Friday 20 August 2021

Westshore, Burray.

Went over to Burray to have a day looking at things in BH's Orkney garden. The main target was to see the hoverfly Cheilosia bergenstammi which I've been unsuccessfully searching for over here in the West but BH sees them each year in his garden. Close to the end of the season for this species, indeed the latest date BH has recorded them is 19 August.

At least it was still and the drizzle ceased pretty much as I arrived. Fortified by tea and biscuits we headed out. Mission was accomplished relatively easily with three of the target beasts located and photographs clinching the ID. So I twitched a hover, mmmm.

Cheilosia bergenstammi.

Whilst searching for the hover I came across a moth, it was flighty and having presented initially with nice open wings it subsequenty refused to do so again once I had the camera at the ready. I made some pretty pathetic, flailing attempts to net the beast before BH calmly potted it.

Shaded Broad-bar.

Best pic I could manage. Leastways it turned out to be Shaded Broad-bar, which I'd kind of suspected. An Orkney tick, at least, might even be a lifer.

Eristalis abusivus.

We pottered about a bit more, BH was taken by this mildew (I think) on Plantago lanceolata. I snapped it anyway. And we mooched along the seashore without a huge amount of enthsiasm.

It might be Podosphaera plantaginis, on some fairly superficial internet research.

We had a further circuit of the garden and this hoverfly escaped BH's deft potting skills. I got some rubbish pictures and although we got it to the correct genus we were somewhat bemused by its true identity. CS at the hoverfly scheme identified it as P. clypeatus agg.

Platycheirus clypeatus agg.

There were a few Sargus soldierflies about, flighty and awkward to photograph but I eventually got a few shots of this one.

Sargus flavipes, NFM.

BH then found a very nice and cooperative Tenthredo sawfly.

I think this is Tenthredo mesomela, awaiting confirmation.

BH showed me this fungal gall of Alder, it only infects the female trees. 

Taphrina alni, Alder tongue gall.

I photographed Microchrysa polita, which I don't see much of back West. 

Microchrysa polita.

And this nice bug.


Evacanthus interruptus.

 here's a leaf mine on birch, BH identified this as Agromyza alnibetula.

Agromyza alnibetula in Downy Birch.

Time for lunch and a very good Sweet Potato soup with plenty of chilli, fab!

After more tea and biscuits and armed with my trusty white umbrella it was time for a bit of bush bashing. At this point we discovered a difference in technique. I tend to go for it with a large stick and give the vegetation a good bash, sharp bashes on woody branches to dislodge stubborn beasts. BH takes a more measured approach, so being the guest I deferred. I was surprised at our success, maybe I've got this wrong.

In the first area we ended up with some weird larvae that bemused us, a good pile of cats and various bits and bats, this off Alder, Willow, Sycamore and Rowan.

Apparently larva of brown lacewing, Micromus sp, perhaps M.paganus.

Brimstone Moth cat, we caught a few of these.

These are Common White Wave cats I'm informed.

Mitopus morio.

We then moved on to the two small, but apparently quite old Downy Birch trees in another part of the garden. BH quickly spotted this very smart micro.

Epinotia trigonella, NFM I think, not many Orkney records.

And that was about it. A good day, main objective accomplished, some other interesting stuff found, can't get much better than that.

Common White Wave, later instar.

Wednesday 18 August 2021

The stuff I forgot and some more.

 A couple of fungal things to kick off with. A rust on Cocksfoot and a mummified Rhingia campestris stuck to a leaf.

Many thanks to LJ who has identified this as a choke, Epichloƫ typhina. Now I'll need to go and find out what a choke is...

Rhingia campestris fungal attacked by Entomophthora.


I do love a Great Brocade, product of SE winds.

There was a Bedstraw Hawk-moth up the road, not in my garden.

This may, or, may not be Depressaria sordidatella, if correct third county record, awaiting judgement.

Autumnal Rustic, first for the year.

Another NFY, Pink-barred Sallow.

The above two from today. A trap stuffed with Large Yellow Underwing, they do drive me a bit mad. There were probably 200 in there, I didn't bother to count. The caddisfly numbers have reduced substantially, to the point where it might be worth trying a trap down at the Wee Wood, a place where a light trap can be completely overwhelmed by them. Next week maybe.

I'm more and more interested in what else is in the moth trap, other than moths, the identification challenge with Diptera is currently a bit beyond me but I do know a few. The new soldierfly book is getting a few runs out. Of late I've been catching a few bumblebees, they are quite confusing to identify, especially as we have local variations which don't follow the "rules".

Above three all the same animal, either Bombus pascuorum or Bombus muscorum, I'm kind of favouring B.muscorum for this one.

This one from today perhaps more likely B.pascuorum.

Our roses have been decimated by a sawfly. Good job it's new for the county.

Endelomyia aethiops.

Thanks to SS for the suggestion of a fruit sugar feeding station. It's doing well for wasps if not so well for moths.

Vespula rufa.

...and flies, Cynomya mortuorum.

At a guess some sort of Muscidae.

Lucilia sp, when I've tried to key these in the past caesar seems the most likely.

Calliphoridae species...

Underwater, we haven't been swimming again as the weather's been a bit off but a bit of rockpooling the other day and we found a couple of Sea Hares, dead chuffed.

Sea Hare.

Sea Hare hiding in the Gut Weed.

Beaded Anenome.

Distant -

Close, some sort of hydroid I'm guessing. Coralline algal species most likely.

The rain has raised the level of The Shunan and messed up the wader watching. A Quail most likely called once at home, again not substantive enough, I need to get the noc mig gear out I think. However, the first juv Hen Harrier of the year, two more Hen Harriers on the nearby moor and more than 100 Sand Martin's hunting The Shunan have been very good to see.

Monday 16 August 2021

Unemployed, not.

So, in less than an hour now, as I write listening to the Don just after 11.00pm, my working life will end, my contract expire and I will be free(ish), if a tad less affluent. I've worked in education for local authorities for nearly all of my working life, since 1978 I think. I had a break in the early 90s when we lived in Kathmandu for a bit over a year but other than that it's been a full on slog. Not unenjoyable much of the time, interesting, challenging, but ultimately exhausting. I'm not going to witter on about it anymore now but marking the moment. Tomorrow I need to hand over my security and a hard drive and that will be that.

The new job is to have time to do this wildlife, natural history stuff better, with more time I should be more careful and accurate. Not make the sort of mistakes like this:-

Apolygus lucorum.

Unfortunately, because I didn't look carefully enough, I put this on iRecord as Closterotomus norwegicus, the Potato Capsid. Fortunately the verifier was on the ball and quickly spotted my error. A good catch as this may well be new for the county.

Closterotomus norwegicus, a real one.

C.norwegicus doesn't always have the two clear black spots on the pronotum, and the Hemiptera are an order I tend to neglect. Currently there a few light trap intruders in the fridge that I need to identify, I should get around to them shortly, and hopefully not make such errors. However, these mistakes are unavoidable at times, there's an interesting post on Not Quite Scilly discussing such things.

It's been a good few weeks with some nice discoveries. I confirmed that the 10-spot Ladybird is indeed breeding in our Wee Wood, finding two more larvae (only the second and third ladybird larvae ever found in Orkney) after the verifier was not keen on last year's identification, separation from 2-spot is nigh on impossible except by rearing through. However, 2-spot Ladybird has never been found in Orkney, and this time I found an adult as well.

Adalia deca-punctata, an adult (top) and larvae, two different instars I would expect.

 The ladybird book I have is excellent but the variation between the two larvae above would suggest that separation of larvae from Adalia duo-punctata is unreliable at best.

The Wee Wood also produced this Grey Dagger larva, so I can tick Grey Dagger now as theoretically adults are inseperable. In Scotland they should all be Grey Dagger and not Dark Dagger, however, Orkney has a record of Dark Dagger, I'm not sure of the circumstances of that, it would be interesting to find out.

Grey Dagger larva, interestingly still on the same Wych Elm leaf today, a week later.

Another denzin of Wee Wood which I was pleased with was this Sargus soldierfly. I'm reasonably confident this is Sargus bipunctatus (corrected to S. flavipes by Martin Harvey), another new one for me. The new book was a handy help with the ID.

Sargus flavipes.

Over the next year I have a target in mind of adding a new species to my life list every day, on average. That might be ambitious, I'm not sure. No harm in the aspiration anyway. It will keep me busy.

I have the intention of being more politically active as well, not in a party political way, I'm past all that now (I think). I've realised that I'm more of an anarchist than anything else, I really don't like anyone telling me what to do. In practical terms I guess some form of democratic socialism is the reality, however, campaigning and being a pain in the proverbial is an attractive way forward. Campaigning for the natural world and for rights perhaps, I'll have to figure it out.

Lastly, many thanks to AL for inviting me petreling this week. We caught 80 odd Stormies, including a Norwegian ringed control, and star of the evening a Leach's. 

From the top, Stormie about to return to the sea, Leach's and the Norwegian control.

On The Shunan the Blackwit flock has reached 21 before decling to 8 today. Four Ruff have hung around for the week, a Willow Warbler and Goldcrest were autumnal. A Merlin flew over my head in the garden and perched next door and the juv Marsh Harrier has shown a couple of times. As I came out of work during the week I'm pretty certain an unseen Bee-eater flew over calling.