Sunday 28 October 2018

North Ronaldsay

A few days on North Ron to celebrate a friends birthday and to do a bit of birding.

We stayed the first night at the south end, in the bird observatory and then moved to the lighthouse cottages.

Sea watching was good to start with Little Auks and Sooty Shears which I didn't photograph. I did photograph some gulls passing though.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Brown sea gulls

Herring Gull

 Nice big moth light

 There was Rosy Rustic, Large Yellow Underwing, Depressaria radiella mostly on the window ledges on the way up, not sure how they got in there. Surprisingly the bulb is less than 300W.

Croues, the round structures were built to keep the frost and wind off young cabbage plants.


 Purple Sands

Ringed Plovers

Snow Buntings

Old Light

North Ronaldsay sheep, broken boat

There was a Bluethroat around here somewherewe couldn't find it though.

This may be Eupeodes luniger but unfortunately unidentifiable to species, it's slightly odd.

Later in the week there were lots of redpolls including some Arctic type things, but I was back to work by then.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Moth stuff, weird happenings

At the end of September I was working over on Hoy, an unusual time of year for me to go there but we've changed our field trip schedule and shifted the groups and times of year around, fortuitously for beast recording as it turned out.

 Ruby Tiger, Hoy, 27/09/2018

For the first day on the island with our Primary 6 group we were running the show, handing over to the outdoor education instructors for the second two days. I'd taken a load of containers over with me and it being a decent afternoon we decided to walk to the Dwarfie Stane ( ). The students were given the instruction to capture any inverts they found in the provided pots and give me a shout so that I could photograph and release the captures. I hadn't quite expected the response I got as within a few metres of the Outdoor Centre caterpillars were found in some numbers. I'm only a learner with larvae, I've been making an effort this year to try and find some and identify them, largely with the help of the brilliant UKMoths website ( ), various caterpillar Facebook pages (and their very helpful members) and the colour guide book by Jim Porter. I knew some of the cats being found were Ruby Tiger but the majority, huge orange/brown, hairy beasts were a bit of a mystery. However, a quick internet search and I realised that these were Fox Moth cats, rather different looking from the early instar ones I'd found in West Sutherland during August.

 Fox Moth - West Sutherland, early August

Fox Moth, Hoy, Orkney, 27/09/2018

Several of the students had quite quickly gathered a "football team plus reserves", as one of my colleagues termed it, of caterpillars. So fearing that we were about to decimate important populations I called a halt to the collecting of Fox Moth and Ruby Tiger cats and we managed to release Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen teams safely back to where they belonged. We walked on to the Dwarfie Stane where the White-tailed Eagles performed very nicely for us. A few other interesting beasts were found as well including Broom Moth cats, a couple of the Chrysomelid beetle Galeruca tanaceti, an odd looking thing.

 Broom Moth cat

On the walk back a small group of students worked with me and we counted every caterpillar we saw on the way back to the Centre. 212 Fox Moth, 32 Ruby Tiger, 2 Garden Tiger and 3 Broom. That was in around 3.8km of path and single track road. It did seem that the caterpillars congregated on the road edge, perhaps because it formed a barrier. There were quite a few squashed in the road, particularly Ruby Tiger. I have been told that Fox Moth has never been recorded as an adult in Orkney, it has only been recorded on Hoy and on Flotta in the county. So I'm set to wondering how to follow this up. A trip to Hoy on the first sunny, warm day next spring would seem to be a first step, Fox Moth over-winters as a caterpillar, suns itself in spring then pupates. But I'm also led to wondering if a pheromone is available. It would be good to record the adults.

Other strange goings on have been the late records of some species, I recorded Small Square-spot a week or so ago. Another was recorded in late September in Stromness where a Square-spot Rustic was also recorded recently. 

Sunday 14 October 2018


A couple of days spent going birding a fair bit and taking a load of photos. Autumn has arrived, the trickle of Redwing from Wednesday turned into a rush on Saturday and continued today. Louise had two Hawfinches in the garden on Friday, I dipped. However, a Yellow-browed Warbler on both Saturday and Sunday made up for it and a nice Med Gull at Palace was a reward for scanning through the gulls. NFY in the garden was Blackcap, sadly dead at Northside was a Storm Petrel.

 Eider feeding close inshore.

 Part of the mass of gulls, also feeding on the kelp and other seaweeds blown inshore.

 In the end I decided that this Med Gull was a 1cy, it is suggested that the lesser and median coverts are hidden by the scapulars.

Old hoose, Northside.

Sunday morning before the cloud cleared.

Bosquoy sheds

 Sycamore leaves with a little Rhytisma acerinum.

Sycamore trunk with Nectria cinnabarina.

 Redwing, no pictures of the Yellow-browed Warbler, autofocus refused to get it sharp and I was too slow with the manual focus.

Yesnaby, Sunday p.m.

Sunday evening.

The actinic is out, it is a tad cool but a single Brindled Ochre early evening might promise better things (like the probable Chestnut that I allowed to escape the other evening).