Monday 24 October 2022

More migration, rewilding and "rice grains".

It's been blowing easterly for a few days now, tricky for putting light traps out though as a lot of rain with the wind. I'd thought Friday and Saturday evenings would be good but gave Friday a miss as there was just too much rain (and I was busy with other things but more of that later), however, I put the synergetic Heath in a very sheltered spot by the back door against a wall on Saturday night. A Large Yellow Underwing, an Angleshades and a second Rusty-dot Pearl, following the one on 18/10/2022, were my reward.

Rusty-dot Pearl.

Saturday had also produced a Hawfinch over the garden, flying low south and calling as I went to put apples on sticks out the back (what could I be hoping for?). Hawfinch call always gets me, huge, monster finch; thin, high-pitched call. 

Orkney missed out on the massive thrush movement the other day but 54 Fieldfare yesterday, and 20 plus Redwings each day recently along with a smattering of Brambling and Blackbirds, mostly, have reminded me that autumn migration is occurring.

I knew it would rain a lot this morning but decided to put all three light traps out again last night. It was worth the effort, although I have a lot of egg cartons to dry on the Aga now. An Angleshades spent the night on the back wall and popping out at intervals to check that trap didn't produce anything more, except for craneflies which  I'm not doing much with at the moment. I'd put the Robinson by the back wall with an actinic in it, good decision as I think Convolvulous Hawk might struggle to get inside the Heath traps.

Convolvulous Hawk-moth, the third this autumn.


Time to go.

Also in the trap was a Brick and a Small Wainscot. I did check the Small Wainscot carefully, and ask for other opinions, as Blair's Wainscot is not dissimilar and is a very long shot in these migratory conditions.

Small Wainscot, thanks for checking BS and SS.

Brick. I'd considered (hoped for) Yellow-line Quaker, but Brick it is.

The actinic Heath at the front was empty, apart from a lot of pesky Diptera, particularly Scathophaga stercorarius, and the the synergetic at the back seemed to be the same, until on the last carton I found a Rush Veneer.

Rush Veneer, a migrant and NFS.

I have found this species in Orkney previously, at Northside during the day, some years ago, but not at the home site and not in a trap. A good do all round. The Robinson, at least, will be going back out tonight.

On Friday evening there was a Field Club talk online. Louise was keen to attend and I also thought it seemed interesting, so we set it up in the living room. There were the usual technical shenanigans to start with, however, but Derek Pretswell got started pretty much on time. The talk can be found here: or at least an earlier version of it. Derek challenges some preconceptions about tree growth and land management. I don't agree with everything he proposes, in particular I'm not keen on introducing alien species and I don't agree with excluding people from a very huge chunk of Scotland. But, there is a lot of very good thinking here, some fascinating biology. Politically I don't think the way forward as proposed will work, as I've stated elsewhere, small steps and finding common cause and common ground with political opponents strikes me as the only way, and that means some pragmatism. But this is powerful food for thought.

Another Orkney Field Club connection was the "rice grains". There was a post on Orkney Insects Open Forum FB Group about case-bearing Coleophora moths being found on Juncus inflorescences. Previously, there had been a post on the Field Club FB pages and these sparked my interest as the moth wasn't identified. I did a bit of research and found the ID criteria via Vol 1 of Ben Smart's Micro-moth Field Tips. The full ID criteria are on the UK Moths web pages for the two confusion species Coleophora alticolella and Coleophora glaucicolella (scroll down to the bottom of each page for Ian J Smith's excellent images). Anyway, Saturday afternoon I toodled down to the fields by The Shunan which are full of Juncus (effusus I think). It took about a micro-second to find plants with the cases in the inflorescences, as nearly every plant had them, there are thousands of larvae in those fields. I'd been told the live larvae were hard to find, but I took ten or twelve cases and they all had live caterpillars in them.

Coleophora alticolella, annotated images, to aid splitting from C. glaucicolella. Thanks to UK Moths for the info.

All the cases with caterpillars I examined were Coleophora alticolella, with the exception of one which might have been glaucicolella, but the caterpillar was slightly aberrant so I'll have to have another go to look for that species.

Coleophora alticolella, a new species for me.

Anyway, the Robinson is out by the back door tonight and a few excursions outside have found Angleshades, again, and various moths flying.

This evening, from the garden.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Here comes the cold and wind and darkness.

The season is drawing in. Since my return from south it's become very noticeable, the air cooling quickly when the Sun disappears, the breeze picking up unexpectedly and of course the dark. On the plus side there's some bird migration going on with Chaffinch and Brambling being regular visitors under the feeders, a Goldcrest and the hope of something interesting from the east.



Last night's large thrush movement passed us by and there were relatively few Redwings here today, just 15 counted.

I've been seeing more interesting crows, with a couple of hybrids, one of which was partially leucistic, and today there was a Carrion Crow at Loch of Bosquoy.

Pale, hybrid crow.

Note the black feathers in both the upper and lower tail coverts and the larger dark centres to the feathers of the mantle and back. In the field this bird looked a shade darker from the accompanying Hoodies, lacking that lovely pinky-grey of a true Hoodie.

Semi-leucistic hybrid crow with Rooks.

This odd bird was briefly in the rookery and not seen again, which indicates, perhaps, that my crow counts are lower than the actual numbers. Again it has quite a dark mantle and back.

Crow, likely a hybrid Carrion/Hoodie.

The lack of a rare migrant bird, despite an extended visit today to Loch of Bosquoy and regular mooching around the garden, was completely made up for by a great bit of mothing.

Three traps out, four moths only but they were all quality with two Red-green Carpets (and another tonight), a Red-Sword-grass and NFS and NFM I think, Rusty-dot Pearl.

Red-green Carpet.

Red Sword-grass, one of my favourite moth species.

Rusty-dot Pearl, Udea ferrugalis.

R-dP is a rare thing in Scotland in recent years, it appears there have been just four or five since 2016.

I caught a few other bits and bats as well, not moths, which may prove to be of interest, I'd better get the microscope fired up tomorrow (after the house painting session which is my main job at the moment).

My Ancylosis oblitella from back in September has been accepted by the county recorder, I'm pretty sure it is new for Scotland as well.

Sunday 16 October 2022


I went south for a bit more than a week, to London first and then to Dundee. It's the furthest south I've been for a lot of years. Helping daughters with their accommodation was the mission and they seemed happy with what I managed to get done.

London was full of Ring-necked Parakeets, it was the commonest bird by far, they could be heard all the time. I might have heard one House Sparrow, once. No Starlings. I did manage various other species I don't see here, or see rarely, like Mistle Thrush, Great and Blue Tits, Magpie and Jay. 

On the 365 species front I managed just one new species, I thought I had two but one identification was complicated by a related species so in the end I could only claim Apple Leaf-miner, 

Leaf mine of Lyonetia clerkella, on apple.

However, I can't have this one:

Stigmella anomalella (Rose leaf-miner), on rose, but it could be Stigmella centifoliella, so I can't claim that.


I like how the company sign has been completely webbed over, nature's ultimate supremacy, everything tends to entropy. (The view and service was fab, the food was a bit crap.)

I arrived home and woke to a garden full of Redwings, Blackbirds, a few Fieldfares, feeding on the berries of the Swedish Whitbeam and skys of Snipe. 




Tuesday 4 October 2022

Seal, crazy.

These Harbour Seals are really quite tame and you can walk quite close to them without disturbing them when they haul up on The Links beach. So whilst I crawled on my belly, hiding in the dunes, a local walker pretty much strolled past in front of me and they didn't budge.

The pup seems to have had a scrape.

And yes, that is a musical reference from the 90s.

Monday 3 October 2022

... wasp.

There is an especially funny episode of Quaderhorn (series 2 episode 3, BBC Sounds) where our "heroic" team have to end every sentence with the word "wasp" for reasons that are far too complicated to explain right now. If you try this at home (I have) do be prepared for some serious fall-out. Also quite amusing to do at work 😈 

But to the point: after a bit of success with Exephanes occupator I decided to put a colour trap out again, actually in the hope of catching that species again, instead I caught three more Ichneumonoidea of three different species. In the past I would have ignored these but the material available online and the support in the FB group as well as via Twitter has encouraged me to persevere. The resources are largely available in the side panel of this blog under Hymnoptera, you will need a microscope though.

The first one I tried I got to subfamily Ichneumoninae but then stalled and asked for help as this is a big lot of genera and species. Not so easy came the answer and I have still to pursue this further, genera Ichneumon or Diphyus being the possibilities.

Ichneumon sp or Diphyus sp, most likely, it's a male.

The next one, when I looked carefully, had very different wing veination, and importantly for identification, the spiracles (pores) on T1 (the petiole) were slightly towards the front half of the tergite. This took me to a very different part of the key (Broad 2015). I worked through to couplet 88 (that took a while) and came out at Ctenopelmatinae (a few Mesoleiini), I wasn't convinced as I'm still very much learning the terminology and morphology and had guessed a bit on the route when I hadn't been entirely sure. (There is an excellent guide to the morphology in the Dropbox (see side panel), which helps a lot, I should really print it out.) However, I then looked at examples of that subfamily in Bioimages, which is a very, very useful resource when you're trying to ID Ichneumonoidea, and found that Lagarotis debitor looked very like my animal. In the meantime, and I hadn't noticed at that point (he states proudly), MS had suggested Lagarotis semicaligata. A look at Bioimages for that species and I was convinced. I'm pretty sure this will be new for Scotland if confirmed, so I took a bundle of new images. Lots of images below of this animal.

Petiole, T1, showing the spiracle position.

Lagarotis semicaligata. Check here - but I should still run this through the genera key.

I haven't started on the third one...

 A few nice moths.

I wanted to call this Acleris effractana, but advice is it needs gen det and as it's a female I'm not going to attempt that, one for the CR.

Dark Sword-grass.

Brindled Ochre.

A Jack Snipe in the bottom fields was nice. Woodpigeon numbers are up, flock of 41 max. The odd Brambling and Redwing but still no Y-bW. A juv Hen Harrier hunted in the garden for a minute or so yesterday afternoon, just outside the kitchen window.