Thursday 18 August 2022

Fumitory and egrets

A bit pre-occupied with various jobs to do and stuff at the moment, life getting in the way of life. The weeks flash by and time evaporates, seemingly. Anyway, picking up the theme of identifying fumitories from last week I had a bit more of a delve along the barley field margins and found there was rather a lot of two species. Fumaria officianalis is straightforward but the ramping-fumitories are hard. Anway, I took more photographs and the local experts pronounced expertly, for which I'm most grateful as the keys are either wrong/misleading, or quite hard to underestand. Thanks to JC and D-MM for their help.

Purple Ramping-fumitory, Fumaria purpurea.

Whilst looking at and for fumitories I bumped into Corn Spurrey, which shamefully I don't recall seeing before. I also found this leaf mine on Red Dead-nettle which I think is the larva of a Dipteran, 

Corn Spurrey, Spergula arvensis.

Mine of Amauromyza labiatarum (most likely) on Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum.

Even identifying Red- Dead-nettle is a tad more challenging than I thought, but this plant is very hairy so I think that ID must be correct. There are a few similar species that I was previously unaware of though.

Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum.

The light traps haven't produced anything much of note, this micro being of most interest perhaps.

Agonopterix nervosa.

Although I was confused by this Common Rustic (it will be that species), the ones here don't generally look like this, they're usually blacker and sit with their wings more spread. I asked for help and then I dissected it, a female, so difficult (with my dissection technique) to prove M. secalis, not Confused or Dusky Brocade, anyway.

Common Rustic, female. (Looking like this it really won't be M. didyma.)

The light trap also contained the usual beetles and craneflies for the time of year, plus the 100s of Limnephilus marmoratus and Large Yellow Underwings.

I'd missed Sitona obsoletus in the spring, but climbing on the house walls at night recently.

Also on the walls this:

It's a tiny Dipteran, probably Tachydromia umbrarum, but it might be T. aemula which is recorded for the county in the local database.

The event of the week occurred today. It had been a weirdish day for various complicated reasons, partly connected with doing my civic duty as a Scottish citizen (no that does not mean I'm an independence supporter...). After checking out the Great White Egrets x2 reported from Loch of Banks yesterday, and refinding them on Loch of Sabiston, one of them conveniently turned up on The Shunan this evening. So, although I saw this species yesterday, I went looking for it following news being put out. But as it was a standard patch visit when I saw it today I can count it as "found". It is also a "patch" tick, a "from the garden" tick and a "from the kitchen" tick (I didn't even have to stand on the table). The first "found" tick for a bird for two years.

Great White Egret, The Shunan.

I had hoped to be on North Ron this week or next for a bit of seawatching, but that's not going to happen as the stuff of life previously mentioned needs doing. Great Shear and two other "big" shears there today. However, the GWE find on patch is full compensation. Also this week, on the greater, 3km sq, uber-patch, there was a very likely Reed Warbler, it was an unstreaked Acro anyway. Not a common bird here, I'll be in single figures for unstreaked Acros in my time here. An uber-patch tick, I might well count it for that purpose, I'm swithering a tad as I didn't entirely nail the ID from Blyth's or Marsh.

The late season silage cut has produced hundreds of gulls on the fields around the house, mostly Common Gulls, and as yet nothing of real note. I did like these juveniles standing and feeding together though.

Black-headed Gull (left), Common Gull (right) both in juvenile plumage, 1cys.

Thursday 11 August 2022

The wrong gate.

I'd not managed to see Frog Orchid before. Some local gen gave me an idea where to look so on a fine enough morning I had an excursion, Yesnaby way. After a few false starts, no sign and wrong habitat, I managed to locate six, a decent result.

Frog Orchid.

There were other interesting plants, 100s of Primula scotica, likely Euphrasia foulaensis (I won't be ticking that though) and 1000s of Grass of Parnassus. Most likely there were other things also, beyond my botanical skills.

Primula scotica.

Eyebright sp, probably Euphrasia foulaensis.

Grass of Parnassus, post flowering in lower picture.

Years back we'd searched the very same area for Primula scotica and not found any. It's a species that seems to be doing very well indeed here at the moment.

On the way back I had a moment or two turning stones on the cliff edge, and was quite surprised to find two of these:

Otiorhynchus arcticus.

But no sign of the Chrysolina, it was a tad chilly.

I've run the moth traps a couple of times in the last week or so. The first time it was rather good, the second it wasn't.

Epinotia caprana, I have a bad feeling I've been mis-identifying these for years, NFM, thanks for the ID help UKMothID, BS and SS.

Also this, the star of the show.

Zeiraphera griseana, thanks again to the above for ID help, I did get to the correct genus. NFM.

I also trapped two Small Fan-footed Waves which I'm pretty sure are new for site.

Small Fan-footed Wave.

The second trapping effort was rather less successful, mostly due, I suspect, to large numbers of Large Yellow Underwings and Limnephilus marmoratus clattering around in the traps and disturbing all the other moths. I don't enjoy trapping at this time of year much, loads of a few species, lots of Large Yellow Underwings, Common Rustic agg, Square-spot Rustic. Not many micros. Sometimes it's more profitable to go out with a torch and a net.

I like a marbled Carpet, my first Dark Marbled Carpet of the year, netted.

Large Yellow Underewing, at the sugar, but they're all over the Buddleja at night as well.

I've not put bird food out since we were away but I filled the feeders today. No Greenfinch here for all that time, an hour or so after the feeders were filled Greenfinch. Short-eared Owl and Sparrowhawk have paid a few visits, a juv Hen Harrier is regular, flushed from beside the track from under my feet yesterday. Oystercatchers are still here and the Curlew are ever present. Night time is still quite noisy.

I've been trying to identify fumitories and dead-nettles amongst other things. Not the easiest.

Fumaria officianalis, small purple flowers with a paddle shaped lower petal.

Probably Purple Ramping-fumitory, Fumaria purpurea, thanks JC.

I'd thought this was Fumaria capreolata, White Ramping-fumitory but I'm told that it is more likely F. purpurea because of the size of the sepals amongst other things. The plant's not far away, I'll go and take another look and measure. F. purpurea is a bit of an Orkney speciality so I'd like to prove this one.

I also found that dead-nettle identification is not that straightforward.... I think I have Red Dead-nettle.

Red-Dead-nettle, but ID is complicated. This was hairy and the leaves and bracts all had stems.

Coming back from North Ron' last week I was told about some Greater Sea-spurry. First attempt to find it was unsuccessful, I was looking near the wrong gate. But a return visit and success.

Greater Sea-spurry.

It was near this rock, which apparently is rather famous, it certainly has a weird formation.

Famously weird rock, Northside.

Sea arches, Northside.

Shag, Northside.

I saw four Bonxies whilst I was there, so a bit of optimism for them. All were adults, I suspect there will be no young this year.

Thursday 4 August 2022

An excursion to North Ronaldsay.

The Orkney Field Club were invited to Westness Farm on North Ronaldsay for a tour. The farm has been taken over fairly recently and is being managed for wildlife. Transport was via the Orkney Ferries Sunday excursion, a three hour boat trip in each direction....

Holland House, on the right.

A bit of a relief when the island finally hove into view. The three hour voyage had been very uneventful for both birds and cetaceans; cetaceans = 0, skuas = 0. A single Manx and a nice active Arctic Tern colony just off Sanday were the highlights, plus a Hen Harrier male hunting Starlings on Shapinsay.

Fulmar, not even that many of these on the way.

Once we'd arrived we were transported to the new community garden for an excellent lunch, tomato soup and vegan scones were consumed. A couple of common hoverflies were found in the poly tunnel.

Next, on to Westness where we were taken on a tour of the farm. Not being a great one for tours, and as invertebrate hunters tend to walk as slowly as botanists I was soon trailing along at the rear. I dug around in cow poo and found Cercyon melanocephalus, a water beetle. Under a stone there was Bembidion tetracolum, a common ground beetle and the county beetle recorder found the Devil's Coach-horse, which I glimpsed before it scuttled off.

I looked under a Sperm Whale vertebrae and there was this slug.

Milax gigates.

Four moth species were located, I failed to photograph the Twin-spot Carpet but got pix of the other three.

Agriphila straminella posed nicely.

Eana osseana.

Red Carpet.

And there were a few hoverflies; Eristalis intricarius, Platycheirus manicatus, Episyrphus balteatus and Helophilus pendulus.


Helophilus pendulus.

Episyrphus balteatus.

Best though were the plants. There were a good few things that I should have seen in the past, but I suspect I haven't, or at least haven't identified properly.

Hands and knees on the top of the beach looking for beetles I came upon Lesser Sea-spurry.

Lesser Sea-spurry.

The county plant recorder was on hand to identify this for me and then, looking closely around found this;

Equal-leaved Knot-grass.

We walked back inland through a fair bit of Bugloss.


There was then a focus on a wee dried up muddy pool and bog area.

Riccia cavernosa, second record for the county.

Common Marsh-bedstraw.

Hoary Willowherb.

And so tiny,

Northern Yellow-cress.

All too soon we had to scoot for the boat.

The light at the north end, the boat goes from the south end.

Just time to look for things in the water, a wee shoal of Lesser (probably) Sandeels.

On the long boat journey back, two Arctic Skuas, one Bonxie, a Short-eared Owl, another Manx Shearwater and two Common Terns were all that brightened the trip until Kirkwall came into view (mmm, seem to have lost the photo...).