Tuesday 28 July 2020

A walk

I fancied a walk on Hoy and Louise suggested going up Cuilag which sounded ok. I've not been up there before and it is a relatively straightforward thing, so I thought.

There was a certain lack of communication around route. I had expected Route Orange, indeed I thought that had been agreed. Apparently I had agreed to Route Blue, I don't recall that. In the end Route Green seems closer to the actual walk. Whatever, it was a bit of a way and we were all totally knackered by the time we made it back to the boat (with, it has to be said, time to spare, there was a point when I had thought we might struggle to make the ferry time).

Masks were worn on public transport as required.

First time we have been off Mainland for a good while.

M found this nice Northern Eggar cat.

We went up to Berriedale, the most northerly natural woodland in the UK I believe.

Downy Birch, Aspen and Mountain Ash predominate.

There is some Oak either within Berriedale or nearby but that will be for another day to search for, time was tight.

Just above the woodland, on the moor, there were Large Heath butterflies, a single Common Hawker and Pterostichus niger.

As we got higher there was more and more prostrate Juniper, walking through a Juniper forest even.

Juniper amongst the grasses and Ling.

We headed for Sui Fea, Mountain Hare was seen (introduced here), numerous Bonxie were ever present, 16 Twite flew over and there were more Large Heath.

Louise found (breeding?) Red-throated Diver at the top, where there was a Kestrel (very uncommon in Orkney).

Heading for Cuilag we were subject to a persistent but half-hearted Bonxie assault, I suspect it's young had fledged very recently.

 From the top.

 At the top.

Going down was a bit of a trial, steep.

Emperor was found at the bottom.

Emperor Moth cat.

It started to rain and the mist came in.

Cuilag is the one on the right.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Tiger targets

I went to Yesnaby on my own for the day, bit of a late start but by 11 I was heading south and for the hills. It was sunny and relatively calm, target species Wood Tiger and Green Tiger Beetle. Both of these are a bit of an ask, Wood Tiger is very uncommon here (although I did have the location of a fairly recent sighting) and Green Tiger Beetle has been recorded from nearby Hoy but not from Mainland.

Yesnaby, looking south from Stany Knowe.

I went past the main Primula scotica site where there were plenty in bloom and the withering Mountain Everlasting. Sat on the top of Stany Knowe for a bit doing some distant sea watching, looking for cetaceans, but found a flock of six Arctic Skuas which was smart.

Pale phase Arctic Skua.

I headed inland and eventually reached an area near the head of the Burn of Lyregeo. 14 Golden Plover around the pools. I turned west to head down the burn. There was Staphylinus erythopterus. There were swathes of Bog Aspodel. Plenty of Large Heath butterflies.

Staphylinus erythopterus.

Bog Asphodel.

The Bog Asphodel was buzzing with hoverflies and the occasional bumblebee. I saw Bombus jonellus but failed to get a picture. Lots of Eristalis intricarius and a brief Volucella. I noticed a very small beetle on me and managed to pot it. Stuck the pot in a pocket.

Headed down the burn. Wild Angelica, always good for insects, more elusive bumblebees, a few small hovers, Eristalis sp. I wandered around some bare sandy ground looking for the Green Tiger Beetles, and something small caught my eye.

Andrena sp bee.

I only became aware these occurred here a few days previously when I saw photos of a very similar animal from Hoy. Unfortunately, there are at least two possibilities of species, maybe three; A. coitana, A. clarkii and perhaps most likely A. tarsata - thanks SF and JC for help with the id.

I shot two frames and it flew. I searched around and found it, or another, two more frames. But another hour of searching revealed no further sightings, and no Green Tiger Beetles either.

Headed around Lyre Geo, Puffins and Fulmars with chicks. More Large Heath butterflies and a few Meadow Browns.

On more Wild Angelica there were some Tenthredo arcuata agg, some Amblyteles armatorius and a Tree Wasp, Dolichovespula sylvestris.

Large Heath.

Tenthredo arcuata agg.

There was one more surprise. I headed for our favourite spot to sit down by the sea. Theoretically to seawatch but I was soon distracted by these small potter wasps buzzing around me. I've wanted to see these here for ages, I think they've become more common of late. Very hard to photograph, it took me about an hour to get anything useful.

Ancistrocerus scoticus.

The real prize is to find the wasp that parasitises them, they are like little jewels, but no sign in the hour, another day.

Home, past Common Blue and the Primula again.

But the story's not quite done because in my pocket is that very small prize. Some research and the next day a good few photos. I had trouble believing I had a Coccinellidae. Most Coccinellids arrive in Orkney via people, in their cars, with their furniture etc. There is a small colony of 10-spot Ladybirds in Kirkwall and, 11, 14 and 16-spot are in the database with a single record of each. I'm aware of records of 7-spot and Harlequin in recent years, these are the most likely ones to be brought by people.

Hyperaspis pseudopustulata.

This is a very uncommon species in Scotland with just a handful of records, and new for Orkney. Indeed there are relatively few records in iRecord for the UK, just a couple of hundred. It is apparently a very hard animal to find. So I'm mighty chuffed.

Last thing. A couple of interesting micros in the moth trap. One turned out to most likely be Celypha lacunana, just a small poorly marked one. However, the other was much more interesting. Fourth county record of Epinotia nisella. So all round a cracking week.

Epinotia nisella.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Natural surprises

The thing about this interest/hobby/obsession is that you never know what's next. So a glance over the bridge at Palace and a rare sight, at least for me, an Eel.

Anquila anquila.

The only time I've seen these recently has been as they've disappeared down a distant Grey Heron gullet, so this was a treat. As a child and teenager I used to fish for them, very tasty fried in butter in a biscuit tin lid (I wouldn't do that now).

We wandered on to the beach, admired the many adult Dunlin, Grey and Common Seals and then headed back. Glanced over the bridge again. This time there was a Brown Trout and, delight, a shoal of Minnow, an Orkney tick.


Brown/Sea Trout.

Today we went to Yesnaby. It's a favourite place and we have some spots we habitually wander around. There is a large Primula scotica colony that we regularly visit in spring (but not this year). I'd thought I wouldn't see them in flower this year, although there is a second flush. One particular area away from the main colony we have searched in the past and failed. Today, without thinking about the plant we stumbled across eleven, that was kind of exciting, they are a wee gem.

Primula scotica.

This morning the moth traps yielded a nice surprise, in the last trap, after checking all the egg trays, in the bottom was a pug. I didn't expect much, but I like pugs, and had caught Ling Pug earlier, fairly regular here. Once in the pot, I realised this was something new, Foxglove Pug, excellent!

Foxglove Pug NFS.

Sunday 19 July 2020


I went up towards the moor to count butterflies but got distracted.

 Common Blue

 Large Red Damselfly

 Leucozona lucorum

 Magpie Moth
 Rhingia campestris

 Sericomyia silentis

 Volucella bombylans, pair mating

 Amblyteles armatorius

 A St John's Wort sp

Syritta pipiens.

Then, evening light at Skaill Bay.

A small death

The title of Samantha Crain's album which I'm listening to as I type but also the sad end of a potentially beautiful animal, killed before its first flight.

Curlew 1cy.

There have been a good number of Curlew pairs with chicks around us this year, they will nest in hay and silage fields though. The field was cut yesterday. Our attention was brought to the small tragedy by the Bonxies and Hoodies in the field, arguing over the corpse. By the time I got to take the photo there was little left. They don't stand much chance with modern farm machinery, it's big and fast.

On the positive side one of the Bonxies certainly looked like a 1cy (this year's bird), which is encouraging as skuas are having a pretty grim time.

Sowing Yellow Rattle seeds.

Collect Yellow Rattle seeds now. Rip up a bit of turf and scatter some seeds within. It worked last year and we're starting to get it established. As well as the large area of uncut meadow, full of Orkney Voles but also great for all sorts of insects we're not cutting some fairly large patches of the "lawn", or at least cutting higher and a lot less. I'm trying to improve the plant diversity of the meadow as well, Yellow Rattle helps with that as it parasitises the grasses weakening them and creating gaps. Encouraged by the Adam Frost led episode of Gardeners' World last night, gardens could provide so much more wildlife habitat, there was some good guidance on the programme.

A good patch of Cat's Ear in the "lawn".

Some good news, surprisingly the Arctic Terns are breeding at Skiba Geo, despite apparently deserting the site they returned late and perhaps ten pairs are now breeding with chicks seen today. There appears to be plenty of food, it will depend on the small numbers holding off the skuas and gulls. We saw fledged young from the Skaill colony during the week.

The sky was extraordinary earlier in the week and I had an attempt to see the comet, Neowise. Failed in that but watching the moon rise was, er, cosmic. The cloud was just blobbed on top of the comet I think, this Tuesday is looking possible, no cloud hopefully.

2 a.m. looking NE, noctilucent clouds in the background.

I stayed up through and closed the light traps at about 03:30. 240 moths of 39 species and a fair variety of other things. I'm building up a bit of a backlog of Caddis to ID.

I'd swapped the traps around as I wanted to see what was most effective. The wee Heath trap with the synergetic is probably my most effective trap. The Robinson running a less bright round synergetic with a black light is ok though, I ran that off a battery at the Wee Wood. Earlier in the season when I have run the Robinson with an MV it hasn't done that much better. I'd like to put vanes on the Robinson, I think that might improve it considerably.

Nothing spectacular, a few new for the year, last night's Pinion-streaked Snout is probably the best moth of recent days.

Pinion-streaked Snout.

I've discovered that dissection and fancy solutions are not necessarily essential for gen det on caddis, this helps a lot. I've managed to get a few things to species with more certainty. Here's a new one for me.

A male Limnephilus rhombicus showing the diagnostic genetalia.

Had a bit of an attempt at some sawflies as well. These are not quite as impossible as I thought but there seems to be quite a lot of conflicting information. With some genera it is difficult to be confident about identifications, especially when sites such as Nature Spot and Steven Falk's Flickr appear to conflict (I'm inclined to go along with SF). 

Anyway this one is good, found dead in our pony's water a couple of times.

Pachyprotasis rapae, a fairly straightforward one.

They are certainly attractive insects.