Sunday 26 June 2022

Twitching a caterpillar.

Well, I was in Kirkwall anyway, trip to the tip, and getting a few supplies. NC had kindly invited me the day before when I mentioned I'd not seen Pale Brindled Beauty, I've never recorded one here, perhaps just a case of more effort required, but we don't have the range of trees and shrubs found in NC's garden. It is certainly a wacky looking larva.

Pale Brindled Beauty.

Whilst there I phtographed Mottled Umber cats as well.

Mottled Umber.

I didn't spend time hunting for hovers, although there are a few I haven't seen in the garden, a bit short on time, however, NC has very kindly invited me to return, and I might do so with a light trap as the Green Arches season is upon us, another moth I've not seen which occurs in her garden.

It's been a good week for moths with another new one, Anania fuscalis, flying in quite good numbers at Yesnaby on Monday. Yesnaby is a place to go to find day flying micros. This species has a rather vague status in Orkney, although apparently found a few times in South Ronaldsay.

Anania fuscalis.

There were plenty of Eupoecilia angustana at Yesnaby too.

Eupoecilia angustana.

And the first Large Heath of the year.

Large Heath.

The Bonxie situation at Yesnaby, where they used to be common breeders, was disappointing, no birds on territory. There were six Arctic Skuas on territory but it looked as if only one pair might have been doing much.

I had intended to botanise a bit at Yesnaby and I did take photos of a couple of sedges, not identified them yet though. However, Heath Milkwort was a plant I was previously unaware of. I know Common Milkwort, and found that, but in checking in the book realised that there was another species that I might be able to find, five minutes later, success (as long as the ID is correct, of course).

Heath Milkwort.

I also finally sussed out Sea Arrowgrass.

Sea Arrowgrass.

Yesnaby is the only place I've found Carabus arvensis in the past, I wasn't disappointed this time as one duly obliged.

Carabus arvensis.

During my wanderings I sadly found that the Short-eared Owls had lost one of their chicks. I found the body, not too far off fledging too. I'm guessing that the recent wind and rain meant they couldn't supply enough food. Happily, the adult posed nicely as I drove away up the road. I'm guessing they will have more chicks tucked away that have survived.


There were a couple of other casualties discovered on this outing. A dead whale, or bit of it anyway, probably a Minke, floating off the geo.

And Yesnaby being a mystical place some magic had been going on, bad magic.

Who beheaded the fairy?

I've had the light traps out a bit, a few things caught. Unfortunately both my battery powered systems have failed. Looks like the inverter has packed up, and the other system is blowing fuses, the ballast has probably failed. A new inverter arrived yesterday so that ought to resolve that issue and the other system is going back to PB who'll hopefully diagnose and fix the problem, it was beyond my limited electrical skills anyway.

Thursday, I'd volunteered to help on a school trip to the beach for an ex-colleague. Give children catching implements and they'll usually turn up something of interest. Two new fish were a bit unexpected but excellent. Rock Goby and Sea Scorpion.

Rock Goby.

Sea Scorpion.

And the following day was our wedding anniversery, first time in the sea for the year and more sea creatures.


A paddleworm I think.

Lenticular clouds.

Monday 20 June 2022

Insect Week 2022.

And it kicked off, after days of high winds, with a brief lull. Traps out, the Wee Wood being the current hot spot, and a new moth for me (I think a lifer), Marbled Coronet. Common enough but we seem not to have crossed paths previously. Eighteen moth species in the trap plus a pile of other stuff that I'm working through.  

Marbled Coronet.

A well marked Dusky Brocade.

These continue to be easy to confuse with other species, particularly The Confused, confusingly.

There were two very late Hebrew Character, a Dark Sword-grass and a very nice Grey Dagger.

Grey Dagger.

There's a bit of an issue over Grey Dagger here in Orkney as apparently there are two records, as unlikely as it may seem, of Dark Dagger. I don't know the circumstances of these records, but they don't appear to be accepted nationally, they're not on the list here - There is a record in the NBN (and another for Scotland). Anyway, as I've found Grey Dagger cats right by where the trap was set it would seem to me safe enough to presume Grey Dagger, I'm certainly not killing it and dissecting the bits out, I think it's a still a tricky determination even doing that.

A worn Small Phoenix, I catch one or two a year.

Blastobasis lacticolella.

Care is needed with this micro, and I think in the past I've not checked carefully enough that these are not something else, this one is good.

I forgot to post the lovely Grass Rivulet that I caught the other day. Common enough across the way at Ring of Brodgar, but I rarely see them here. This one was very well marked.

Grass Rivulet.

Keeping up with my record keeping and identification is tough. I'm trying to keep a running record of finds on Flickr but I'm struggling to keep that up to date, and I'm behind with iRecord, this is like a full-time job. And I have house stuff to do, like decorating, progress with our boiler room/back kitchen is sloooooowwww.

I found a nice Staphy in the pony's water the other day, it might be a second record for Scotland, unfortunately a female Philonthus, so no distinctive aedegus with which to nail the ID. I'll stick it on iRecord anyway.

Female Philonthus concinnus, I reckon. To find another, and a male to boot.

A puzzle resolved, this is a male Phryganea grandis. It looks quite different from the well marked females, and is a bit smaller too.

With these larger caddis it is possible to examine the genitalia, photograph to confirm the ID and release.

Male genitalia to confirmthe ID, Phryganea grandis.

I put a black washing up bowl out with a drop of water in it; yes, BH managed to find one in K2. A very effective beetle trap. In amongst the many Helophorus grandis were a few interesting things to work through. There was also this suicidal cranefly, perhaps it was this that had laid these egg strings.

Limonia phragmitidis.

Ah, lost the egg photos, I'll have to find them and add them later.

Saturday 18 June 2022

I put my hat away.

It's the time of year that I used to find the hardest thing about living here, it not getting dark, at least, not properly dark. Now it doesn't seem to bother me, although I think it does incline me to be more active into the early hours.

Strangely, in the late spring and summer I stop taking landscape photos, too many other photos I guess, or a lack of the light I like. Today, in the hooley, at a favourite place to photograph the sea, Marwick, I did manage a few clicks. It was almost impossible to photograph anything else, the wind was buffeting the hound and I all over the place.

Kittiwake with Razorbill going by, we lay on the floor behind a rock to take this.

The auks were engaging in tricky manoeuvres near the cliff, feet spread as rudders. My hat had gone into the camera bag at an early moment, else it would be bobbing in the waves, or across the fields and away, no telling really, as the gusts swirled this way and that.

The trees we have allow me to place my light traps in the dark, otherwise the catch woud be low indeed. The wind continues into the dark, no trapping tonight, indeed, I'm only trapping once a week in any case as the things other than moths take a while to identify. Well, the moths are tricky enough. Tackling a few pugs of late, we don't get many, but they are tricksy. Strangely I've managed to get the hard ones right, and then made a bollocks of the easier Narrow-winged.

Narrow-winged Pug, another one, this stayed put for some examination and decent photos.

Two Common Pugs.

Two Grey Pugs.

Confusing blighters. But I do rather like them. The markings on the abdomen and thorax are usually helpful.

A new macro moth is a good day, NFM and therefore NFS Scalloped Hazel (I can't remember seeing one in the past at any rate). It would not stay still, so I got only rubbish images.

Scalloped Hazel.

I'm plugging on with the beetles, my best route to the 365 target (a new species for me for every day of the year). They can take a time to identify and then photograph properly. I don't seem to ever learn that checking picture references first is a good route to ID, although it has to be said I am getting quite expert with the Unwin key to Family, a key I used to hate and now find very useful. Today I spent some hours messing about with tiny Nitidulidae, 2mm long. I got there easily enough, and then via Mike Hackston's excellent online keys I came to genus Meligethes. Now Mike hasn't completed the Meligethes key, but it is published nonetheless. It is missing a few species. I repeatedly went to couplet 4 and then headed down the proverbial rabbit hole. In the end I just looked at the pictures, Meligethes aeneus, the Common Pollen Beetle, I don't think there are any ID complications with this so far north.

Melagethes aeneus, Common Pollen Beetle.

Another wee beast that I struggled with this week, having spent the day clearing out our boiler room was this, which crawled across the kitchen table as I sipped my well deserved cuppa.

Anthobium punctatum, Woodworm.

Safe enough to presume this species, strictly a gen det job, but the confusion species is hundreds of miles south. I might check our Ivy in the garden at some point though. I have seen this before, and I'd forgotten it. It has very oddly formed antennae, presumably so it can fold them away when it is destroying someone's house, shed or furniture; wildlife revenge.

A highlight of the week was watching Red-throated Divers with their newly hatched chick, just brilliant.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Very large - very tiny.

Yesterday I found some excuses to go to Kirkwall and thus Scapa. There's been a pod of Orca hanging about, so after doing a couple of jobs I made a small diversion. As I arrived folk were coming away after an unsuccessful attempt. Anyway, I parked on the pier not especially hopeful. And saw Orcas within about a minute. Distant Orcas (c10 - 12km away) but huge great dorsal fins poking out of the sea nonetheless. Scope out and slowly but surely they made their way towards me until they were within 2 or 3 klicks. Nice views were had, and it was pleasing to get a few folk on to them. No pix as they were a bit of a distance. (A bull Orca is about 8m long and probably weighs around 4,500kg.)

Later, I went down to the pony and as usual checked his drinking water, to make sure he had enough, and to see what insects and thown themselves in there. There were a couple of tiny Micropterix moths and a soldier beetle.

A bedraggled Micropterix aruncella, a male, 4 mm long.

Rhagonycha nigriventris, also quite a small thing.

The day before I'd been to Waukmill Bay, slightly in the hope of bumping into the Orcas, I didn't. But I was mostly after a Carabid beetle, and a new one at that. Next to finding a new bird or moth a new Carabid is indicator of a good day. Waukmill has a smallish area of saltmarsh and the recent discovery of Dicheirotrichus gustavii on Westray by SA spurred me into looking for this specialist beast. After about an hour, bingo.

Dicheirotrichus gustavii, a saltmarsh specialist.

There were two previous Orkney records, prior to the Westray one. One at this site and one at the Brig O' Waithe, I might go and look there in the coming weeks.

Other interesting and tiny things were also found at Waukmill...

This Micropterix moth, which I don't think I've seen before:

Micropterix aureatella.

And also this micro moth, which I have seen before, but it is some smart beastie.

Eupoecilia angustana.

There were lots of shiny black ground bugs running about, as there had been at Loch of Bosquoy the previous day, but I chose to ignore them as I had decent images from the Bosquoy trip. Bit of an error that as the Bosquoy beasts were nymphs and not identifiable to species. I also suspect two different species were involved.

These are likely Saldidae of some sort, Loch of Bosquoy.

A return trip today to Loch of Bosquoy failed to find any bugs, there had been hundreds at the last visit.