Monday 26 June 2023

Clearing out.

 I'm supposed to be clearing out stuff in preparation for moving, although we have not yet sold our home. And I am doing a bit of that, but it's slow work. I have a fab Nikon 82 Fieldscope for sale on eBay at the moment... and am about to put a Scopac on there, it's pretty much as good as new.

I should also be clearing out the specimens in my fridge as well. That's a slow job. Most of the tubes in there do contain identified material, but not all.

Yes, the specimens are amongst the beer and the butter.

I'm trying not to catch too much at the moment, but creatures come my way. I was weeding the parking area yesterday and noticed this Carabid. Now, I can usually do those in a few minutes, but not this time, I'm stuck. It looks like Anisodactylus binotatus but it has glabrous third antennal segment and I can't see any hairs on the elytra. It keys to Pterostichus but it doesn't fit any of them. I'm making a mistake somewhere in the key.

Large Carabid, causing me something of an ID struggle. Curtonotus aulicus.

I'll get there eventually. (Which I did, with the beetle dead I could then look at it upside down and see that the penultimate segment of the labial palps had three or more large setae, almost impossible to see on a live animal.) Pretty sure I have seen this species before, not very common in Orkney though, it will be 1980s when I last saw one, Curtonotus aulicus.

I have had some beetle success, two new for me (NFM).

Harpalus latus which is common enough but I'm pretty certain I've not seen it before.

And this was a little tricky, small and I started off in the wrong family but got there in the end. This was in the FUN pheromone trap which seems to be catching everything of interest currently.

Rubbish image of the male bits, very helpful for ID.

Contacyphon coarctatus, 3.9mm of Scirtiidae, a family I've seen none or very few of previously. a NFM species anyway.

Quite a good number of records for Orkney. In the key the elytral ridges are important, they are subtle and hard to make out, so it's easy to end up in the wrong couplet.

Also out of the FUN recently some Hymenoptera. Help got me to Braconidae and to Alysiinae (thank you ATM). Then a Mike Hackston key which eventually, I had to be put right at couplet 5 (thanks MJ) got me to genus Alysia. There is a key to these I think, but behind a pay wall :-( If anyone would be happy to mail be a copy of either or both of these:

Wharton RA. (1986) The braconid genus Alysia (Hymenoptera): a description of the subgenera and a revision of the subgenus Alysia. Systematic Entomology 11: 453–504
Wharton RA. (1988) The braconid genus Alysia (Hym.): a revision of the subgenus Anarcha. Contributions of the American Entomological Institute 25: 1–69
I did find a very nice key to families and sub-families to suplement Mike Hackston's key which is illustrated with photographs, having both illustrations and photos is often very helpful.

Anyway both animals, although having very different antennae, male very long and 47 flagellomeres, female more normal and 35-36 flagellomeres, were the same species. Wacky jaws on these, they are parasitoids of Diptera, particularly those of dead things, Caliphorridae and the like, the Hymenoptera are, in this case part of the entomofaunal colonisation of dead bodies.

Alysia sp, male with very long antennae, which are weirdly thickened for the terminal 22 or 23 flagellomeres.

Alysia sp, male, detail of head,  thorax and T1.

Female, Alysia sp showing the tridentate mandible, the mandible is typical of Alysiinae.

Not much else going on really. The moth traps are catching much of what I would expect at this time of year. Birding highlight is Pintail with 9 chicks on patch, super smart.

Lots of fledged about at the moment, as well as Pintail and Wren, Coot, Song Thrush, Robin, Mallard, Greylag.

Wren, just fledged.

Thursday 15 June 2023

The Cuilags and North Hoy.

What's this?  A new post before I've finished the last one!

Slightly madly, given the heat (27C recorded I believe), I decided to go up the Cuilags on Hoy yesterday.

Met still working ex-colleagues on the boat, and glimpsed a couple of close by Risso's going out. I'd got the 07:30 so that I could make progress before it got too warm, but it was already too warm. A lift in the van up the road to the heritage centre was a good help though!

Target was Trailing Azalea, which, to be honest, I didn't really expect to find. I was interested to assess the Bonxie situation given the heavy casualties they sustained in last summer's bird flu epidemic and there was homage to be paid to the Green Tiger Beetle colony and moths to be found.

Green Tiger Beetle, Cicindella campestris.

These occur here only on Hoy, I have searched for them at Yesnaby. The Sandy Loch colony is the most recorded spot. I photographed on the way up and counted on the way back, 58 seemed a good number.

Heading up the hill by the shortest route, straight up from the north end of Sandy Loch is a bit of a slog but there was plenty of interest on the way with lots of this very smart mountain specialist Phiaris schulziana.

Phiaris schulziana.

They are very flighty and hard to photograph unfortunately. Also on the way up Crambus pascuella and Common Heath plus lots of smaller things which I should have attempted to capture, but didn't.

 On the way and at the top, there were Red Admirals passing by and regular Episyrphus balteatus and Eupeodes corollae. I did find a single Scaeva pyrastri at the top too.

Red Admiral, this one at the bottom.

Episyrphus balteatus on top of the Cuilags.

Also on top a couple of Northern Eggar shot by.

There were just two Bonxie on territory that I could see.

Great Skua, adult.

Lots of Golden Plover on top, not very pleased to see me. (Bird photos taken at a distance and from the route I was walking, I snapped and walked on.)

Golden Plover.

I only saw one Mountain Hare on top. A bit of a poser though.

Mountain Hare.

Hamnavoe coming in to Hoy Sound.

I searched for the Trailing Azalea, but failed to find it, perhaps a bit late in the year. And then headed down via the shoulder towards Rackwick before turning down the steep slope. I did find this Carabid near the top, no yet identified but it has the look of a Harpalus. I keyed it out from scratch Calathus fuscipes, I can't recall ever seeing this before, strange as it is not uncommon.

Calathus fuscipes, female, from the very top of the Cuilags.


Calathus fuscipes, head-on.

Going down was completely knackering, hot, and very hard going. Eventually, I walked into a crash site.

Aircraft bits, Cuilags, Hoy.

A bit of research this morning found that this is wreckage from the 2nd World War. Liberator FL949 from the RAF Czechoslovak Squadron (311). The plane left Tain at 22:02 on 1st January 1945 on a North Atlantic anti-submarine patrol, hunting U-Boats. The plane flew into the Cuilags and the whole crew were killed, more information is here -

I eventually reached the bottom of the hill, somewhat hot and bothered. But with enough energy to count the Bonxies on Sandy Loch, there were just 22 max, a couple of years ago there was always between 80 and 100 at this time of year.

Bonxies on Sandy Loch.

The look of the breeding colony at the top of the Cuilags and the numbers on the loch would indicate something like a loss of 75% of the population of Great Skua on this part of Hoy.

I wandered along the track, counting Green Tiger Beetles and snapping the occasional moth.

Common Heath, male.

Then I found these two which are a bit more interesting.

Anania fuscalis, I think.

At the time I thought this next one was Foxglove Pug, but it has been suggested (thanks NV) that it is Freyer's Pug which would be new for the county I think.

Freyer's Pug perhaps.

Subsequently, I bumped into B&LH, sightings compared and the rather useful and good cafe at Moaness was utilised.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Sunny, warm Orkney!!?

 The temperature changed suddenly, the skies cleared, and it's forecast to last, a week, maybe longer. The warm weather has brought migrant insects, lots of them. There was a post in the hoverfly group about an influx of hovers to a North Sea rig, and sure enough, two days later the wave hit us. As predicted in the post plenty of Episyrphus balteatus with Eupeodes corollae. But today in the conservatory were at least two Meliscaeva auricollis (I've only ever seen one here before, and a known migrant, Scaeva pyrastri in the greenhouse.

Episyrphus balteatus, female.

Eupeodes corollae, female.

Meliscaeva auricollis, female.

The most obvious migrant though were Red Admiral, they are everywhere. At least seven in the Wee Wood this morning and maybe 25 in the back garden around the Swedish Whitebeam.

Red Admiral, on Swedish Whitebeam flowers.

We glimpsed two likely Silver Ys as well.

I haven't run the moth trap since this influx, but Sunday night produced a better selection including Small Phoenix, White Ermine, Lychnis, Poplar Hawk-moth, Udea olivalis and Garden Carpet, all new for the year. There were a couple of pugs as well which I think are Wormwood Pug and Common Pug - corrections most welcome!

Wormwood Pug, I think, I find these tricky.

Common Pug, I think, but worn and thus very tricky.

The pheromone traps have produced various Hymenoptera, which have gone into labelled tubes to be done when I have some time. The FUN lure has produced a good run of Epiblema scutulana with a 5, a 7, a 2 and today a 1.

Epiblema scutulana.

In the LEEK trap there was a Staphy on 5th June. It turned out to be Quedius mesomelinus which is not common in Scotland and had not been found in Orkney since 1913. What's more the record came from Auskerry, a tiny island south of Stronsay, with one house and a lighthouse. It was suggested to me that maybe a lighthouse keeper had discovered the beast, which is a good theory, a trip to Stromness Museum, or the Kirkwall Archive might throw some light on the circumstances of that find.

Quedius mesomelinus, male, post dissection.

Aedegus lateral view.

Aedegus, dorsal view. Dissection was required to prove the ID.

Three other really good beetles this week as well, my favourite being Elaphrus cupreus on the shore of Loch of Bosquoy, I found two.

Elaphrus cupreus, not many Orkney records.

.... to be continued or not, as I haven't got back to this. There was an outing with the Field Club to a very nice field up behind Finstown, which I'll quickly note as I found what is likely a new moth for the county.

Anania terrealis, new for Orkney.

The field was full of micros, mostly Ancylis badiana, but there were a few larger moths which mostly turned out to be Anania fuscialis, which I've seen previously at Yesnaby. However, looking through the images the next morning the Anania terrealis appeared!

Anania fuscialis.

Crambus pascuella.

Puccinia hieracii, on Taraxacum sp

Puccinia poarum on Colt'sfoot.

Oh, and there was Moonwort.