Monday 28 February 2022

Too many beetles.

On Friday I'd booked to attend the Tanyptera Trust's talk on Staphy beetles, to find that it clashed with the talk I was giving on Chrysolina latecincta intermedia. Darn! Fortunately the Tanyptera Trust talks are recorded so once they've put it up I can tootle along there and see what was what!

I missed out a beetle thing from the last post. Next to the grey plastic box on Birsay Links there was another long distance traveller, a bit of tree. I gave it a fair bit of scrutiny, and as well as 1,000s of collembola, Anurida maritima, there was a Staphy beetle. Unfortunately, it's a beetle I've found once before, associated with the seashore, but it's a nice thing anyway.

Long distance travelling tree, species? You can see ship worm holes. Rolled it to find lots of collembola and beetles.

Anurida maritima.

I took a couple of specimens of the beetle, but I should have recognised it from the field picture with the yellow edge to the recurved margin of the elytra.

Cafius xantholoma.

Today, Lesser Black-backed Gull finally turned up. And, after yesterday, the first spring-like day of the year (mostly), a pile of Black-headed Gulls arrived, calling and making a general racket. There was even a pair of Lapwing  half-heartedly displaying yesterday, a migrant flock today. Also three pairs of Pintail, always nice to see.

Saturday 26 February 2022

A cold wind blows...

I don't have that much to do with people these days. From the intensity of my job, always working with people, to not seeing very many people at all. My job was about steering a path diplomatically and sensitively amongst and between people, occasionally I  asserted authority. I don't do that anymore, but I do find it odd when people behave outside of my experience. (Putin, obviously, but I may post about that megalomaniac on The Many Days.) The Groups on Facebook and my "follows" on Twitter, because of where I "live" on the web, generally behave in very expected ways. It's unusual if someone does anything outside of the protocols. But this week someone did, and I found it annoying, indeed, it bothered me considerably. The annoyance passed and I found a way to navigate my way by. And then, the very next day, it happened again, in person. Someone was rude, and I would judge, at the very least prejudicial. I have good expectations of people, I expect the best from them, so it's always a disappointment, and it bothers me, when someone falls below that expectation. Fortunately it's a rare thing.

That doesn't seem to have much to do with my usual subjects on this blog. But it does connect closely to the things that interest me in other spheres, generally found on The Many Days. However, NatureBang bridges the space inbetween. I've really enjoyed these fifteen short programmes and find the jump from biological fact to philosophising about such things as "what makes me, me?" fascinating.

I've spent quite a bit of time on the beach, particularly last weekend and early in the week. The winds, which have been persistent have blown interesting things this way. From a Columbian milk bottle to pelagic crustaceans. Unfortunately I can't count the milk bottle as a species.

The bottle was found on Borwick beach, near Yesnaby. Whilst I was there I also found a Sea Lemon, well, to be fair, Louise found it. It took quite a bit to work out what it was, and it was perhaps not especially fit. However, Doris pseudoargus is a new species.

Whilst at Borwick I also had a look at limpets. I've been trying to find the lichen that lives on their shells, it lives on a number of mollusc shells and on crustaceans as well. I took a few photographs but when I got home and looked them over I wasn't that convinced.

Patella vulgata, you can see the lichen on the larger shell.

These black specks are the perithecia and I thought they were a bit large for Collemopsidium foveolatum, the target species. I speculated C. sublitorale.

So, not being convinced I went out again, to The Links Beach and at low tide walked out amongst the rocks. This time I took a barnacle sample. Getting the sample home and looking under the microscope I realised I had something else, perhaps a bit more exciting as it really did look like C. sublitorale, and that would be new for the county.

Collemopsidium foveolatum (probably s.l. these days but more on that in a mo').

The large black perithecia of Collemopsidium sublitorale.

Now here is the best of people. Email to the county lichen recorder who got straight back to me and asked for a few details. He then sent the photos and my additional comments and measurements to the specialist on this genus at the British Lichen Society who, within an hour or so, replied and I had my new species for the county, and for me, signed and sealed.

However, with regard to C. foveolatum, looks like both my samples, on the limpet and on the barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides by the way) are what is currently passing as that species but there is a paper on the way that may be splitting this species into a number of semi-crypto species. Not published yet though, so ... tick.

Now, whilst on Birsay beach I went back to the big, grey plastic box that we'd found the other day, covered in Lepas anatifera, the Common Goose Barnacle. Initially, I thought I'd got four species on the box, however, a bit of consultation, and some more experienced opinion (thanks MG) established that there were just two species, but one was new, so nice!

Lepas anatifera.

Lepas pectinata with hydroid passengers.

Lepas pectinata.

During the week I also learned a bit about limpets, and in particular that Black-footed Limpet does not occur here, despite what is on the NBN. The furthest north that species gets is the south side of the Llyn peninsular in Wales.

I also found that sea snail identification is even more complicated than I thought.

Yesterday, Skylarks sang, very late for a first singing heard. Of the expected "summer" visitors, Lesser Black-backed Gull is still absent.

The injured Glaucous Gull at Birsay, last weekend.

Friday, I did a short talk, 20 mins, online, about Chrysolina latecincta intermedia. It was for the Field Club. I think it went ok. The slides are going up on a page of this blog shortly.

Thursday 17 February 2022

The Brough of Birsay.

The weather was very lovely yesterday, no wind and some sun. After the fuel had been delivered and I'd stacked the best part of a tonne of wood pellets, no blown delivery here, we headed out. 


The Earl's (somewhat draughty) Palace, and Zanzibar, from the Brough.

I probably should have gone rock pooling but I fancied looking at birds. No white wingers this time.


The Fulmars had ababdonned cliff the other day in the wind, but they were back in force today.

There weren't many Shags about but this one was reasonably happy with a gentle, cautious approach.


Someone's been having fun with the beach stones.

There were just six Snow Bunts and they were not all that confiding but I managed to get a few pix.

Snow Buntings.

Other birds present were, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Skylark, Rock Pipit, Starling and Snipe.

We did have a bit of a nosy around on the beach and found the remains of Brittle Starfish, another starfish species, I'm not sure what it is, and various claws of crustacea which require some research. I brought these things home to photograph and haven't got around to it yet. I'd better soon as they are stinking the garage fridge out.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

The Knowes of Trotty.

The day after the last post I went out and saw two more Otters in two different places, Loch of Harray and Loch of Bosquoy as I cycled a circuit with mucking out in the middle: buses, Otters. 

The weather's been pretty shit but on Sunday it was good, if cold and in the afternoon we went to the Knowes of Trotty. A place just up the road where I'd never previously been. You can walk a circuit there which is always a good thing. It's a very wet place and there are lots of bryophytes and lichens and water plants. I collected a few mosses and lichens and ignored the water plants for now, really trying not to get overloaded with specimens.

I'm still working on the identification of most of these things, here are a few I think I know.

Sphagnum palustre I think.

The Knowes of Trotty is an important burial site, there's more info here -

And for Detectorist fans, there's gold in them there hills, or there was.

I managed to identify a few other things and have some samples to work on. Likely other IDs include Hylocominium splendens and Hypnum jutlandicum. There were some lichens as well, I think this is Cladonia crispata.

Cladonia crispata maybe. Field photo.

Cladonia crispata maybe, studio shot.

Saturday 12 February 2022


 There was a dead Otter some days ago on the main road, not far from the house. Hit by some vehicle at night, Louise found it when she cycled down to muck out that morning. I'll not post any pictures, it was not a pleasant sight.

Today, we went to the sea for the first time in a while, the weather has been grim and I've been decorating; bathroom done, started on hallway. The whole house has got a bit grotty, it pretty much all needs doing. Anyway, not expecting much, and there were not that many birds, there was an Otter where there sometimes, very occasionally, is one. I managed a few pix, a couple of which were ok I thought.

Lutra lutra.

It's always a bit of a treat when you see one. It's not that they are especially uncommon here, but they are not that easy to see. 

I've continued to collect and then try to identify some bryophytes, it's not that easy. Fascinating to see the life that is hidden in amongst the microfoliage. Looking at some vascular plants as well. I thought I'd done well to get this pond plant to Water Star-wort, the trouble is there's a few of them and they're tricky to ID. Opinion is that this may be either Callitriche hermaphroditica (Autumnal) or C. brutia ssp hamulata (thanks JC). I'd identified it as C. hermaphroditica provisionally, not wholly appreciating the complexities of this genus.

Studio pic.


From above the water.

Equally frustrating was the Collembola that I found with it is also a tricky ID requiring a compound microscope approach. Isotoma, either viridis or aglicana, most likely.

Isotoma sp.

Anyway, a trip to the moor did get me a couple of species. A liverwort and a moss.

Jungermannia gracillima, Crenulated Flapwort.

Polytrichum commune var. commune, Common Haircap.

A species of moss I've seen many times, but never identified.

Bolstered by these successes I had a bit of scurry about in the burn by the bridge at the hawthorn hedge. I came up with a liverwort that lives up to its English name of Greasewort.

Aneuris pinguis, Greasewort (thanks BH).

And the last bryophyte of the week, still unchecked but I think I'm right. I got into the base of the hawthorn hedge and found this which I think is Hypnum cupressiforme.


Hypnum cupressiforme, Cypress-leaved Plait-moss.

The first Oystercatchers have turned up on The Shunan, so spring must be here! Also Meadow Pipit and Linnet added to the home list this week. A wee drive past Yesnaby found three Iceland Gulls in the popular fields, a 2cy, a 3cy and an adult. And there was a nice flock of 80 Twite near Loch of Skaill.

There was a weak aurora on Thursday night, we had cloud when it was likely at it's strongest and there was little to see by eye but the camera picked up a feint glow.

I've decided to resurrect the "Aground" project. I've been eyeing up these two for a while. Grimsay Isle, the larger one and Minke.


And a few landscape shots from the week.