Tuesday 31 December 2019

Year end

Christmas Eve was brightened up by a new bird for the patch, Snow Goose. It hung around for part of Christmas Day too before heading off up Durkadale and then to Shapinsay apparently.

Also on Christmas Eve the final moth of the year, Depressaria radiella on Louise's jumper in the house, it could have come in on the bought flowers.

I haven't worked out the final tally of things for the pan-listing 1km sq but I've certainly enjoyed it and learned a lot. Nowhere near 1,000 species for the year, I might guess at 350 maybe. This total included at least two species new for the county and several that have only occasionally been recorded in the past. I've learned that adult caddis can be identified and with online help I've started to make progress identifying them. The new FBA guide that I got for Christmas will help me take these further.

Agrypnia varia 

I've rekindled my interest in beetles, found a good number of nice new species for me and again obtained some excellent support from the main online forum the FB UK Beetles group. I've discovered that the Staphylinidae are possible and now I have the keys I hope to take these further (I might need a better microscope). I've had a go at a few more Diptera, tricky beasts but some very helpful support both locally and online.

Ctenicera cuprea

New birds for the old Shunan patch, Gannet - a sadly injured bird on the North Biggin Rd that had likely flown into a fence; Jack Snipe - long overdue and found elsewhere on the Patchwork area; White-tailed Eagle - again overdue but this one almost got on the "in the garden" list as it flew low across the fields, nabbed just as I sat down outside on my return from work late one afternoon; Long-tailed Duck - one on The Shunan for a couple of days; Snow Goose - see above.

One new mammal as I recorded Common Pipestrelle this October. Missing was Otter which despite Louise seeing just outside the recording area and my seeing water tracks of a presumed female with kits on the track I failed to see. All other mammals present and correct although Brown Rat and Pygmy Shrew were only recorded as corpses.

An amphibian, Common Frog recorded three times, on the second occasion one crawled up my trouser leg as I lay in the grass looking for water beetles. In ten years not recorded here previously.

Several new moths for the patch this year including Dun-bar and Catoptria falsella which was new for the county.

Catoptria falsella

Targets for 2020 are - to do better with plants, and keep up-to-date with my notes and photos a bit better. Happy New Year.

Monday 23 December 2019

Christmas shopping

First day of the holiday and an early start as our migrant from Cornwall needed to catch the plane out to Papay. On the way in to Kirkwall good views of a drake Surf Scoter were obtained. And Louise found a heating engineer who solved the oil flow problem with the Aga, so we will now, hopefully, have an oven for the cooking business in two days time.

A few photos from the last few days including a non-rocking Arion from Yesnaby, so theiretically not A. ater.

 Arion sp Yesnaby

Loch of Harray this morning.

Stromness at night


Dusk from home or thereabouts.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Apples Pt 2

A couple of interesting bits of behaviour. So yesterday afternoon when it was sunny (not warm tho) the Waxwing left the apples for a while and started flycatching, sitting in the top of Sycamores and even on the house roof once, using these vantage points to launch itself at flying insects. These will most likely have been the Winter Gnat Trichocera regelationis which would seem to be the only thing of any size on the wing at the moment (not a confirmed ID),

The other thing this bird has been doing is being very possessive of the apples. There is a Blackcap here at the moment which is also partial to an apple, but despite there being three on sticks the Waxwing is inclined to chase it off, in the end the Blackcap resorted to feeding on the apples on the ground.

Saturday 30 November 2019


I've been putting apples out since late September I think, they've not done badly for Blackcaps with another one today. Louise thought she had a Barred Warbler one day when I was at work, that would have been nice to see.



Starlings can eat a few apples when they arrive en masse.

The target species has always been Waxwing. Until a few weeks ago there hadn't been one in the garden for a couple of years. However, one flying over nearby was followed by another fly-over but this time over the garden. It didn't stop for the apples tho. However, yesterday a bird arrived while I was at work and it reappeared this morning.

Monday 18 November 2019

More Chiffchaff business

The above photos are of the morphing Chiff that was in the garden for the day on Sunday. Initially it seemed to be another tristis/fulvescens type, particularly on the initial brief views. Then mid afternoon I relocated it outside the garden in good sunlight amongst the Rosa rugosa. At first it again looked brown but as I watched it the morphing thing occurred. The bird flew into some dense Rosa and emerged looking just like a collybita Chiff with lots of green tones on the breast sides and tail. The bird then proceeded to hover and flit in the tops of the Swedish Whitebeam, just like collybita Chiff. My experience of tristis type birds is that they don't feed like this and are slower moving and pick at leaves in low vegetation. At this point I reckoned there had to be two birds present and recorded it as such. The bird managed to evade me. However, watching from the kitchen window it was refound ten minutes or so later and I snuck outside the back door to capture the above photos. The bird differed consistently from the birds the previous week in having bright green edges to the primaries and secondaries - a feature that I believe would put it more in the tristis camp than fulvescens. However, whilst I watched it it on occasion morphed again and on some occasions more brightish green tones were apparent, just like collybita. I adjusted the record to one bird at this point. There are features for and against each form but I am tending to collybita. As well as the green tones and behaviour: the supercilium is not all that strong and does not really flare behind the eye, the eyering seems stronger than the supercilium, I would expect tristis to have a more uniform darker bill with fewer pale tones. The bird did not call, they tend not to here at this time of year, unhelpfully. I've put it in Birdtrack as collybita but it may well be tristis.

 Rhytisma acerinum on one of the last Sycamore leaves (the two dark spots).

 Shag and Snow Bunting at Northside.

Monday 11 November 2019

Some garden birds

On Friday as I was cycling to work, and just before I fell off, a Waxwing flew over, just outside of the home patch boundary annoyingly. However, all was made well the next day as one flew over the garden in a repeat performance. More annoyingly Louise described a Barred Warbler rather well that had briefly been on the apples on Friday afternoon, whilst I was at work. No repeat performance for that. Briefly there were two tristis/fulvescens type Chiffs on the patch on Saturday, I do like these things, although they never seem to call. These two were identical and were feeding together for the ten minutes or so they were around.

Tristis type Chiff

A new Blackcap appeared and spent both days stuffing its face with apple, still feeding at 16:20 on Saturday when it was nearly dark. Last week's ones had been females.

Blackcap male

The run of Siskins continued, another singleton.


I didn't bother to go for the Blue Rock Thrush, a 35 minute drive, or the Stellar's Eider, still a bit mobile. I probably would like to see the eider but I'm hoping it might be a bit more settled and reliable. Not keen to spend a whole day out with no reward. There are probably two Snowy Owls on the islands as well but negative news of one and no news of the other didn't encourage an excursion.

Otherwise, nice enough calm weather, an outing to dance disco and a patch-up job on the big shed were all achieved.

Big waves at Marwick, late afternoon.

Saturday 2 November 2019


A day or so back at work and a blinder of a bird turns up on Westray, well done SA & DO. And for the weekend the weather is absolutely foul, even if the boat was going (I haven't checked) no way would I even think about it. Possibly there are two Steller's Eider as another (or the same) was reported from the Shapinsay ferry. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2850517034959647&set=pcb.668960050178906&type=3&theater&ifg=1

 Meanwhile, having ventured out twice and got soaked both times I'm sitting at the computer, theoretically adding records to iRecord (I am so, so, so very far behind with my data). Actually, I've been playing with Spotify, buying some waterproof trousers that might, possibly, be waterproof, trying to identify other peoples insects on Facebook (always a ready distraction) and investigating some interesting insect websites. One thing led to another and from an insect online and an enquiry I made I came across this site which I should have known about, brilliant resource for Scottish moffers - https://butterfly-conservation.org/in-your-area/east-scotland-branch

This led me to a wee shopping excursion - Anglian Lepidopteran Supplies currently have some interesting pheremones in stock. The one that I have tried in Orkney before and works really well is Emperor Moth pheremone, it is very effective and quickly demonstrates that this species, which is often hard to see, is very common in the county. Somewhat madly perhaps I have invested in two clearwing pheremones as well, one for Thrift Clearwing and one for Welsh Clearwing. Both these species are perhaps possible here. (Take a look on the distribution maps from the site above.) Clearwings are very difficult to see without the use of pheremones, the only one I can recall seeing is Lunar Hornet Moth (on Arran, not here). April to June is the time for Emperor and June and July for the two clearwings. The pheremones keep well in the freezer so even if I have no luck here I may get the chance to try them south somewhere next year. ALS tend to only have the pheremones in stock once a year as they suggest, "When they're gone they're gone!"  https://www.angleps.com/pheromones.php?fbclid=IwAR2f3JYTCM_YNueGlN0jU33y7kZDeHb2afrnA1ICAkTuZd9OqOJgnTC7vO0

 Nothing much to report on the home front other than aweful weather today, lovely earlier in the week when i was stuck at work, mostly. I have managed to add Chiffchaff to the patch year list (yes, this is the first for the year) as well as Woodcock. More surprising was a species added to the "ever" patch list which was Long-tailed Duck. I have been told of one here which I missed but not seen one myself, so nice one.

 Long-tailed Duck, female.

I've also been trying to identify fungi, they are hard. Even the ones that look easy are hard.

 So, are these Xylaria polymorpha (which is what I think they are) or Xylaria longipes? Apparently to be sure I need to measure the spores under the microscope.

The Wee Wood is about 500m from our house, it's in our deeds which is rather lovely.

Early this morning as I drove to get younger daughter from a party a Wood Mouse ran out from the Wee Wood and back again, another species for this bioblitz site.

Friday 25 October 2019

Monday 21 October 2019


I noticed a post on Orkney Scarce and Rare FB of two Waxwings in Finstown and as I had to go and get shed mending bits thought I'd have a look. Parked car, walked the few steps to opposite Baikie's, could hear Waxwings but not see any, looked back at the car, I'd parked directly below them. 7 at first. Then they flew to a nearby garden, fortunately a colleague's place so a knock on the door got me prime viewing opportunities. 17 seemed to be the top count but I expect there will either be more or none tomorrow. My colleague thought there had been a couple about for a day or so. Also 20 or so Brambling there. (Thanks EH.)