap traps. We have a bit of a rodent issue at the moment. The new camera trap is out rat hunting tonight.

Wood Mouse, unfortunately (in some ways) RIP.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Be inquisitive.

 Dire weekend weather and too many jobs to do. Ideally, I should have been down at Birsay looking for white-winged gulls this morning in good conditions for that malarky. Anyway, made up for the lack of white-wingers by working on iRecord and going back through photographs in the process. Sometimes you can just get lucky. I posted these photos on the Pan-listing FB pages not expecting much and got two responses. The first set me in the right direction but then Jaswinder Bopari responded. JB has identified a few of these things for me in the past, including Zele albiditarsus, another species with very few records in the UK.

Lissonota versicolor

 JB kindly gave me a bit of background info as well. This species was recorded from Arran in 2017 but as far as he is aware there are no other Scottish records. So another excellent find for 2020, more by luck than judgement really. I'm sure in amongst my photos and specimens there are probably a few other gems like this one. I think it is always worth taking the photograph and then at some point pursuing it with species like this. Hymenoptera are especially tricky but there are some very helpful experts, like Jaswinder. Often it will be a dead end, but sometimes it won't be. Anyway, dead chuffed.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Ducks and Winter Moths

 Out with the scope in Kirkwall Bay today, flat calm. I dipped the Surfie but managed to see at least 42 and likely 60+ Velvet Scoter, at least 70 GNDivers including an impressive flock of 40+. The Eider were still at around 1,000 and there was a 2cy Iceland Gull on the fish cages at Hatston. Usual supporting cast of 100s of Long-t Duck, Tystie, RbMergs and Slav Grebes. On the way home stopped at Finstown for the 7 Common Scoter.

At home a male Hen Harrier flew over our heads to roost. 

In the dark with the headtorch I initially counted 17 Winter Moths but a second and perhaps more systematic effort later on (once the very good Sauvignon Blanc had settled) found 19.

Winter Moth.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

GND, Winter Moth, Queen Eider dip.

Went to look for the female King Eider from Thursday afternoon and failed. I spent a while walking the coast, checking the harbour and the PDC to no avail. At the Hatston fish cages there were about 1,000 Eider so if it's in that lot, which are a piece offshore it will not be findable. Annoyingly my phone fell out of my pocket, a trick it often does and I don't learn, and cracked the screen. Darn! (Actually, I said a bit more than that.)

Previously, walking at Brodgar this GND had been quite close on Loch of Stenness.

A bit later I took a quick wander around the garden and there was a Winter Moth on the favoured trees.

Winter Moth on the moss on the Sycamores at the back, a favoured spot of late.

Walked up the back today and photographed lichens (to identify) and Yellow Brain Fungus (badly) - a couple of pix from the walk.

Cladonia sp, not sure what the grey stuff is, Lecanora polytropa perhaps.

Forgotten which species this is annoyingly, Cladonia arbuscula perhaps.

From up the hill by the moor.

It was raining as we approached home.

On Sunday a birding day, mostly on foot around home. Nothing much unexpected except the Brambling with the Chaffinch flock in the garden. Four Slav Grebes distantly on Loch of Harray. The Goosander have decided to disappear.


Exidia nucleata, a decent sized splodge of it this time.

Thursday, 31 December 2020


I enjoy our House Sparrows. There is a small colony round-about the house and garden. If I put grain out in the open near the Buddlia they pour out and back from the cover of the bushes, always nervous, on the alert. On an occasion we watched the Sparrowhawk arrive, missing its chance it sat on the bench beside  and between the two Buddlia, and the House Spugs just retreated deeper into the cover of the dense branches. The hawk flew and the sparrows emerged and back to feeding. I sat by the other Buddlia, in the small walled garden and photographed House Sparrows in cover the other day. 

House Spugs in Buddlia.

Their other trick is to sit on our roof ridge from where they overlook both feeding places.

Don't poo on the solar panels, spugs.

There is again a male with a white, left, outer tail feather. There was a male like that here previously for at least four years. I've noticed this one fairly recently, presumably something in the local gene pool.

The sky was spectacular with snow on the Hoy hills so M and I headed to Warbeth beach.

The surfer.

Goldfinch numbers took a sudden boost with 17, three Woodpigeon appeared unexpectedly as well as a Skylark, a very few Redwing and a couple of Cormorant. The juvenile Mute Swan didn't understand ice and ended up struggling across The Shunan to get to open water.

Frosted Selfheal.

Harray kirk and graveyard.

A brief afternoon trip to The Links beach didn't yield much, managed a few shots of Rockit.


The welcome announcement of the Oxford vaccine approval will hopefully change the game for 2021. A year, I fear that will not be without its own challenges. And for the record, abstention on the vote was IMHO the correct thing to do, call yourself an opposition Kev (that's what he's called in this household)? Yes a "deal" was essential but something a lot worse than we had in the first place? And on the fishing question this is an interesting read, no one has sued them yet so I'm guessing it is all true - https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2018/10/11/fishing-quota-uk-defra-michael-gove/?fbclid=IwAR0euE0zNm5Xe6Dkj_vwnPkbYKbXrgKqGODyJkk40dNniHhdbX41V_zEado

And on that happy wee rant I'll shut up for the year, probably.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Year ending.

Christmas morning and as I was messing about in the boiler room feeding cats and checking the boiler (it's a wood pellet contraption that requires fettling every now and again) I caught a glimpse of a small bird flit through the Swedish Whitebeams. Fortunately it came to the front and even without bins I managed to confirm it as a Goldcrest. That's the first December record.

Goldcrest records per month 2013 to 2020.

Goldcrest peak count per week 2013 to 2020.

As you can see not a common bird on the patch. Usually in the garden but occasionally found in the Hawthorn Hedge.

Christmas brought a few bits of kit, a camera protective rucksack, I'm thinking of having a go at a green year list and using the bike for more than just going to work and the odd off road session. Also some extension tubes which look as if they'll be very useful for the 12 - 45 Pro lens and using it for photographing specimens. I'll need to spend some time working out how that will work, lighting being the biggest issue. I haven't found out if the internal focus stacking on the 5 will work with these yet, hopefully it will.

Not much on the birding front otherwise, the Goosander are still on Loch of Bosquoy and there are good numbers of duck on The Shunan with Gadwall, Shoveler and Goldeneye as well as the usuals. A Little Grebe has been present for the last week as well.

I'm plugging away, entering data in iRecord, moths mostly, just June and July to go now. I don't do New Year's resolutions but with retirement in the summer I should be able to keep more up-to-date in future. It's a pain when it gets this out of hand. The fridge contains a lot of specimen tubes as well, things I just haven't got around to working through.

Don't know what this is, on the Sycamore log above.

This was on the Sycamore log as well, Crystal Brain Fungus, Exidia nucleata, thanks LJ.

Easier to look at bird records as I do put those into Birdtrack pretty much daily, the very good phone app helps with that. The birds species total is (so far) 96 plus a hybrid (Hooded/Carrion Crow), Carrion Crow was recorded just outside The Shunan patch. Missing this year were Twite, Common Redpoll... and at this point discover that my MS Office suite has stopped working. The software was bought via an EU rule allowing reselling of redundant units, I'm just wondering if it has failed due to MS being sharp on the EU leaving fiasco and that my previously valid license is no longer so. Excursion into the world of WPS followed....

The software didn't work again today so something's up. WPS (free office suite) does work though, or at least the Excel bit does so that buys a bit of time before deciding what to do.

.... more missing, Ringed Plover and any more interesting waders other than Jack Snipe and Woodcock, no interesting gulls, Carrion Crow, no interesting geese, etc etc. However, new for the patch were Osprey and Woodchat. I've seen Osprey several times in the past from the garden but one hadn't entered airspace previously. The Woodchat was ace, brilliant surprise, and I'd not found one anywhere before (despite being credited with an Irish record, just the only person bothered to write a description). 

I was greatly amused by this Christmas card, thank you CN.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Waders (finally revised and republished Monday, but Blogger wouldn't let me change the date...).

 No post last week as the weather was so bad I took not one photo (well, ok, I took one or two but I had very little to say).

Missed this last night, I couldn't cope with the 2.30am start. However, Owen has kindly made it available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCpd8Kz07Gg - actually he pre-recorded the show as he was a bit nervous. Advance Base Christmas gig from Owen's basement. You can donate here: www.paypal.me/advancebase If you are unfamiliar with Advance Base the best place to start is with the Animal Companionship album, you can buy it (yes, purchase music so our musicians can keep going) here: https://advancebase.bandcamp.com/album/animal-companionship

Before being Advance Base Owen was Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. There are CFTPA songs in the set. Owen is one of my favourite musicians, someone who is an astute observer of the human condition. Lo-fi brilliance.

Click the album cover for the link.

Louise bought us a visit to the O2 and the Pete Tong gig.  We had a load of connection issues, due to the offspring watching a movie... however, it was good and it wasn't. Somehow for me despite the great sound, and music I like, it seemed kind of wrong with the orchestra, I couldn't get into it anyway. Preferred Owen in his basement. 

We went back to the Links beach today, I stayed there whilst Louise and the hound tramped up Marwick Head.

I took lots of pictures of waders in very poor light. Some came out ok I think ISO 1600 which shows the difference between the Olympus and the Canon.

Be still whilst the world rushes by.

Sunday was better weather and M and I, walked up to the Kitchener memorial. Took lots of pictures of waves and threw most away as usual.

Kitchener memorial, a somewhat tainted monument.

A lot of very young people died amongst the 736 when the Hampshire went down with the notorius colonialist.

A record number of Chaffinch in the garden today, at least for winter, 23. Seven Goldfinch yesterday. I was looking at my data for Goldfinch and for Twite, two species that on the home patch (approx 1km) have shared very different fortunes. When we came here in 2009, Twite was quite a common bird to my recall, Goldfinch a scarce one. These graphs show what has happened since 2013 (data prior to then was not kept so carefully).

Goldfinch records per year 2013 - 2020.

Twite records per year 2013 - 2020. The scales are different though so caution with the data.

Three of yesterday's seven Goldfinch, they've been present pretty much all winter so far.

Lastly, Sunday evening and an attempt at photographing the conjunction, Saturn (top) and Jupiter, apparently over Hoy, from Harray, West Mainland. I love the wild Christmas lights lower left.