Sunday 19 February 2023

South and back north.

We're travelling more frequently at the moment as we explore possible places to live south. Not the best time of year to do it, the wind the other day fortunately subsided just in time for our ferry to run. It was neat to hear and see Mistle Thrushes and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Star of this trip away, aside from younger daughter's 21st birthday was this fabulous shield bug.

Dolycoris baccarum, Hairy Shieldbug.

I initially misidentified this as Brassy Shieldbug but the antennal markings set me right. Both are a similar colour dorsally in the winter. We visitied Tentsmuir NNR and I found the beast under some Peltigera lichen on inland dunes. Clearly dormant, photographed, I covered it back up again. Also a couple of beetles and a diptera sp from the tideline, not yet identified. The diptera shouldn't be too hard I suspect.

I probably ought to know what this is... perhaps it's Helcomyza ustulata, but perhaps not big enough?

The above ID is incorrect, IA (thank you) has suggested Heterocheila buccata which seems to fit much better.

Also, these cases made of bits of shell were quite common amongst the strandline seaweed that was washed up.

Case of some beast or other, probably a worm.

I haven't photographed the beetles yet, they were tiny from the tideline, hopefully of interest. Tentsmuir is a fabulous place but if you go by car to the main car park make sure you have 2x £1 coins for the barrier. The pancake hut is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so best go another day, the pancakes are good.

Back here in Orkney it is noisy time with the Oystercatchers suddenly arriving inland in force, well over 100 hanging around The Shunan now. Also the first Black-headed Gulls of the year. And an elusive Kestrel, seen once from the car but not again.


You can't really do nocmig here because the sound recordings are so busy it takes hours to go through them, what with Oystercatcher, Curlew and Greylags calling and flying all night. It is a time of year I like very much, with the waders all returning and sorting out their territories.

An early flowering Marsh Marigold on 11/02/2023.

Marsh Marigold, flowering rather early.

I had a meeting with a Species on the Edge coordinator the other day. Chrysolina latecincta is one of the species however, I'm not sure what could be done to protect or encourage this fancy beetle. What was encouraging was that the brief might be wider than the listed species and that rare and much more fragile things like Hydrothassa hannovariana might get some attention.

I did finally manage to dissect out the paramere of the Anthocoris sp that I caught the other day, it does indeed seem to be Anthocoris confusus, which is new to me and I think for the county.

Paramere, Anthocoris confusus.

Turning over one of my favourite stones, there's nearly always something of interest beneath, it's at the top of the birdcrop field. A Catops, a big one.

Catops nigricans, NFM. It was all of 5mm+

And this from the kitchen window was identified as Lonchoptera sp. There are not many species but unfortunately it was on the inside of the kitchen window and I didn't catch it at the time, it has not reappeared.

Lonchoptera sp (thanks BM).

Thursday 9 February 2023

Moving on.

The time has come, after thirteen and a bit years to move on. Daughters are both south and we're rattling around in this lovely, but rather large house. It will be going on the market in the next couple of weeks, and we're hoping to find somewhere just as fascinating to live the other side of the Pentland Firth, plus a few hours, or so, down the A9.


Old Nisthouse, Harray, Orkney.

 The tidying up and sorting through stuff has taken a bit of an effort, and at the expense of time spent doing more interesting things, however, in the long run it will be worth it.

(Any interest in purchasing may be expressed through our agents, Lows in Kirkwall.)

I have found time to do some birding and whilst there's been nothing as stunning as the Yellowhammer and still no, much anticipated and hoped for, Little Bunting, things have been interesting. The earliest ever Oystercatcher on 31st Jan, early Shelducks and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a pile of waders on the agricultural fields including 17 Dunlin. Blackbird numbers have fallen but Fieldfares and Redwings have started to move through, presumably heading back north. Pink-feet are more frequent, and Whoopers seem to be on the move.

Oystercatchers at Loch of Bosquoy.

Wigeon on The Shunan.

Whooper Swans going over, six came back east today.

The female Brambling that has been with us for some weeks has recently been joined by this smart male.

I offered to collect some moss and lichen samples that could be used in Poland for research into tardigrades. I duly collected and posted a few samples and these were then processed by JT in York prior to sending to Poland. JT found a few tardigrades in the samples. Following her instructions I looked for and found a couple of tardigrades including this monster at 0.4mm.

JT's photos can be found here - - they are excellent.

In the course of going through the vegetation sample I found some heteroptera, not my favourite things to identify. Two species were very common on lichen from the Wee Wood trees.

Anthocoris sp, possibly confusus but I need to dissect this male to find out, tricky dissection apparently.

Lygus sp, but I'm unsure, if so a very tricky genus to ID.

I've been ruminating on Common Gull behaviour. They seem to have two feeding strategies in the fields around us. A few birds hunt individually, flying low above the stubble fields and occasionally dropping on to prey.

Common Gull 2cy.

It seems a higher proportion of these are younger birds, like the 2cy above. I suspect that it is the same individuals each day deploying this strategy.

Other Common Gulls feed in small, or sometimes not so small, flocks in the grassland. These birds walk around feeding, always in a loose flock, coming and going together. Sometimes these birds are foot-paddling.

Common Gulls.

More questions than answers about these different feeding behaviours.

View from the garden, Tuesday evening.