Monday 31 December 2018


Grey, windy, big sea, its December in Orkney.

Agonum muelleri

Some of the day spent working through the backlog in the fridge. These were from two different sites, quite a common Agonum nationally, one from Northside and one from the garden.

Monday 24 December 2018

Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins Finstown

These had been around for a couple of days and I had a good opportunity to drop by on Xmas Eve. Initially I was confused to the identification which seemed to have been established without especially good images. I thought they looked too large and thought their steady cruising around was more typical of Bottle-nosed Dolphin. Their flank and head markings were very difficult to see in life and in some excellent movie footage by Raymond Besant. Some still photos were then posted that showed the required markings. I was very surprised how difficult the markings on these were to see, even through a scope. Key easily visible features were the dark edged and paler centred dorsal fins and a pale band over the beak. I've not often seen this species and when I have they've been super active, high speed, leaping out of the water, obviously slimmer than B-nD (which I've seen quite a lot of). So, highly educative and... don't trust size estimates (even comparing with nearby seals that were associate feeding misled).

Otter, the Shunan

As I headed off for the dolphins, I pulled up by The Shunan as I noticed a large lump where there shouldn't be one. It stood up and revealed itself. Only the 2nd time in nine years I've seen an Otter actually in The Shunan (which I drive or walk by a few times a day).

Flammulina velutipes, Wee Wood, Harray. (Thanks for the ID JB, which I had just about arrived at myself.)

Better include at least one half decent photo!

Saturday 22 December 2018


On holiday. No wind. Nice enough to sit outside.

I photographed some lichens on the hawthorn hedge on Friday. Had a go at identifying these, hopefully I've got somewhere close.

 Xanthoria parietina, the yellow one, and Ramilina fastigiata

 I think this is Ramalina farinacea.

 Ramalina fraxinea

 Usnea cornuta I think (subfloridana?)

Bryum sp (a moss).

Caloplaca maritima, this was at Palace, today (Saturday).

I stood by Mount Misery at Palace late morning today and the Snow Buntings were just flying around. I couldn't figure out what was causing them to be so unsettled. There were a couple of nice flybys, Oystercatcher panic, Peregrine stoop, but he missed the Snow Bunts.

There were piles of Rockits on the beach too, and some of the Snow Bunts were sheltering there later.

Next on to The Loons where there were 19 Greenland Whitefronts and two colour ringed Curlews. After a bit of an effort I managed to get pix so the rings could be read.

9X apparently

At Skaill I bumped in to the ringer of same Curlews who was quite pleased with the efforts. Unfortunately the hoped for Green-winged Teal did not put in an appearance and there were no WW gulls. However 328 Barnacle Geese were some compensation.

A quick walk around at home dug out some of the Goldfinch flock, there had been 10 yesterday, three Woodpigs, unusually, but notmuch else.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Northerly weekend

The wind swung to the north so a quick seawatch on Saturday morning produced a couple of Little Auks and a GND. A flock of 60 Snow Buntings appeared late on, flying by and later settled on the Links, about 60 I reckoned.

On Sunday morning the moth trap was disappointingly empty, no insects, nothing. Another visit to Birsay, this time to the Whalebone found Otters in Skiba Geo. In nine years of watching I've not seen Otter before at this site so a bit of a turn-up. I'm guessing the northerly drove them out of their favoured spot. A female and her kit I thought.

Skiba Geo looking south

Friday 16 November 2018

Night roaming

I caught a new moth, Mottled Umber. I'd not seen this species before but most likely because I rarely trap this late in the year and it is rarely this warm and still.

 I love the little, sinister face on the thorax.

Mottled Umber

Now I know this species is here it is worth looking for the flightless females. So out I went with torches and macro camera, looking on the Sycamore boughs in the evening just after dark. I found lots of slugs, Tree Slug  Lehmannia marginata, and Green Cellar Slug Limacus maculatus.

Limacus maculatus

Arion sp

And I also found this which is not meant to be here... Oligolophus hanseni (not found in Orkney before) . But possibly here because years ago my neighbour imported conifers from Aberdeen - further investigation required.

Note the dark hair on the central member of the trident, one of the key features.

Another new species for me found at the weekend was this cranefly Tipula pagana, the females are easily identified as they have these reduced wings.

Finally the night time hunting produced this minute and beautiful mushroom, Mycena sp

 Mycena sp

Saturday 10 November 2018

Little Egrets and Goosander

The Little Egrets at Loch of Banks were successfully ticked for the year. Nice morning at Palace, lots of birds but nothing remarkable.

At home the reason for an increase in Greenfinch became apparent as the bird crop appears to be attracting some things now with 50 Linnet in there today. 12 Greenfinch and three Brambling around the feeders today.

A late afternoon wander to Loch of Bosquoy found two Goosander on the bank, it is a favourite place for them though.


Reed Canary Grass 

 Mute Swans

New Moon

Moth traps are out but it might be a tad cool at 5C we'll see,

Sunday 4 November 2018

Helophorus species

During the summer, when it was warm and sunny there were hundreds of Helophorus beetles in our small barrel pond, and elsewhere, on my car one day! These were either H. grandis or H. aequalis and at the time I was struggling to identify these to species. The problem here was that the couplet in the key is about a small feature to do with shape. In the end I gave a specimen to LL who identified it for me as aequalis. Today I went back up to the trough where I'd found some Helophorus a couple of weeks ago, fortunately there were still some animals there. I took a specimen. Under the camera and microscope the id feature became clear, an evenly serrated edge to the final abdominal segement. And the reason I couldn't be sure of the id of aequalis in the summer, as I thought I couldn't see the feature.

 Evenly serrated hind edge to the last abdominal segement = grandis, irregularly serrated hind edge = aequalis.
The beetles were only in the bath and not in the nearby concrete trough.


Loch of Harray

A sunny breezy day. Bit of an aurora going on now.