Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Red and glossy black.

The last two days, no snow. Fortunately it was melting off pretty quickly at the weekend. A bumblebee in the garden today and this sawfly, which I think might be Dolerus sp, by the new favourite cattle trough. I'll probably find some drowned ones shortly.

Dolerus sp, thanks for confirming JS.

The Pintail flock reached a new maximum of 23. Yesterday, three Common Buzzard appeared, high over and I misssed a nearby White-tailed Eagle. Louise saw a Short-eared Owl down by The Shunan.

Sunday went out to Birsay Links and spent a happy hour searching through cow poo, as you do. No photos yet but a few Aphodius to look at. Recent discussion with LL and on Beetles FB group should finally get me to be confident about the A. sphacelatus/prodromus problem. I did find a likely Aphodius pedellus, need microscopy to confirm that, they're tricky, althought the confusion species has never been found here I think. Also a couple of interesting slugs which I need to work through a bit more thoroughly.

Yesterday was a lovely sunny afternoon so I headed for Yesnaby, Mission Chrysolina latecincta. Other folk have been reporting them recently and I wanted to get some quality photos. I found 14 in an hour or so, just one larger group of 6, the rest were all individuals. Mostly they seem to like these eroded edges, couple of habo shots, about 50m or so from the sea cliff edge. They either seem to bumble about or be still by stones or just under vegetation. When I disturbed one of the still ones it extended its legs and reared up (see pix). I should create a blog page for this species, certainly one of my favourite things here. I'd like to go to the Loch Etive site and see them there, apparently they inhabit salt marsh there. This strikes me as rather odd, surely these are two different species?

Chrysolina latecincta habitat at Yesnaby.

Chrysolina latecincta (intermedia).

I went and searched north of Skaill Beach later in the afternoon. There are small patches of suitable habitat but it's very disjointed. I'm now on the look out for the correct habo elsewhere in the county. Perhaps somewhere on Hoy maybe?

Digging the garden this morning turned up the usual suspects, several Pterostichus melanarius and two niger, Lithobius forficatus x2 and various slugs which I photographed and need to figure out but included another Tandonia budapestensis.

Tandonia budapestensis.

I've reinstated the Canon G3X, it's such a useful camera for bird photos and  not much trouble to carry around. I like to keep the macro lens on the Olympus 5 and the Pen is not so handy to use with a long lens. Fortunately I had the Canon nearby this afternoon when after a walk around I was trying to figure out pension stuff in the kitchen. There is a Brown Hare which often comes in the garden, usually it stays down by the rough grass (Orkney Vole reserve) but today it decided to come right up to the kitchen window.


Brown Hare.

You only really appreciate what large animals they are when they are very close by.

We watched The Rider, quite excellent.

This week I have been listening to: Steely Dan (Aja), Gia Margaret, Oliver Coates and a treat, a new Hannah Peel album (Fir Wave) and a new Hiatus album. The Don's Sade programme was much enjoyed.

I won't mention beating Leicester and being fourth, of course I won't.

Oh, and I must mention a series of podcasts from The Guardian's Science Weekly, some interesting stuff on taxonomy, look here - https://www.theguardian.com/science/audio/2021/mar/30/why-is-it-hard-to-get-our-head-around-fungi-part-one-podcast, there are three programmes in the series. (You have to get past the rather middle class stuff to get to the nub of it (but equally charming in its way), but well worth the effort.)

Monday, 5 April 2021

Holiday weather.

 The blog was neglected in the rush towards some time off. I'll do a catch up shortly. 

Weather has been nice on the whole, but we could see the storm coming. Gusts of 50 to 60mph are not good news, snow at this time of year, most unwelcome. The house is sheltered from the north, so it has not been as cold inside as it might have been, but still needing the heating cranked up, chilly and not so much fun when the boiler blew out this morning.

It was snowing early evening and by this morning there was a fair covering with the wind making everything hard to do outside. Back to three pairs of trousers, two coats, two hats and a hood etc. Looking out, it's snowing again now. The cold and the wind combined to rip into the garden, a good job we've not done much.

Daffodils and snow.

The Rooks were mighty hungry, and surprisingly cautious, perhaps the wind limiting their escape options making them so.

Rooks, photographed through the kitchen window.


Hopefully the nests will survive the wind.

This week I have been listening to: Bicep (again); Pihka is My Name; Natalie Prass (1st album); James Yorkston and the Secondhand Orchestra, The Wide, Wide River (new album, magic); Gia Margaret.

 We watched Faces Places last night. Brilliant; anyone interested in photography and in the cinema shouldn't miss this gem.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Ignoring comments....

 I'd forgotten I'd got the moderate option selected, apologies for the lack of engagement. All comments now authorised (or deleted), thanks for taking the time, I didn't mean to ignore you.

Pterostichus strenuus.

Specimen photography is improving, still a work in progress though.

Cepaea hortensis from the conservatory.

Depressaria radiella from the house, again.

Phosphuga atrata and Oniscus ascellus from under the same rock as the P. strenuus.

And, before the weather came in I caught some moths.

Hebrew Character (top) and Clouded Drab.

Also these small cranefly intruders, 2 or 3 of these.

Trichocera regelationis, showing cerci and wing spot to nail the ID.

There are some lichens to post too but time for a sleep...

Monday, 29 March 2021


Weekend of 27/28 and I was supposed to be digging the tatty bed. We have weed suppressant on the bed, bits of old carpet and cardboard and at this time of year that's always quite exciting to be moving (if you're interested in invertebrates it is anyway). Cameras at the ready I pull some carpet up and then quickly look on the back of it and on the soil underneath. A nice Pterostichus melanarius, some Collembola and a lot of slugs. The slugs looked unfamiliar so I went inside to get the slug book, there's a very good Field Studies Council key. First up were these Tandonia budapestensis.

Tandonia budapestensis.

I don't recall identifying these before so I was quite chuffed. Whilst photographing these I noticed a strange, small, white slug amongst them, a worm-like thing. I had an inkling what that might be and quickly focussed in on the beast. I remembered reading on the Pan-listing FB group someone being very pleased to find one of these as they tend to spend most of their lives buried in the soil.

Boettgerilla pallens, the Worm Slug.

An added bonus is that I believe there are very few records of this species for Orkney.

Further delving around found Deroceras invadens, Deroceras reticulatum, two common species and this Arion, which turned out to be Arion flagellus (Green-soled Slug, or even Spanish Stealth Slug, an alternative colloquial name). This was a small immature.

Arion flagellus.

The slugger in action, thanks to Louise for the photo.

Feeling a bit more confident about having a go at these now I added a further species later in the week when working with pupils, managing to identify this Arion distinctus.

Arion distinctus.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Sea cliffs.

We walked at Marwick and the auks were on the cliffs, always a treat. I've a few places now where I can get reasonably close, relatively safely, as long as you don't stand up below an over-hang, ouch! With care, moving slowly, and not exclaming loudly when you bang your head, the birds seem ok about the approach. No Puffins yet, too early.

Guillemots, bridled and unbridled forms.


The cliffs and the nesting Raven patrolling, they seem to have no trouble obtaining rabbits.

Fulmars, and Fulmar in-flight view of the cliffs, Kittiwake below.

Back at the ranch the Lesser Celandine are flowering. I'm making a real effort this year with botany, I should be able to record about 150 species for the Ikm sq around home I'm told. We'll see.

Lesser Celandine.

I'm going to try to photograph each species I find as it comes into flower.