Sunday 23 April 2017

Uuurrrrggggh - weather

It just got worse, but there were migrants at Palace and Boardhouse Loch: White Wagtail, four Swallows, nine Sand Martins, two Wheatear, three Bonxie. The Lesser Scaup was present on the loch with Slav Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup and Red-throated Diver.

Back at home there was just time before the hooley to plant the alpines, sow the sunflowers and perpetual spinach and tidy up a few bits and pieces. No sign of the Bullfinch sadly.

Rather old tractor, Palace.

Enjoyed this recently.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Bullfinch - dip

Early this afternoon there was a male Bullfinch in the garden, but briefly. Louise saw the swanky show-off feeding on the lawn, eating Nyjer with the spuggies, when I arrived home a couple of minutes later it was gone.

I'd been out counting rooks and then walking in Orphir. All very nice but I would have liked the Bullfinch a lot, not a common bird in the county, I've seen two I think whilst we've been here.

 GND digiscoped

Earlier this week at work some of the children found this which I think is a hoverfly larva. A Tipulidae more likely, thanks Lee.

Monday 17 April 2017


Over the last few days a few migrants have been in evidence - three Chiffs and a singing Willow Warbler (with a Grey Wagtail) at Binscarth; a Swallow at Howaback; a Whimbrel, two Ruff and a pile of Pintail at The Shunan.

Queen bumblebees (probably B. hortorum) have been frequent in the garden, a Hebrew Character was in last night's moth trap.

I've been busily counting rooks, more info here...

Fourth Bonxie for the year on the home patch

Primrose and Marsh Marigold

Hebrew Character

Lesser Redpoll

Brown hare face

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Gardening and driving lessons

Getting on with the garden, although at times the weather isn't helpful, especially today, seriously horrible. Earlies are in and pink fir-apple tatties are half done. Have been having a serious fight with the wee flower/insect garden, trying to get invasive grass out. Have dug out a new soft fruit bed for raspberries and currents, pretty much given up on the strawberries with the conclusion it is just too cold and there are too many slugs (and blackbirds).

One of the things about doing the garden is that you do come across wee beasties that would other wise escape unnoticed.

I think this is Discus rotundatus

There were plenty of Cepea hortensis which are an attractive thing, probably also eat our plants mind. Also this caterpillar which I'm still trying to figure out, maybe a Diarsia sp. Pterostichus macularia again, this time in a bucket in the garage, released into the garden.

Having cleaned all the feeders and moved them around to new sites I thought I had solved the disease issue with the Greenfinch, but there was a bird yesterday showing the symptoms of Trichomonosis (it could also be Salmonella). If this continues I may stop feeding anything but Nyjer.

Interestingly the five birds I have recorded with this condition have all been males and looking around the web this is mentioned elsewhere and explained by the males being more dominant at the feeders.

There has been a decent movement of Pink-feet with some good sized flocks through here at home and at Palace. The first Bonxie was behind the house on the edge of Birsay Moor on 6th and one went through the garden the next day. Two Sand Martins at Loch of Boardhouse on 9th were the first "real" summer birds. - To be continued, going out for lunch...

Continued 13/04/2017


 Digi scope of 380, interesting how they were so compact on the water, I wonder if there was a Peregrine around somewhere.

Plenty of these around, perhaps 10-12 in the fields around the house

The other mammal of interest has been a couple of squashed hedgehogs, usual road kill.

Both of these are most probably hybrid crows, the right-hand bird certainly is, see the black feathers in the undertail coverts. I think the left hand bird has too much black in the feather tips of the nape and there may be black in the undertail coverts as well.

I need to update the hybrid crow identification guide which I wrote a few years back as I have some new information and some more photographs.

Stonechat still evident, not sure if they are paired and nesting though. I've just written a piece for the Orkney Bird Report on the species recovery after hard winters. I'll post the piece here once the bird report is published.

Ok, the driving lesson thing. Elder daughter is learning and we've got on remarkably well as I've taken the role of main tutor. Recent drives have included a fair bit of stop starting, hill starts? More like gull starts as I've had M stop whenever I've  seen a gull flock. We've turned up an Iceland and a Glaucous Gull this week.

Not the greatest pix, 2cy Ice near Stromness

 Usually at this time of year I'm spending hours on the track sorting it out, this year I have a wee bit of help... Never again will we be smashing the suspension two, four or six times a day as we head up and down. We are waiting now for the final surface to be applied, but it is raining a fair bit this week and I think they need a few days dry.

First of the year the other day and always good to see.

Today's walk at Northside.

Monday 3 April 2017

Finches and moths

Recovering from serious lurgy again which has put me out of action for a bit, other than staring out of the window; not entirely unproductively as Lesser Redpoll was added to the year total.

Other finches included four Siskins and a male Chaffinch. Up to four Goldfinch are still present.

There was a warm evening on 30th March and Louise found a Common Quaker in the garage. Somewhat more problematic is this micro which I'm not at all sure of, found in the kitchen the following evening. Initially I thought it might be Grapholita molesta but it has been suggested that is incorrect, any assistance gratefully received. (Grapholita molesta is a non-native species imported, usually on peaches.) Now correctly identified as Thaumatotibia leucotreta, False Codling Moth, usually imported on/in peppers or oranges.

Common Quaker

Thaumatotibia leucotreta, False Codling Moth
Grapholita molesta maybe?

The Rooks have been very busy and there are now 52 nests in the rookery.


The birds removed all of the Buddlia that Louise had cut down, quite comical watching them flying up ito the Sycamores with long spindly sticks.

A walk yesterday evening found two Barnacle Geese with about 1,500 Pinks just outside the patch and annoyingly not visible from within. Today a Sparrowhawk played the same trick at Palace, appearing just beyond the boundary as we walked towards Marwick. However, two Iceland gulls flying south together and a Carrion Crow amongst the Hoodie flock were some recompense.