Thursday 29 July 2010

Dippy, dippy doo

Car needed to go to the garage and as we were going to the airport I set off first to make the garage type arrangements; wrong, bad, naff thing to do! Louise sets off and gets just on to the track and sees a "large gull with sticks sticking out of its tail with lumps on the end", thanks dear, another dip. The Pom even made airspace (I'm told) as it cut through the edge of the garden at low level. Presciently enough I'd had the thought, about Long-tails though, when I watched a couple of Arctics scoot through The Shunan yesterday. My consolation prize was an Arctic low through the garden later on when we got back.

Down the hill managed to prove Little Grebe breeding on Bosquoy and there are nine Black-tailed Godwits of the Icelandic race on The Shunan.

Yesterday evening we went to an excellent gig at The Reel, Twelfth Day, highly recommended.

Tuesday 27 July 2010


Went to Hoy today, with the family so not a birding or entomological mission. However, Basking Shark showed very well as we pulled in to the quay there. The weather was excellent and a good day out was enjoyed by all.

Well, ok I did look at some insects, Ellen found this - Field Tiger Beetle


Sunday 25 July 2010

Sugar, light

Trying the sugar tonight and it's already scored with Angle Shades which I'd not seen here before. Plenty of large Yellow Underwing getting slowly sloshed (rum) but also Lesser/Common Rustic, Small Square Spot.

The trap is very, very busy but not a Magpie to be seen, mostly big, buzzing Noctuids.

Waders, moths, dipping; not much changes

Two Black-tailed Godwits and eight Dunlin on The Shunan yesterday. They'd gone today, leaving one or two Dunlin but Teal (quacker, not wader) are now at 12.

Very annoying Friday, Little Egret flew across the road below the house seen by another birder. I was in at the time, subsequently AL relocated the bird up the road at Dounby, minutes after I'd driven past the very spot on the way to watch fish (snorkling) and I didn't have my phone with me so failed to look for it even on the way back some hours later; so it goes. Flounder Platichthys flesus was ticked anyway, plus a small silver job that I couldn't (surprise, surprise) ID.

The very irritating Sedge Warbler has now moved to sing further away but in view of the garden, if I get perfect viewing conditions. A concerted effort is required methinks or this species will go the way of the various others I have dipped from the "from the garden" list.

No mothing last night but the evening before I did well enough. Still struggling with brown Noctuids but I think I'm beginning to get a handle on them. It's looking good for this evening.

Northern Spinach - thanks Andy

Is this a worn Dusky Brocade? - having caught more I think so

Udea lutealis

I seem to have been making a mistake with another micro, asigning them to Udea olivalis, however, I caught the genuine thing again yesterday and now realise that the smaller duller species is something different, need to get some pix.

Thursday 22 July 2010



Up with the Dunlin, I headed to Birsay. I walked the length of the Links beach and much of the Zanzibar bit (before a dog came and everything flew away). 30 or so Dunlin including a juvenile or two, a possible stint but only seen in flight and it wasn't relocated, a few Turnstone, some Ringed Plovers and two summer plumaged Sanderling. More surprising was a fluffy and quite small Oystercatcher chick.

To Marwick where there were plenty of Oystercatcher and Curlew on the new mown field and one summer plumage Sanderling. A few more juvenile Wheatear here and a singing Sedge Warbler.

At The Loons hide there was a Water Rail, plenty of Sedge Warblers a Greylag with an orange (local) necklace. However, just along the road at the watchpoint, a Whimbrel, two Blackwits and two Greenshank.

Back at the ranch The Shunan held juvenile Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls along with the usual Commons and Black-headeds. A marked paucity of waders at my local patch.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Nearly 700

This is how the trap looked at 8 this morn. Looks like trouble to me ... There were nearly 700 moths in and around the trap, so OK 435 of them were Magpie Moth but all the same that's a lot of moths. Next most common was Dark Arches with 89.

My assistant liked this one.

Garden Tiger

I'm struggling with brown Noctuids. Small Square Spot, Square Spot Rustic and Ingrailed Clay are causing me difficulty. The hardest ones are the dull, worn or just indistinct ones, I'm ascribing most of these to Small Square Spot but I'm not feeling ultra confident. Some Ingrailed Clay seem clear, when they have black rectangles in the wing, but those without are very similar to Square Spot Rustic to my eye. I think the brighter, fresher, slightly broader looking ones that are a rich brown are Square Spot Rustic. When sorting through a lot of moths in the trap these are the ones that cause me the most difficulty.

Square Spot Rustic

Small Square Spot I think

Ingrailed Clay

Dotted Clay

At least Dotted Clay has a consistent feature, the two black spots at the tip of the fore-wing.

I think this one is Small Square Spot but I could easily be wrong ....

This one is Ingrailed Clay I hope.

and both of these are Small Square Spot perhaps (Blogger is insisting on putting some of these pix in on their side etc and I can't seem to correct it for the moment...

Other new ones for the garden today were Antler Moth, Small Dotted Buff, Common White Wave and Common Marbled Carpet

Small Dotted Buff

Common Marbled Carpet

Unknown identified as Bright-line Brown-eye

A few birds have been seen over the last few days, Red-backed Shrikes and Little Stint so no trapping tonight, I need to get out and about.

Monday 19 July 2010

Airspace ticks today

Both Fulmar and Bonxie made garden airspace today. The Fulmar was a bit creepy maybe. We were eating lunch in the sun outside and all of a sudden a Fulmar swung in low over the rookery, the rooks weren't there it being the middle of the day and now the young are fledged they are off over the fields, our garden is strangely quiet. Now other than those sitting distantly on the far side of Loch Harray I reckon to have only seen Fulmar twice before from the garden (Harray being the only landlocked parish in Orkney) so a low flying one was of interest, however it didn't just make one pass but about twenty and each time it seemed to be lower and closer to us, no we weren't eating either fish or bits of plastic, Fulmars' preferred grub. Anyway, in the end it vanished.

The Oystercatchers on The Shunan had been quiet all day but just after lunch they started on getting up fairly regularly. Each time they get up, pleep a lot and then disperse before gradually circling in back to The Shunan roost (about 100 at the moment). The cause is nearly always a threat of some sort, Grey Heron yesterday was exceptional (not common here at he moment) because over the last week it's been skuas that have caused this most of the time. Arctic Skuas have been present regularly but this time it was a Bonxie and it eventually headed directly over the house and garden at just above roof height. A couple of hours later another, or the same, did exactly the same thing, on precisely the same track.

Yesterday evening's mystery Phyllos did not reappear today.

On the moth front I was rather careless emptying and checking the trap, partly because the girls were "helping" (wanting to handle each moth and let it go). So I'm pretty sure I released a Plain Golden Y without a photo or checking it properly, a vagrant here, oops. New today was Lesser/Common Rustic. However, venturing out this evening with the net I seem to have caught a different carpet, currently in the cooler so I can examine it properly.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Moth pix from 12th

Gold Spot - see From the notebook for the reason why.

Sooty Wainscot - I've checked the underwing, dark grey

Burnished Brass, common here now

I think this and the browner one below are True Lover's Knot

Not sure about this, haven't researched this carefully enough, Small Rivulet, maybe?

I caught a lot of these, some size variation. I reckoned Small Square Spot but at Shetland Misfit Steve thinks these might be Square Spot Rustic, help appreciated. I'll try and post some better pictures after tonight's trapping (weather permitting).

Loch of Bosquoy, Arctic success (nearly)

A visit to Loch of Bosquoy this morning found a bit of interest with breeding birds. The small Arctic Tern colony of about 8-10 pairs has certainly got two young close to fledging. These birds do not seem to go to sea to feed, they seem to stay fishing over the loch or on nearby Loch Harray, near the Merkister is a favoured spot. I must check in BWP if this is especially unusual, I thought that Arctic Terns were marine dependent, unlike Common Tern. There may be more than two pairs iwth young but they are very hard to see in the long vegetation. There was also a first summer bird present.

A further two broods of Tufted Duck chicks were located, very small, certainly less than a week old. Three Pochard will not have bredd there though. Despite all the Shoveler and Pintail activity earlier in the year I can't seem to locate any of these two species, let alone indications of breeding success.

A Common Sandpiper near the east end behaved as if it had chicks and a brood of Pheasant were flushed. Just one pair of Mute Swans have chicks, with four in tow still.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Sooty? Or sleepy

I looked at the weather at 06.05 and aborted my planned trip to Westray this morn. Good tactic as it turned out - 3 extra hours in bed and a garden tick. Venturing out once the rain had stopped (to dig the greenhouse foundations) two Swifts flew over the house and a Greenshank called repeatedly from The Shunan.

On the tern track a visit to the Birsay Arctic colony, fingers crossed, drew a rare tern blank but ... two fledged juveniles, excellent(ish) so 40-50 pairs have reared 2 young to flying. The numbers of loafing terns has decreased dramatically, there were significantly fewer terns (20 ish) compared to yesterday even, let alone the 170 of a fortnight or so ago.

Two Arctic Skuas and a few cruising Bonxies - no doubt these two species are completely beggared this year. I would be amazed if they have fledged any young.

Back at home no sign of any of the hoed for crossbills, I'd better put out more attractive food ..

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Back home

Got home on Monday evening and immediately got the moth trap going as the conditions were perfect.

Tuesday morning as I approached the trap I was met by a thin stream of escaping Magpies (moths) and Silver-ground Carpets. Getting there I realised I was going to have my work cut out, there were Burnished Brass, Beautiful Golden Y and more of the afore mentioned Magpies and carpets around the outside and good numbers of micros. Today, Wednesday, I still have some to identify. I'll post some pix and a list later.

On the Shunan yesterday were 6 Black-tailed Godwits, still present this morning. A Sparrowhawk visited the garden twice and an adult Arctic Skua entered airspace flying over the house and garden in the afternoon.

The trip away was not a birding or mothing enterprise but Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was found in some numbers at two sites and some, hopefully, useful Atlas records were noted.

Friday 2 July 2010

My first rare

No not this one, which I think is Middle-barred Minor, although it doesn't seem quite right. But another moth from Tuesday night, Peppered Moth (see photo below) was the second county record, the first being found on Hoy in 1996. Nice.

Male Hen Harrier feet from through the garden today, a Kestrel hovering directly over the house (what's on the roof then?) and the afore mentioned tern disasters were the other noteworthy features.

Arctic Terns - gloom and (maybe) doom

Loafing (and copulating) Arctic Terns Birsay

Went and checked the Arctic Terns at Birsay again today. At the weekend I'd counted more than 40 chicks, today I could see 5 and suspected that there were another 2 or so out of sight. There were 170 or so Arctics sitting on the rocks, loafing, not a good sign. So it seems this colony is on the way to failure, as apparently are most others. Adults were feeding the surviving young, some with more enthusiasm than others but they were bringing very small fish fairly infrequently. In amongst the loafing adults there were 18 1st Summer birds and one 2nd Summer.

Inland Arctic Tern colony Bosquoy

On Bosquoy the small inland Arctic Tern colony also included a good number of loafing birds, maybe 16. There were a few birds bringing fish and heading into the long grass but I saw no chicks. These birds feed pretty exclusively on fresh water fish from what I've seen but that strategy doesn't seem to be working either.

On a more positive note there were 7 broods of Tufted on Bosquoy today and a very recently hatched brood were holding up traffic on our track as they walked in that general direction.

Tufted brood on the track

I omitted to mention the Black-tailed Godwit that was on The Shunan yesterday. Today Kestrel and male Hen Harrier hunted around the garden and The Shunan.

Mothing yesterday evening (net only) produced a couple of Sandy Carpets amongst the plethora of Silver-ground Carpets. Meadow Browns and Common Blues were out at Birsay today.


House points

Help with this gratefully appreciated, same above. Snout, thanks Andy and Sydney.

Currently trying to build up my supply of house points for birding later in the autumn or some extreme mothing. Thus not too much to report. A Sparrowhawk in the garden caused the Swallows some alarm. Big catch of moths Tuesday night including Peppered Moth which is listed as a vagrant here. Also a couple of things I'm really struggling with one of which may be Minor Shoulder-knot (no decent pix as yet) but the other I have not a clue.

A bit of a resurgence of Sandy Carpet as a prowl around the garden just now easily found two.

Peppered Moth (2nd Orkney record - excellent)

Small Square-spot