Monday 22 February 2021


 There was a report of a Great Tit at nearby Binscarth Woods midweek. Sunday morning dawned bright, a bit too bright for me really, dazzling in the February air, so a trip to the woods was tempting. Parking at Refuge  Corner and walking in via Loch of Wasdale made more of a morning of it (Binscarth Woods is large by Orkney standards but a large copse by most others) and the dog got more of a walk via that route. Three Buzzards were displaying over the distant hills, but all seemed to be Common. A pair of Whoopers were on the large pool before the loch.

Whooper Swans.

Slightly weirdly there looks to be a Canada Goose (rare here) in the background, but it's just a female Mallard with light catching it. Then on the loch itself there were more Whoopers, Mutes and selection of Wigeon, Teal, Tufted and Goldeneye. 

Out of the brightness and into the woodland. It didn't take long to find a small flock of Chaffinch and Goldcrest and very quickly I noticed a familiar shape, but it was a bit small. A better view and it was clearly a Coal Tit. I have seen Coal Tit in Orkney previously, they breed on Hoy some years, but I'd not seen one on West Mainland. I stayed with the flock for half an hour or so and in that time I was sure there were two, and maybe there were three. No Great Tit though, I might have another go next weekend.

Coal Tit.

As another local birder commented there may be some interesting breeding records in Binscarth this year. That made me think it might be worth some excursions listening for roding Woodcock, which have bred here, again on Hoy, in the 80s. There were certainly plenty of Woodcock there a few weeks ago when I went for a tramp in the less trodden parts.

Next stop I came across this.

Bracket fungus.

Local enquiries led to this being seen by others but so far not identified. 

Tonight it was clear and the data suggested an aurora, but I couldn't see anything and didn't find much on camera by the time I'd worked out the settings on the PEN.

Looking north where the aurora ought to be showing, even in this bright moonlight.

Looking south.

Some colour and blooms in the garden, it seems amazing after the freeze up we've had.

And a view to finish. From the garden, Sunday late afternoon.

The Histeridae/Sphaeritidae/Silphidae book arrived today. Really nice job, well presented and an interesting read, from my quick dips in this evening. The blowfly book looks a good one to get as well, I was having a bit of a go at these last year, and then there's the sawflies of Europe, a tad more expensive.....

Have found the problem with the camera trap, the memory card is caput, I wonder if it got wet when I've been messing about with the camera outside. Ordered some new cards anyway, hopefully they're the genuine business and not fake ones.

Saturday 20 February 2021

Aurora not.

 Earlier this evening a fairly powerful aurora should have been in view according to the data, however, thick overcast and rain here so nothing to see. It is clearing, but the aurora is currently fading.

Went to Yesnaby and walked, took some pix, more lichens to think about. However Louise did find this...

Ruby Tiger cat.

I was also keeping an eye out for early Chrysolina intermedia (a very smart and local speciality beetle), but no joy. Probably a couple of weeks or so too early.

It being warm, but a tad windy and with some rain, I've put an actinic Heath trap out, nothing so far. However, I did look on the house walls and found two woodlouse species.

Porcellio scaber.

Porcellio spinicornis.

Louise reported seeing frogs on the roads yesterday evening, unfortunately this was the one I found today, one of us hadn't been paying enough attention.

Rana temporaria - ex.

Driving down carefully mid-evening today I did manage to see a live one.

Three Pintail on The Shunan today and two geese went over calling which I suspected might have been Tundra Bean Geese. Later on I had a look at Bosquoy where there's a flock of about 200 Pinkies, however, no joy. I guess the two could have been Pinks as the calls are not dissimilar and I can't remember when I last heard Bean Goose call (other than a recording). Otherwise, Oystercatchers were upto 12, Coot down to 32, Chaffinch to 17 and the Brambling appears to have gone (or been predated).

This week I have been listening to: Aimee Mann, Alabaster dePlume, Rozi Plain and revisiting a couple of Don Letts programmes.

Monday 15 February 2021

Snow's gone (pretty much).

 Indeed, it was a lovely day and surprisingly warm. Surely there might be some invertebrates about? Not many it has to be said but Oniscus asellus with lots of young I think, a beetle larva (a wild guess at Nebria brevicollis), a pile of Cornu aspersum frozen to the pots L was clearing out, and the odd earthworm that I chose to ignore. 

I'd meant to put a light trap out but forgot, however a wander with a torch found these in cop Winter Moth.

I might try to put a trap out tomorrow. In the torch there was a single Green Cellar Slug up a tree but a lot of the woodlice.

I had another look at the dog lichen, Peltigera. In the past I've thought it was membranacea and although that has been questioned a look today still led me in that direction although someone who actually knows something about lichens might disagree! I might try posting it on the lichen forum.

I must get myself some video editing software, I'll have a look for something shortly so although the actual interesting bits are rather short I've posted the whole 30 seconds.

The first one is Brown Hare. I think the bird in the second one is Jack Snipe, I'm swithering but I don't think it has a crown stripe and it seems peedie.

This is a seriously rubbish video.

I photographed more lichens and some mosses today but whether I'll be able to identify them...?

Anyway the rooks were straight away eyeing up their rookery on such a lovely day, a week or so and the first sticks may be collected.

Saturday 13 February 2021

Snow drifting (bad language alert).

 So, I'd already had to dig the car out once, and we needed a tow. Going down to sort the pony out, fine until we got to the wee pony road. Drifts are kind of hard to see as well, the depth of them. Anyway, we got stuck. Shovel out but it was slow work. Reversing and forward etc. etc. in 4WD, we made some progress. Fortunately, neighbours to the stable came out with their full off-road pickup and pulled us out. In the meantime younger daughter had scooted down to the pony and had been offered a help, so we extricated ourselves and went home.

But it's jag day. News wasn't good, roads blocked and cars stuck or off all over the place. However, come 11 and I decided to give it a go. Older daughter offered to come for the ride, moral support, so we headed for Kirkwall.

Here we are battling the weather (with apologies for someone's language but a she's a tad nervous about driving through the snow after an altercation with a wall a few years back ). (Clip actually shows trip home as we forgot to film on the way out.)

 Accompaniment - Loyal Carner.

 Other travel listening: My Morning Jacket - Waterfall.

Again I stop the waterfall by simply thinking
Again I stop the waterfall before my breathing
Again I stop the waterfall by finally feeling
Again I stop the waterfall by just believing

A bit disappointing if it is a metaphor because otherwise it's beautifully nuts.

On the way out the Oystercatcher, or another, was hanging around The Shunan. Clearly a day length driven arrival and not related to the balminess of the weather. On return I took the dog across the fields to move the camera trap as the forecast is predicting more snow and heavy rain, it was in a vulnerable spot. A male Hen Harrier hunted the ditch by the track, a Sproghawk along the Hawthorn hedge, there were two Pintail, a Shoveler and a Goldeneye on the tiny open water patches of The Shunan, along with 27 Mallard, 50 odd Teal, a few Wigeon and the Coot pair who were back to establish their territory.

Last week they were administering the Oxford vaccine here, but I got this one - COVID-19 mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 (Pfizer/BioNTech). Arm aches a tad, and maybe I'll feel like **** the morn, but I'm fortunate to get it this early. It's hard to understand why all my colleagues are not being vaccinated as a priority, instead we're all being given a three week supply of the flow test, not the best plan IMHO.



Brown Hare.

A few more camera trap videos before I moved it. It's now in a new location and I'm hopeful of interesting results.

 Here's a video of the Common Snipe that was feeding outside the kitchen window last Saturday, before we got more snow. It did appear again a few times after the snow but there has been quite a clear out of Snipe. Apparently to the coast as 120+ were reported from the Brough of Birsay, midweek.

Roaming around here at lunchtimes and early afternoon midweek, at home due to snow closures, Jack Snipe and Woodcock were much in evidence, not a lot but I was seeing them each time I went out. None today though, maybe they've retreated to the coast as well.

From there intially, after the snow, being lots of species, there are now rather few. Hen Harrier and Sparrowhawk still somewhat in evidence with brilliant views of Hen Harrier today hunting along the ditch in front of the car. However, spring is here as I recorded Oysetercatcher today, first on The Shunan patch for the year.

The powder snow fell on Sunday and the wind was calm. This resulted in remarkably clear tracks remaining for days.

Brown Hare.

And hare again.


Otter road.

Reed Canary Grass.

Tree shadows, hare tracks.

Most striking is how many, or maybe, how very mobile, Brown Hares are in the local fields.

I paid a visit to the one Alder on the patch today. I suspect it may be a wild tree, most trees on the patch are certainly planted, generally being Sycamore and Swedish Whitebeam. The few Ash are amongst the Sycamores, I'm not sure about those but suspect they are planted. However, two of the few Wych Elms are perhaps wild, impossible to know, they look pretty ancient. The Hawthorn hedge was no doubt planted, although I suspect it could be a couple of hundred years old.

Alder Tree.

Lichens on the Alder include Ramilina fraxinea, R. fastigiata, R. farinacea, Xanthoria parietina and Physcia apolia. Someone with more than my minimal knowledge could probably add another three or four species.

My call up has come for my jag. Madly, nothing to do with my job, just because of my many years (well, quite a lot anyway). I have no reservations about this, and my behaviour will not change because of it. My worry about the programme is that it will impact on behaviour, time will tell I guess.

Just finished watching It's A Sin. Extraordinarily sad and moving. Another disease, same issues: fear, ignorance, misinformation (mad, crackpot, invented "remedies"), a struggling health service, officialdom and the police sometimes/often behaving undemocratically and bizarrely, prejudice and bullying (particularly this), dying alone and isolated from friends and lovers, and more. It brought it all back but it was compelling TV.

This week I have been listening to: Benjamin Clemantine, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Kathleen Edwards, Beatchild and Ghostpoet.

Starlings feeding on over-ripe peach.

The farm spread sand on top of the snow (to raise the pH), it looked odd.

Sunday 7 February 2021


It's been frosty for a fortnight and last night it snowed enough to leave a fair covering. Unusual here, the last time this happened was winter 2011 - 2012 I think. If it carries on too much longer both Wren and Stonechat populations will be significantly reduced.

There's been a fair bit of cold weather movement with Redwing and Fieldfare involved over the weekend and during the week. Lapwings drifting past in ones and twos yesterday and today. A single Black-headed Gull went through, that's early; up to four Song Thrush hanging about and Woodpigeon numbers building up. Down at Loch of Bosquoy there were six Oystercatchers.

The cold has disrupted the Snipe and they're all over the place, even on the front "lawn". Jack Snipe on Saturday, just lucky observations, seen in flight a couple of times.

Top two Saturday, after more snow Sunday, bottom one.

The feeding station is full of birds, Greenfinch numbers are low with just 6 today, but there have been upto 27 Chaffinch, there were 13 Goldfinch on Saturday and 10 Lesser Redpoll today. Add to the that the usual Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Robins, House Sparrows and occasional Feral Pigeon and Starling invasions and that gets to be a lot of birds. So attacks by both Sparrowhawk and Peregrine on Saturday were not unexpected. A couple of Hen Harrier sightings today.

Lesser Redpolls.

The Teal do not seem happy about the weather.

Surprisingly there were three Pintail on Saturday. Shoveler are still evident, but the prospecting Coot and the Little Grebe have disappeared.

I'm still trying to identify lichens and fungi. They are a challenge. However, managed to find Flammulina velutipes (Velvet Shank) and Tremella mesenterica (Yellow Brain) over the weekend, both on gorse. Rubbish pictures though, and I even went back and tried again with the Flammulina...

Flammulina velupites with Tremella mesenterica above.

As for the lichens I'm stuck on some Cladonia, I tried the K test on one today which appeared to be +ve yellow/brown in might mean that's C. polydactyla, equally it may not be.

Harray Kirk, Saturday.

Home and the Wee Wood from the south.

Wee Wood in a blizzard.

Pesky lichens I'm still trying to figure out, one of which is very common and I really should know.

Ochrolechia parella - inner tube lichen, thanks G.

Cladonia, K+ yellow/brown.

Loch of Bosquoy today.

This week I have mostly been listening to Rozi Plain, Benjamin Clemantine, Bicep and Caribou. Currently grooving with the Don (6Music). 

Looking forward to the new A Winged Victory to the Sullen album Invisible Cities. Not looking forward to a visit to the dentist this week....

Harray Road, late morning today.