Wednesday 30 March 2022

Snow - spring? - critters.

Woke up this morning and snow was on the ground and more throwing itself from the sky. That's a change.

In the last week or so light traps have been out on a few occasions, and caught: Acleris hyemana, Acleris heracliana/ciliana (3), Hebrew Character (4), Depressaria radiella (2). Also around and about have been more Depressaria radiella and Brown House Moth in the garage. Best though, and a lifer, Sword-grass in the LEEK lure trap today. This species and this lure have some history apparently.

Tried to make this Acleris heracliana ss but advice sought and has to be A.h. s.l. especially at this time of year.

Hebrew Character, common but smart.

Male genitalia of the caddis below.

Grammataulius nigropunctatus - caddis.

The most exciting capture from the light traps, on two consecutive nights was the caddis Grammataulius nigropunctatus, probably out six weeks earlier than it should be.

I've been reading about pheromone trapping, my only experience previously has been using EMP lure for Emperor Moth, it works very well indeed. Over the winter I looked into some lures and sourced some traps. Last week I tried the SKI and FUN lures, not expecting much and not catching anything. I then read that the Leek Moth lure can be good for Common Quaker, well at least I'd be in with a chance. So I ordered some and put a trap out when it arrived. I had low expectations but had a really good outcome with Sword-grass found in the trap yesterday evening after it had been out for two days and a night. A macro moth tick at (just about) first go!

Sword-grass, the white tarsi on the hind leg are a good ID feature. This species has some form coming to this lure I've subsequently been informed, thanks NV.

The pitfall traps around the dead hedgehog have continued to produce beetles, Philonthus marginatus, Bisnius puella and Philonthus polita as well as Thanatophilus rugosus. Two of these at least are new, I'm not sure about P. polita, I might have recorded that previously.

Bisnius puella.

Philonthus polita (thanks for correcting HS).

Philanthus marginatus, an easy Staphy.
Thanatophilus rugosus.

There's also been Melinopterus sphacelatus in the garden, in one of the other traps, not seen that here very often, although common enough down in the pony fields and at the fields at Birsay Links.

I had a bit of a rummage through the poo at the Links the other day, as you do. Plenty of the above mentioned M.sphac and also good numbers of Aphodius pedellus.

Aphodius pedellus. Not quite sure if this image shows the ID criteria at the tip of the elytra quite clearly enough., field photo, in the poo.

Whilst at Birsay Links I was searching for the "other" kelp fly, C. pilipes which I still haven't seen. However, this rather striking Dip was found.

Orygma luctuosum, generally around washed up wood.

Elder daughter came home for a rest and managed to find a tick on the dog. I managed to remove it without mangling either the hound or the tick and then tracked down an ID key. It was just the common Ixodes ricina but as I'd never attempted an ID before countable as a new species, not nice.

Ixodes ricina, a female.

Much more attractive there were a few Small Tortoiseshells last week.

There have been some birds, Pied Wagtail was new as was Common Redpoll. The Brambling have been hanging around with 20 under the feeders today. The Rooks have 43 nests/bundles of sticks and 80 to 90 Jackdaws are coming to roost each evening. It's noisy here all the time, Rooks, Oystercatchers (200 regularly), Curlew and Redshank all making a lovely racket. Out on the coast there are still white-wingers, two Ice and a Glauc at Birsay yesterday, along with four Snow Buntings.

Female Sparrowhawk with Feral Pigeon prey.


Lesser Redpoll, Common Redpoll (probably) and Goldfinch.

Glaucous Gull, 4cy.

Iceland Gull 2 cy.

Not a bomb! Fishing debris I believe, keeps the net on the bottom, until, like this one, it doesn't anymore.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Warmth - insects.

Tonight I've put a Heath trap out, a bit optimistic and later in the week may be better, but it has been warm and sunny all day, and there have been some insects. Three Small Tortoiseshells, a Helophorus grandis, a Honey Bee, a Bombus lucorum s.l. a large queen and amongst the Aleocharinae a decent Staphy beetle, Anotylus rugosus, which is new for the patch and me. This was in a colour tray trap.

Bombus lucorum s.l. could be B. magnus, on the other hand.

Anotylus rugosus, TG4 down the microscope lens.

A quick inspection outside has revealed Depressaria radiella on the kitchen window and a caddis which escaped me on the outside of the Heath trap.

Tachinus rufipes, from litter sample.

Earlier in the week this common Staphy, a bit awkward to ID, turned up in the litter sample. Also in there was this Megarthrus depressus which is also new. I've caught it before I reckon but misidentified it, this being a male was more straightforward as the pronotum has an additional angle on it.

Megarthrus depressus, male, annoyingly the key feature is nearly covered by a bit of gunk on the pronotum.

The other beetle in there was Cartodere bifasciata which I've found once before, minute at 1.5mm. A smart little beastie tho.

Cartodere bifasciata.

I found a dead hedgehog in the hawthorn hedge. So, brought it home, put it under a cage and set a couple of pitfall traps. Bingo, another Catops. I even managed another dissection and got one of the parameres out with the aedegus. This confirmed it as new, Catops tristis.

Catops tristis.

Aedegus, unfortunately I didn't get the paramere in the image, but it was long and fine and fell well short of the tip of the aedegus. Pretty sure these features confirm this as tristis.

So all round some decent beetling. The Amscope is really proving its worth with beetles. I've also been having a look at Collembola though. Some can be done with a stereo microscope or a good image but for quite a few a compound microscope is needed. 

Isotoma sp, dorsal and ventral.

This Isotoma is quite large for a springtail at 3mm, unfortunately there are four species in the genus and you have to be able to see how many pairs of teeth there are at the base of the furca, the springy bit. I don't really understand the images that explain this, it could do with some good diagrams. I had a go at enlarging the image.

Possibly I can see a single tooth which would make it viridens, but it's not clear enough.

Really you need to make slides of the furca and then examine with a compound microscope.

There are plenty of Collembola in the garden to practise on anyway.

I did my WeBS count today, a couple of days late but no wind. The ducks all hide in the vegetation when it's windy anyway. Seven pairs of Pintail, quite a few Pochard and lots of waders on territory made for an optimistic outing. There was a Great Tit on South Ronaldsay the other day, one here would be a red letter day.

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Green stuff.

I don't usually bother with the aurora here. Despite what you see on the photos all across the web it rarely looks much to the naked eye and it nearly always fires off around midnight or later. However, I do have the alert app on my phone. On Sunday the alert was on all day, a yellow alert so not a big deal, and not a lot of use when the Sun's in charge. It then dropped to green (no aurora) so that was that I thought. Watching the footie (bril' results for both the Irons and Leeds, so household peace guaranteed) I had the phone nearby and the aurora alert went off a couple of times with a high orange level (not far off red); more interesting. I grabbed the EPL and a tripod and went outside. There was a bit of a glow and then a couple of faint searchlights showed to the north. A bit of a wrestle with the camera, not set up for night time images and I'd not got the manual focusing engaged and forgotten how to do that. Anyway, I did grab a few pix and then quickly it was over and back to a dull green to camera, and pretty much nothing to the eye. Anyway here's what I got, well processed to be fair.

This on a bright, moonlit night, so harder to get really decent images.

If it had been properly dark it might have been quite good just to the eye, but I've seen that very few times in 12 years here.

Spring continues to march on. The first Siskin of the year followed that redpoll the other day. Redshanks are now around and straight on to territory. There's a bit of thrush movement going on as well with a few flocks of Fieldfare through and some Redwings. 

Frog spawn and a dead hedgehog by the hawthorn hedge, as well as a more usual one squashed on the road are other wildlife events. The hedgehog is now a lure for beetles in one of my pitfall trap sites.

And an Iceland Gull at Marwick on Saturday.

I've managed to pull a muscle in my back, cutting firewood I think. Restricting my somewhat already limited flexibility, Louise needing to be dragooned into putting my socks on for me. There are times when it is really bloody annoying being old. So macro photography in the field currently a tad limited.

Saturday 12 March 2022

78 days.

So I've been looking for new species for 78 days, since Xmas Eve 2021 and I have 55 in the bag with a few more pending. 310 to go. Two good - this is in the winter; only one new vascular plant in those. Two bad - that's 55 easy ones (on the whole); where am I going to get more easy hits? (Look in the fridge, there are quite a few tubes from the last couple of years with unidentified things in there.)

I have done this all going out on my own, well, Louise has helped and found a couple of things. The Field Club outings will likely be a way of adding more. Enlisting some help to find things... BH I'll be knocking on your door! Looking at beetles, which I really enjoy identifying, and Diptera which I find hard, but help is to hand. I've got some new pheromone traps and lures. I should put a permanent yellow water trap in the garden, the pony water added the Catops. Load up the lagomorph corpse lure and set the pitfall traps. Actually, I have a load of schemes, but further ideas gratefully received, except please don't tell me to look at grasses, they kind of do my head in! (I do know about twenty common species, after that they are hard.)

Aedegus - penis which should nail the ID.

Catops chrysomeloides one of my favourite newbies so far.

This has been a very, very smelly place to live recently. The farm put some piles of cow shit in the field next but one. When the wind wafted a gentle SE a few days ago, the sunny day, one of three this year when it was still and sunny; it was pretty strong. To be fair when it blew the following day they got on and spread it and then ploughed rapidly, it could have been worse, but it was mighty stinky.

Of course poo and ploughing bring gulls, hundreds of them. Unfortunately I failed to dig out a new patch tick. I had a possible Med Gull at dusk on Thursday but I just couldn't nail it. No pix, too dark.

A nice thing happened. One of my photos has been used on the cover of a book. 

The cover price is £3.99, let me know if you would like a copy, I think 1st class p&p will be £1.

Tuesday 8 March 2022

A bit of birding.

I do go birding most days and check the 1km patch at least. The other day I was feeling a bit rubbish and after mucking out the pony gave it a miss. I'd a good Birdtrack list for the previous day. There have been some nice low tides in the afternoon in the last week so afternoon I headed out to mooch about on the shore. More of those things later. I got home just after five, light fading, looked at the birding What'sApp. "Pale-bellied Brent Goose, The Shunan" an hour earlier. Expletive! That's a patch tick. Scooted down the track at double speed and there it was, in virtually the same place as the last patch tick, which I also didn't find (although that was by a matter of seconds). 

Pale-bellied Brent Goose, with Greylags.

I was pretty sure I'd checked the geese in the fields thoroughly the previous day. And it certainly wasn't here yesterday, it had gone, so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about it and accept the tick for the patch. Slightly irritating though as very few other folk come birding here and it was visible from the kitchen window if I'd picked up the bins and scanned the geese. Perhaps it arrived while I was out? Or not.

In the bird world spring is arriving apace. Black-headed and Lesser Black-backs are present daily. There are two pairs of Shelduck on The Shunan, at least three pairs of Pintail, a pair of Gadwall and Red-breasted Mergs and Tufted are investigating. Song Thrush has appeared and is singing. Yesterday there was a Lesser redpoll on the feeders. The Chaffinch / Brambling flock is dissapating but there are still up to 40 or so hanging around, some around the feeders and some in the hawthorn hedge or down on the Bosquoy stubble where there continue to be at least 80 Skylark, although they are spreading out and singing, they'll be gone soon. Follows gratuitous images of garden birds taken through the boiler room door window.

Brambling, male, one AL ringed months earlier I'm guessing.

Chaffinch, female.

Lesser Redpoll, male.

Starling, female.

The 365 challenge is moving along ok (to find and photograph 365 species new to me between 24/12/2021 and 23/12/2022). I have a fair bit of data to add to iRecord with folk generously helping with ID of seashore things and Bryophytes (thanks especially BH). I've also been pursuing lichen ID a bit further. I'll get my iRecord data up to date shortly and then see where I stand, bearing in mind I'm 74 days in. Sometimes when I go through photos I find things I'd not really noticed in the field or had just taken a couple of casual pix of without much thought. A few seaweeds have been added by doing that. A photo I sent off to a marine expert came back with comments about a species I hadn't noticed in the field and hadn't seen for myself in the image, I now need to go back to the site to see if I can find it again and photograph it properly.

Some of the more interesting things are pictured below.

The liverwort, Conocephalum conicum. There is another similar species that is a split that also occurs here.

A goose barnacle that might be the less common Lepas anserifera, slightly tricky ID. Note all the Hydroid strands around it. Found on a yoghurt tub that has come all the way across the Atlantic.

The yoghurt tub was in a bag of rubbish we had cleaned off the Borwick beach. Louise must have picked this one up. I went through the bag for recycle/not recycle before we went to the tip the other day (let's not get into why we don't use the refuse collection "service", and the tip is on the way for the fortnightlyish shop), and bingo. 

The previous Sea Lemon (a nudibranch) Louise found was moribund, so I went back to Borwick and found another. Again it was on a rock, so following advice I popped it in the water.

Back at the Links beach a further nosy around revealed this weird and wonderful creature. 

Phyllodoce mucosa or maculata, unfortunately the photo doesn't show the key ID feature.

I really had no idea what this was. However, various folk made suggestions and a paddleworm with an egg mass was suggested. Someone suggested a particular species pair and with a bit of research I thought that suggestion was correct. I'm still unsure if this is an adut worm with its eggs or a juvenile worm with its egg food source which it will injest before becoming truly independant. I needed to photograph the head to get a specific ID so it can't be counted in the 365 but a fascinating thing nonetheless.

I've found the lichen that was new for the county the other week at another site now. There is at least a third species in the genus that does occur here, I'm unsure where to look for that one, I don't think it occurs on mollusc or crustacean shells, although it might do. I might have images of it already of course, further research required.

Three species here, the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides, the lichen Collemopsidium fovealatum and the one I found new for the county the other week Collemopsidium sublitorale, with the larger black perithecia. I'm a bit like Osi Umenyiora with this 2x and 3x (NFL joke).

Here's a moss to finish off with. It lives underwater largely in fast flowing burns which is an interesting niche, and a surprising one I think.

Platyhypnidium riparioides.

Bird report sections to write for the 2021 report so i suppose I'd better go and get on with it....